Comebacks are nothing new for Northwestern baseball, but the Wildcats took it to another level on Friday night in University Park.
Down 4-1 in the top of the sixth inning in the series opener against Penn State, Northwestern exploded for nine runs to take a commanding lead en route to a 12-5 win. The victory continued the Wildcats’ (15-22, 4-6 Big Ten) recent stretch of strong play and pushed Penn State (12-25, 1-9 Big Ten) deeper into the conference’s cellar.
Cooper Wetherbee, who earned the save on Wednesday against Milwaukee, struggled through 4 2⁄3 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits. He departed in the bottom of the fifth after giving up a run-scoring single to Nick Riotto that gave Penn State the lead.
It would be a temporary one, though, as the Wildcats batted around in the next half-inning to get Wetherbee off the hook and turn this game from a tight contest into a blow-out.
Penn State needed to use four different pitchers — including starter Sal Biasi — just to get through the inning, and each of them contributed to Northwestern’s scoring outburst in one way or another.
Joe Hoscheit and Jack Claeys got things going with back-to-back RBI hits before Northwestern tied the game at four on a Jake Schieber squeeze bunt. Then, the wild pitches began.
The Wildcats scored their next four runs on errant losses and when the Nittany Lions were finally able to get out of the inning — following a rally-capping two-run single from Hoscheit — Northwestern was up 10-4 and on its way to a win. For good measure, Charlie Maxwell scored an insurance run on a wild pitch in the seventh.
Once again, the bullpen did a great job after Wetherbee was lifted, as Tyler Lass, Pete Hofman, Danny Katz and Jr Reimer combined to toss 4 1⁄3 frames of one-run ball to maintain the lead. The bullpen, much-maligned in the beginning of the season, has rounded into form as of late and Friday was no different.
These teams will do it again tomorrow evening at 5:00 pm as the Wildcats look to notch their first road series win since last May against Rutgers.