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Northwestern baseball drops finale, wins weekend series vs. Penn State

The Wildcats picked up a series win on the road against the cellar-dwelling Nittany Lions.

Northwestern baseball couldn’t finish the weekend in Happy Valley with a sweep on Sunday, but did clinch the series with a win on Saturday.

Northwestern (16-23, 5-7 B1G) sits in ninth in the conference after a 7-4 win on Saturday and a 2-1 loss on Sunday. Penn State (13-26, 2-10 B1G) sank more solidly into last in the Big Ten after dropping two of three this weekend.

After winning big in the series opener, Northwestern turned to Hank Christie in game two and the freshman delivered his second straight quality start, going 6.2 innings and surrendering five hits and only one unearned run while striking out four. The lone Penn State run came on a rare error by Northwestern third baseman Connor Lind, which allowed Mason Nadeau to score in the first.

The Nittany Lions’ defense did them in on Saturday by committing five errors, a few of which helped the Wildcats take a 4-1 lead in the third.

With runners at the corners, Charlie Maxwell scored and Nick Paciorek took second on a wild pitch by Penn State starter Justin Hagenman. Joe Hoscheit took advantage of the situation by hitting an RBI single into center to take the lead. Matt Hopfner doubled in Jack Dunn for another unearned run in the next at bat, and Hoscheit was later able to score on a wild pitch.

Jack Claeys and Alex Erro contributed to the scoring effort as well, bringing the Wildcat run total to seven on the day. Despite all these runs, Hagenman’s ERA, as well as that of reliever Myles Gayman, was left unscathed. Not a single Wildcat run was scored as an earned one.

On Sunday, it was a different story. A pitcher’s duel broke out early as freshman starters Matt Gannon for Northwestern and Eric Mock for Penn State each threw six solid innings.

The first score of the day came on a sixth-inning Joe Hoscheit solo home run to give the Wildcats the lead.

Josh Levy pitched the seventh for Northwestern and surrendered a sacrifice fly to Alex Malinsky that scored Conlin Hughes to tie the game.

Penn State’s defense looked much more competent on Sunday, and was especially clutch in the last three innings to back up Nick Distasio’s three innings of relief. Distasio shut down the Wildcat offense, allowing just one hit on zero strikeouts.

In the bottom of the ninth, Sam Lawrence gave up a walk-off bases-loaded single to Braxton Giavedoni to sink Northwestern.

The Wildcats have now won seven of their last 10 games, in large part to the bullpen becoming less reliant on just Pete Hofman. JR Reimer, Rich Fordon, Josh Levy, and lefty specialist Lawrence have all been solid in conference play, especially in the last two series. After a painfully slow start to the season, Hoscheit is hitting out of his mind in conference play, continuing the tear he started against Indiana en route to winning Big Ten Player of the Week last weekend against Illinois.

After a midweek contest against Chicago State, the Wildcats face off against Michigan State in a critical Big Ten matchup in Evanston next weekend. The Spartans also sit at 5-7 in conference play and have lost five straight.