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Walk bug bites Northwestern pitchers again in loss to Iowa

Free passes have plagued the Wildcats all season, and that weakness was on display Friday.

Credit: NUSports.com

The powerful Iowa Hawkeyes (19-9, 4-0 Big Ten) came to Evanston Friday afternoon sporting the conference’s third-highest batting average. But, it was the Hawkeyes’ plate discipline -- and control issues by Northwestern’s pitchers — that led them to an easy 14-2 win against the Wildcats (8-20, 0-4) at Rocky and Berenice Miller Park.

Northwestern pitchers surrendered 12 walks, and a hit-by-pitch, on the day and fell behind 5-0 in the second inning before the Hawkeyes piled it on against the bullpen. Junior Tommy Bordignon got the start for the Wildcats and induced a 4-6-3 double play to escape trouble in the opening frame, but had no such luck in the ensuing one.

In Bordignon’s last start, which came against Air Force in Game 1 of last Saturday’s doubleheader, Northwestern walked 15 Falcons with six attributed to Bordignon. His start against Iowa wasn’t much different.

The Glenview, Illinois, native hit Chris Whelan to force in Iowa’s first run and then uncorked a wild pitch on a full count, scoring two Hawkeyes when the ball squirted away from catcher Nick Paciorek. First baseman Jake Adams followed that up with a double to the wall, plating two more before the Wildcats could escape the jam.

Adams and shortstop Mason McCoy led the offensive attack for the Hawkeyes, but it was a team-wide effort as each Iowa starter drew at least one walk and scored at least one run. The game was put out of reach in the eighth with four bases-loaded walks and a two-run double from McCoy, who also hit a solo home run in the fifth.

Richard Fordon posted a career-high four strikeouts in relief of Bordignon and lefty Cooper Wetherbee allowed two runs in three solid innings.

The Wildcats were stymied all afternoon by Iowa starter Nick Gallagher, who came into Friday’s contest with 6:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The righty held Northwestern scoreless for seven innings, scattering three hits and striking out five.

Jake Schieber keyed the eighth-inning rally for the Cats with a single, part of a 4-for-4 performance from the redshirt senior. Matt Hopfner knocked in a run with a fielder’s choice and Joe Hoscheit brought the other home with a sacrifice fly to center. Schieber’s fifth-inning double was the lone extra base hit for Northwestern.

Northwestern is back in action Saturday at 2:00 pm CST against Iowa in Evanston. Freshman Hank Christie (1-4, 5.79 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound against Ryan Erickson (0-1, 3.00 ERA).