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Alex Erro’s 11th inning home run powers Northwestern to series win over Maryland

The freshman cracked a solo shot to clinch another road Big Ten series victory.

Credit: NUSports.com

Maryland baseball entered this past weekend with a sparkling 19-1 home record. The Terrapins hadn’t lost in College Park since late March. By the time Northwestern left town on Sunday, that loss total had tripled.

The Wildcats (21-28, 10-11 Big Ten) were smoked in Friday’s series opener, but came back to crush Maryland (33-17, 15-9 Big Ten) in game two on Saturday afternoon.

Then, in Sunday’s rubber game, Northwestern used a 11th inning home run from freshman Alex Erro to stun the home team 6-5 and win its second straight conference road series.

Starting pitchers Josh Davis and Taylor Bloom traded zeroes for the first four innings before the Wildcats drew blood in the fifth with a pair of runs. Back-to-back RBI singles from Erro and Jack Dunn gave Northwestern a 2-0 lead, but that wouldn’t hold up for long as Maryland posted five runs in the bottom half of the frame.

A Dunn error on a potential double play kick-started the rally for the Terrapins, and Davis was lifted for Sam Lawrence after giving up a run-scoring infield single to Brandon Gum. Three more singles, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly scored a few more unearned runs to make it 5-2.

Northwestern got two of the runs back in the sixth with a fielder’s choice and a Connor Lind sacrifice fly to get within a run. The Wildcats then drew even in the eighth when Lind doubled in Matt Hopfner against Terps reliever Ryan Selmer.

Pete Hofman, finishing off a nearly perfect 3 23-inning outing, got the Terrapins out in order in the bottom of the ninth to push the game to extra innings.

Maryland threatened in the bottom of the 10th, as consecutive singles off JR Reimer put the Terrapins’ game-winning win just 180 feet away from home plate. Josh Levy entered and was able to coax a popout from Kevin Smith and strike out Madison Nickens to end the jam.

Then, leading off the 11th, Erro took a 3-1 pitch from Andrew Miller over the wall in left-center to give Northwestern its first lead since the fifth. It was the freshman’s fourth home run of the season. Levy then worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning to finish off the win.

With a Purdue loss to Michigan and Michigan State loss to Nebraska, the Wildcats moved into a tie with the Boilermakers for the No. 7 seed in the Big Ten. But since Northwestern won the season series against Purdue, they hold the tiebreaker should both teams finish with the same conference record. The top eight teams in Big Ten make the conference tournament.

Last season, Northwestern didn’t win its first Big Ten series until May, and took just two sets all year. With just a three-game home series against Rutgers coming up this weekend to close out the regular season, Spencer Allen’s team has already won four. How’s that for progress?