The clock hasn’t struck midnight just yet for Northwestern baseball.
Behind a strong start from Hank Christie and repeated comebacks, the seventh-seeded Wildcats shocked No. 3 seed Minnesota 11-7 in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday morning in Bloomington. It’s the first time since 2002 that Northwestern has won multiple games in the event.
Northwestern will next play at 12:30 p.m. CT on Saturday against Maryland. The Cornhuskers and Hawkeyes will take the field right after Northwestern-Minnesota, and the loser takes on the Terrapins at 7:30 pm CT.
Christie got off to a rough start, giving up a two-run home run to Micah Coffey in the top of the first inning that put Northwestern in an early 2-0 hole.
But the Wildcats immediately responded, as Connor Lind cleared the bases with a two-out, three-run double to the left-center gap that seemed to settle down the Northwestern starter.
Christie worked 1-2-3 innings in the second and third. Northwestern added a run in the second when Grant Peikert scored on a wild pitch and another in the third when Lind hit a bouncer up the middle to drive in Joe Hoscheit. Matt Hopfner could have also scored, but he hesitated between third base and home and was thrown out.
Minnesota clawed back to 5-3 in the fourth when Toby Hanson destroyed a Christie pitch over the fence in right field for a solo shot. The freshman would get through the rest of the frame and the subse quent unscathed.
Then, in the sixth, after getting Terrin Vavra to ground out, Christie gave up a single to Coffey. That prompted Spencer Allen to make a pretty quick hook, and he put senior lefty Richard Fordon in for Christie. He promptly gave up a run on back-to-back singles before Pete Hofman entered to try and stop the bleeding.
Luke Pettersen — the first batter Hofman faced — then hit a twisting fly ball down the left-field line that dropped in just past Hoscheit and scored both Toby Hanson and Matt Stemper to give the Golden Gophers a 6-5 lead. The short leash for Christie backfired for Northwestern.
Once again, the Wildcats would regain the lead almost immediately, fighting back for a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth. Jack Claeys got things going with a hard double down the left field line. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Ben Dickey’s sacrifice fly. Then, a double from Grant Peikert and Nick Paciorek’s RBI single off the second base bag pushed Northwestern ahead 7-6.
The lead wouldn’t last long, though, as Alex Boxwell crushed a home run to center off Hofman in the seventh, tying the game at seven. Sam Lawrence entered to quell another potential Minnesota rally, sending it to the bottom of the inning where the Wildcats blew this one open.
A leadoff walk from Hoscheit and single from Hopfner brought Claeys up with runners on the corners and no outs. He ripped a single to left that scored Hoscheit and gave Northwestern the lead for good. It sent the Wildcats’ bench into pandemonium.
Northwestern would add two more runs for good measure in the seventh — one on the now-patented safety squeeze this team has run perfectly countless times in the past couple of weeks — and Hoscheit capped things off with a home run to left-center in the eighth.
Tyler Lass came in to seal the win in the ninth, but he was lifted for Josh Levy after allowing the first two Minnesota hitters to reach base. Levy retired the two batters he faced before striking out Coffey on a nasty curveball to finish it off. Of course, that led to another fun postgame interview on BTN, this one with Hoscheit as the center of attention.
Minnesota will play Indiana later today at 4:00 pm CT. A full bracket of the tournament can be found here.