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Northwestern drops extra-inning game to Purdue on walk-off double

The Wildcats wasted a strong start from Hank Christie.

Credit: NUSports.com

For the first seven innings on Saturday, it felt like Northwestern wasn’t going to get on the board. The Wildcats were able to escape a shutout with a Jack Claeys single in the eighth inning but it ended up not mattering, as Purdue won it 2-1 in the 12th on a walkoff double from Alec Olund off Sam Lawrence.

The loss dropped the Wildcats (18-27, 7-10 Big Ten) a game behind Michigan State in the conference standings — the Spartans beat Iowa earlier in the day — and put Northwestern just out of the Big Ten Tournament picture. It also negated a strong start from freshman Hank Christie, who pitched eight strong innings of one-run baseball.

Lawrence, another freshman, was effective for his first three innings of relief before running into trouble in the 12th. After getting Bryce Bonner to ground out, Lawrence coaxed another grounder off the bat of Hayden Grant to the hole between third base and shortstop.

But, Jack Dunn couldn’t pick it cleanly and Grant reached base with an infield single. Olund was the next better and in his first at-bat of the day — on the first pitch Lawrence threw him — he ripped a fly ball to left-center that split Jake Schieber and Joe Hoscheit.

Schieber’s relay to Dunn — and Dunn’s throw home to catcher Nick Paciorek — were both on time but Paciorek couldn’t handle it, and Grant likely would have scored even if he did. It was the Wildcats’ third extra inning game of the season, and the third walk-off loss for Northwestern.

Ross Learnard improved to 5-0 on the season for the Boilermakers, and his 4 13 scoreless innings held Northwestern in check through the extra frames. While he did allow the tying single to Claeys, that run was charged to Purdue starter Gareth Stroh, who was dominant for his 7 13 innings.

Lawrence got the loss and fell to 3-3 on the season as he allowed just the one run in 3 13 innings out of the bullpen.

Northwestern will send another freshman, Matt Gannon, out for Sunday’s rubber game. Mike Kornacker, he of a 1-2 record and 5.11 ERA, will go for the Boilermakers.