Over the first nine games of Big Ten play, the Wildcats pitching staff allowed just 35 earned runs, despite three of those contests extending into extra innings. Regardless, Northwestern managed to eke out just one win from those nine. So the pitching staff decided to take it up a notch for yesterday’s matchup in South Bend.
Seven Northwestern hurlers combined on the five-hit shutout, with freshman Anthony Alepra officially recording the win (by virtue of pitching the fifth inning) in his first outing as a member of the Wildcats. Two early Wildcat runs held up behind a strong bullpen performance as the Wildcats snapped a five-game skid with a 2-0 win.
Sophomore Matt Gannon got the start, just his second of the season, and scattered three hits and a walk over three innings. Aside from Alepra, Danny Katz, Sam Lawrence, Josh Levy, Tommy Bordignon, and Rich Fordon each completed a scoreless inning in relief, with Fordon recording his second save in the season.
The Irish only put a runner in scoring position in three innings. In the second, Gannon retired catcher Bryce Gray on a fly out to center after putting two on with two out, while in the fifth Alepra escaped one-out trouble by inducing a lazy pop up and a strikeout to end the inning. The seventh brought Notre Dame’s most serious threat: Bordignon allowed a leadoff walk and then a double before getting two comebackers and a groundout to first from the 9, 1, and 2 hitters to strand the runners at second and third.
Offensively, Northwestern tallied both scores early before their bats went quiet down the stretch. After junior shortstop Jack Dunn singled and stole a base in the first inning, Jack Claeys brought him in with a two out single for the senior catcher’s 17th RBI of the season. In the second, it was Leo Kaplan’s turn to single and steal a base. He was brought home by a sacrifice fly from freshman Casey O’Laughlin, chasing Notre Dame starter Charlie Vorsheck with two outs in the second.
The Wildcats didn’t score again, but did tally six stolen bases, tying their season high in that category. Claeys and Kaplan each finished with two hits, with the latter garnering a total of three steals on the day.
The win puts Northwestern’s season record at 9-17 and drops Notre Dame to 14-19 on the year. It’s the first victory by the Wildcats over the Fighting Irish since 2009, when Northwestern won 5-1 at what was then known as U.S. Cellular Field. On May 15th Notre Dame will try to prevent the series sweep during the rematch in Evanston.
Next for the Wildcats, they take on the 10th-ranked Indiana Hoosiers for a weekend series in Bloomington. Yesterday’s victory should give them some much-needed momentum as they try to take down a top-10 opponent for the first time in recent memory.