Nick Paciorek didn’t expect to see action in Sunday’s contest against the Indiana Hoosiers.
Not on the mound, at least.
Instead, the little-used backup catcher found himself pitching in the bottom of the eighth inning with Northwestern trailing 21-1. He fared better than most of his teammates, too. Paciorek allowed a hit, two walks and a hit by pitch before finally getting the one out he needed via strikeout.
Indiana (26-6, 6-2 B1G) rapped out 22 hits, including three home runs, while earning 13 walks and advancing on four wild pitches in a three-touchdown victory. Freshman Jack Pagliarini could not escape the third inning, allowing four runs, and none of the relievers Spencer Allen employed fared much better. Indiana scored two runs in the second through sixth innings, before scoring four in the seventh and eight in the eighth.
Sunday’s 22-1 loss capped a miserable weekend in Bloomington for Northwestern (9-20, 1-11 B1G). The Wildcats ran into the buzzsaw that is the Indiana offense, getting outscored 40-4 by a top-ten Hoosiers team. Indiana took the first half of a Saturday doubleheader 12-0 before storming back from a 3-1 deficit with five runs in the eighth to win 6-3 in the nightcap.
After a solid outing against Michigan last week, Quinn Lavelle got roughed up on Saturday afternoon. The freshman allowed six runs and ten hits in 3.1 innings, as the Hoosiers hit three early home runs to take a commanding 6-0 lead. While Indiana continued to add to its lead, the Wildcats were stifled by Indiana ace Jonathan Stiever. The right-hander scattered eight hits across seven shutout innings with five strikeouts. Willie Bourbon and Charlie Maxwell had multi-hit efforts for Northwestern.
The offense fared better in the nightcap, jumping on Indiana starter Pauly Milto in the first innings with a Jack Claeys sacrifice fly. After Indiana tied up the game on a home run, Alex Erro knocked an RBI single up the middle to give Northwestern a 2-1 lead in the third.
From there, Hank Christie delivered a vintage performance, holding Indiana to one run over six innings and striking out six.
Claeys extended Northwestern’s lead with an RBI double in the eighth, but it all fell apart after that. Richard Fordon struck out a Hoosier hitter to get a second out in the eighth, but Indiana rallied for five runs with two down. A two-run single from Jeremy Houston tied the game at three, before two more RBI singles extended the Indiana lead. Cruelly enough, the Wildcats loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth, but Jack Dunn couldn’t get the runs across.
Despite tough starts from Lavelle and Pagliarini, Northwestern’s starting pitching has been pretty good. All three starters have thrown strikes and eaten innings for the most part. The problem has been the bullpen. Tommy Bordignon is the only Northwestern with more than 2.2 innings pitched and an ERA below 5.66. Sam Lawrence, who was Northwestern’s best reliever last season, and JR Reimer, who was supposed to be the closer this year, have pitched nine innings this year and allowed 18 earned runs and 16 walks.
It’s a lost season for Northwestern, and depth continues to be a problem for the Wildcats. The top of Northwestern’s lineup produces well enough, and Northwestern has gotten good outings from its starting pitching. The problem is winning baseball requires lineups producing one through nine and recording 27 outs. For Spencer Allen and the Wildcats, creating competitive depth on the roster will go a long way towards determining success.