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Baseball: Wildcats climb back to .500 with a dominant performance in Columbus

The brooms were unleashed for the second weekend in a row.

Northwestern (14-14, 4-2 B1G) took three of three games from Ohio State (16-16, 2-4) on the road this weekend, earning back-to-back series sweeps and improving their overall record to to .500 for the first time since February. The Wildcats have now won 8 of their last 9 games.

NU outscored the Buckeyes 30-11 in the series thanks to fantastic work out of the bullpen (1.23 ERA in 14.2 IP) and strong offensive production down the stretch. The Wildcats trailed OSU heading into the 7th inning in two of the three games yet put together late rallies both times to eventually secure the sweep.

The Wildcat bats are peaking at the right time. Northwestern recorded 10+ hits in all three games this weekend, posting consistently solid individual performances as they gear up for the heart of the Big Ten schedule.

Senior Willie Bourbon (5-for-13, 6 RBIs) and junior Alex Erro (7-for-15, 2 RBIs) were particularly phenomenal at the plate, but the Wildcats got support from some of their younger bats as well. Freshman Shawn Goosenberg drove in five runs on the weekend while David Dunn continued his phenomenal comeback season with five hits to bring his season average to .343 — the second highest on the team behind only his brother.

Here’s a brief look at how all three games played out:

Friday: W, 13-5

SP: Quinn Lavelle (3-3, 4.08 ERA)

Northwestern trailed 5-3 heading into seventh inning, but was able to tie the game up in the thanks to a sac fly from Erro and a double from Goosenberg. The Wildcats never looked back: Lavelle closed out his seven inning start with three scoreless frames, and two shutout innings from Sam Lawrence and Nick Paciorek closed the game. Casey O’Laughlin’s grand slam in the top of the 9th sealed the deal for NU and tied O’Laughlin for first on the team with three home runs on the year.

Box Score

Saturday: W, 7-2

SP: Mike Doherty (2-0, 6.35 ERA)

Freshman Mike Doherty got the start in this one, but it was his sophomore Ryan Bader who made the headlines, tossing five innings out of relief and allowing just one run to earn the win. Nick Paciorek and Anthony Alepra also continued to impress out of the bullpen in late game situations. The two both kept their ERAs under 3.00 on the year with scoreless appearances.

Box Score

Sunday: W, 10-4

SP: Tommy D’Alise (0-0, 3.95)

D’Alise earned his second career start on Sunday after a few solid relief outings but lasted just 3.1 innings, giving up three earned runs (all in the first). For the second game in a row, Northwestern’s middle relievers answered the call and kept the Wildcats within striking distance. NU got onto the board in the 4th thanks to a David Dunn solo shot, but the turning point of the game came in the 7th inning when Willie Bourbon delivered a three RBI double to put NU ahead for good.

Box Score

Series Notes

  • Northwestern scored a combined 17 runs in the 8th/9th innings of all three games.
  • Buckeyes relievers pitched eight total innings in the series and gave up a whopping 23 runs.
  • Willie Bourbon has now driven in 10 runs in his last six games. He leads the team with 19 RBIs on the year.
  • Despite a slow weekend by his standards, senior Jack Dunn tallied three hits on the weekend and scored in every game. His .365 average ranks third best in the Big Ten.
  • The Buckeyes made four errors in the series opener. Three of the Wildcats’ 13 runs were unearned.
  • NU is now tied for fourth in the Big Ten standings at 4-2. Saturday’s win put the Wildcats above .500 in B1G play for the first time since 2017.
  • Junior Hank Christie, one of NU’s projected top arms heading into the season, did not start this weekend, marking the first series he’s missed all year. There is no official word as to why Christie was scratched, but he did struggle in his last outing against San Jose State, giving up five earned runs and seven hits in just 5.2 innings.
  • Northwestern players apparently now play the air guitar whenever they get a hit which is...cool?

Moving Forward

The ‘Cats should feel good about where they’re at right now. They’ve won 4-of-6 against two solid Big Ten opponents and will probably get a similar test when Maryland comes to Evanston this weekend for a three-game set. Against Ohio State this past weekend, we saw Northwestern click both at the plate and on the mound in a way they’ve failed to do consistently up until this point in the season.

Northwestern faces Milwaukee on the road Tuesday night before the Maryland series kicks off on Friday.