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Baseball: ‘Cats drop opening series to Nebraska-Omaha

Excepting Sunday, it was a weekend of errors and rustiness galore.

Northwestern Baseball

Northwestern baseball began their season by winning one of three games against Nebraska-Omaha this past weekend in Camelback, Arizona.

Head coach Spencer Allen’s squad lost the first two games of the series by scores of 5-4 and 9-2, respectively, before taking the series finale 7-2 behind an impressive pitching performance and enough offense to get the job done.

In case you didn’t make the trek to the southwestern corner of the country to take in the first three contests of 2020 with your own two eyes (or listen on WNUR), what follows is a complete series recap.

Game One

Mike Doherty took the mound for the Wildcats to open the season. After the sophomore hurled three scoreless innings, Omaha took the lead on a single to left field by shortstop Keil Krumwiede in the top of the fourth.

It didn’t take long for Northwestern to claw their way back into the game, however. In the bottom of the fourth, center fielder David Dunn tied the game with a solo home run to left field.

Not long after, in the bottom of the fifth, the ‘Cats would jump out to a 3-1 lead on a two run shot to center by catcher Michael Trautwein, giving them the lead heading into the sixth.

Then things got a bit dicey.

Doherty was pulled after pitching five innings. He gave up eight hits, but allowed just one run and struck out four. Junior Jack Pagliarini took his place, struggling from the get-go. In short, Pagliarini gave up three runs over his 0.1 IP, two of which were earned. Senior Josh Levy soon replaced him, giving up an additional run before ending the inning. After the sixth, the ‘Cats suddenly trailed 5-3.

Northwestern wouldn’t score again until the bottom of the seventh, when shortstop Shawn Goosenberg drove in Leo Kaplan on a double down the left field line. The comeback effort was there, but it was too little too late. NU fell to Omaha 5-4, with Pagliarini receiving the loss.

Game Two

Northwestern came into Saturday hoping for a solid start from Quinn Lavelle, and he delivered...to a point.

The junior pitched four impressive scoreless innings before the Wildcats’ defense self-destructed in the fifth. Lavelle gave up six runs in the frame, zero of which were earned thanks to four errors from Northwestern defenders including one by Lavelle himself.

The ‘Cats actually opened the scoring in this game with a double by Trautwein in the bottom of the fourth, but after the following inning the game was blown right open.

Omaha continued to pile it on in the eighth, when first-year relief pitcher Reed Smith allowed a bases-clearing triple to center field, pushing the score to 9-1. Northwestern managed to score one more run before the game ended, on a fielder’s choice from Goosenberg in the bottom of the eighth. Despite his unluckiness, Lavelle was ultimately handed the loss.

Game Three

In what ended up being the team’s only win of the weekend, Tyler Uberstine took the mound for the ‘Cats on Sunday. Uberstine posted the most solid pitching stat line of the weekend for NU, allowing just one earned run in 5.0 IP. The USC transfer (who did not play baseball in his two years at Southern Cal) gave up only four hits, striking out five.

Once again, Northwestern got the scoring started, this time ensuring that the lead wouldn’t slip away. The ‘Cats scored the first seven runs of the game, including six in the bottom of the fourth inning, which was capped off by a bases-clearing double to right field by Goosenberg.

Omaha fought back by scoring one in the fifth and one in the seventh, but their comeback efforts were snuffed out by the solid bullpen work of Ryan Bader and Sam Lawrence, who each pitched one inning and struck out three combined while allowing zero hits.

All in all, it was a positive ending to a less-than-memorable weekend for the ‘Cats, who will be back in action Feb. 21-23 when they take on South Carolina in Columbia.