After a tough series sweep at the hands of South Florida last weekend, Northwestern baseball bounced back with a solid week to begin March, winning three of its four games over the course of last week.
The ‘Cats got a rare taste of March baseball in Chicago as they finally got to play their annual early scheduled matchup with University of Illinois-Chicago that had been cancelled the last two years. Taking advantage of some nice spring weather, Spencer Allen’s team headed to the city to face the Flames and got the job done with a convincing 8-2 win.
Sophomore outfielder David Dunn stole the show with an early two-run shot that put the Wildcats ahead from the start. It was his second bomb of the season, although he hasn’t had much overall offensive success thus far, hitting just .214 through three games.
After the midweek game in Chicago, the ‘Cats headed back down to South Carolina for the second time this season to face off against Western Carolina and South Carolina-Upstate in three games over the weekend.
Sophomore Mike Doherty was the story of the weekend opener, pitching six scoreless innings as the Wildcats rolled to a 4-0 victory over Western Carolina. Doherty has been an absolute stud on the mound for NU. His ERA sits at 0.86 through four starts and 21 total innings pitched. He has given the Wildcats good innings in all of his starts so far which has been critical in keeping a young, inexperienced bullpen well-rested and able to last the entire weekend.
The righty has allowed just five walks through his four starts and is yet to surrender a home run.
The ‘Cats stayed hot on Saturday with a 4-2 win over South Carolina-Upstate. They got another solid start from freshman Tyler Uberstine, who gave the Wildcats seven innings on the mound while only allowing just five hits and two earned runs. Senior Leo Kaplan, one of the few veterans on the team, continued to excel at the plate with a 2-for-4 afternoon. He ranks second on the team hitting .324 in 37 at-bats.
Sunday proved to just be an absolutely wild game between the Wildcats and the Spartans. In a game that featured four lead changes in the first three innings, SCU outlasted NU 11-9, and prevented the Wildcats from finishing the weekend with a perfect record. Charlie Maxwell got the job done in the leadoff spot hitting 4-for-6 on the day, and freshman Evan Minarovic continued his hot start to his NU career with three RBIs on two hits.
The Wildcats have gotten fantastic production from some of their young starting pitchers thus far, but junior southpaw Quinn Lavelle has struggled mightily in his last three appearances. There were times last year when it looked as if Lavelle had locked down the no. 1 starting slot in the rotation moving forward, but his ERA sits at a woeful 13.50 through four starts this season.
He hasn’t been able to make it out of the third inning in each of his last three starts, and NU might have to consider trying out a new third starter given how Lavelle has fared in 2020.
Northwestern’s home opener is scheduled for this Friday against Kent State, although early weather reports suggest Mother Nature could have other ideas. After that, conference play is a week away with Penn State coming to Evanston the following weekend.