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Baseball: ‘Cats swept by South Florida in disappointing backslide

Seven runs and eight errors over three games just won’t cut it.

Following a surprising series win over South Carolina the prior weekend, Northwestern baseball (3-6) went into Tampa a few days ago with the hopes of adding a couple more wins to their resume.

Those hopes quickly faded.

Rather than building on their momentum and taking at least a couple of wins away from the Bulls, the ‘Cats, or more specifically their offense, flatlined. Northwestern scored just seven runs over a three-game span (saved in part by a five run performance in the final game of the series), falling by a 2-1 score twice before Sunday’s offensive explosion sent them home on the wrong end of a 10-5 scoreline.

In case you weren’t able to follow along on WNUR or view this past weekend’s action with your own two eyes, our complete recap of a thoroughly frustrating series follows.

Game One

To open the series, sophomore Mike Doherty took the mound for Northwestern in what would ultimately end up a classic pitcher’s duel.

The ‘Cats got off to a quick start on the offensive end, as second baseman Charlie Maxwell and left fielder Stephen Hrustich knocked in back-to-back singles around a wild pitch to score Northwestern their first and only run of the game, putting the Wildcats up 1-0 in the top of the first.

Doherty ended up posting a very solid outing, going a strong five innings while striking out five batters and only allowing two hits. Once he was pulled, however, the defensive struggles commenced.

After his five innings, Doherty was replaced by senior LHP Sam Lawrence, who pitched a solid 2.1 innings but gave up three hits and two runs, both of which came in the sixth inning and were unearned.

South Florida tied the game after a throwing error by freshman shortshop Evan Minarovic allowed designated hitter Julio Cortez to reach first and third baseman Dylan Buck, who had also reached on a Minarovic error, to score. Later on in the sixth, Buck scored on a single by right fielder Jordan Santos, giving the Bulls a 2-1 lead.

All in all, that was enough to secure South Florida a 2-1 victory in the opening game. Lawrence received the loss for the ‘Cats despite not allowing an earned run, while Collin Sullivan (6.0 IP, 1 ER, 14 (!) K) earned the win for the Bulls.

Game Two

Redshirt sophomore Tyler Uberstine took the mound for NU in a game that saw a strikingly similar storyline to game one.

Once again, Northwestern opened the scoring, this time on a RBI single by catcher Leo Kaplan in the top of the third. Yet again, this was the only scoring the Wildcats partook in.

Uberstine himself had a nice day on the mound. Over five innings, he allowed just one hit and one earned run while walking four and striking out one. Over 15 innings this season, opposing batters have hit a meager .183 against the redshirt sophomore in his first career collegiate action after spending two years at USC solely as a student.

Just like game one, both of the Bulls runs would come in the bottom of the sixth inning, one off of Uberstine and one off relief pitcher Ryan Bader.

Strong pitching was again a key point for South Florida, as starting pitcher Jack Jasiak went six innings while only allowing one earned run and striking out seven batters.

While defensive errors weren’t as prevalent for the ‘Cats in game two, offensive struggles surely were. In the end, a strong pitching performance from USF combined with Northwestern bullpen woes gave the Bulls a 2-1 victory in game two.

Game Three

Any missing offense from games one and two was almost immediately made up for in game three, but this one was all South Florida early on.

Junior Quinn Lavelle took the mound for the Wildcats in the series finale. After pitching a scoreless first inning, Lavelle hit a wall in the second, giving up three earned runs. He was pulled after just 2.1 IP and he gave up a total of four earned runs and five hits.

The ‘Cats’ bats were dormant early on, providing the Bulls with a 4-0 lead through three. NU eventually got on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth via a RBI single by Kaplan.

Just an inning later, Northwestern continued the comeback, cutting USF’s lead to two runs on an RBI fielder’s choice by David Dunn. They continued on, scoring two more runs the following inning on a single by Maxwell to tie the game at 4-4.

Then the bullpen and defensive woes, once again commenced.

Over the next two innings, the Bulls would score six runs, four of which were earned by Northwestern pitchers Anthony Alepra and Coby Moe. The other two runs were by way of three separate errors by the ‘Cats, two of which fell at the hands of Minarovic.

Alepra ended up receiving the loss for Northwestern after pitching just 0.1 innings and allowing two earned runs. For South Florida, relief pitcher Nick Davila received the win after throwing just 0.2 innings of relief for the Bulls, where he struck out one batter.

On the weekend, NU allowed the eventual game-winning run or runs in the sixth inning of all three games, and not only committed eight errors but struck out a whopping 40 times.

The ‘Cats are back in action today at UIC before heading out to upstate South Carolina for the weekend. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 p.m.