Northwestern’s record fell back to .500 this weekend after it lost a three game series to Indiana, a regular contender for the Big Ten title and the conference’s current third place team. After starting the season 9-5, the Wildcats have dropped seven of their last 10 contests and are six games back of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who hold the top spot in the B1G at 18-6.
Shawn Goosenberg, who has been somewhat of an offensive anchor for the team this season and took home the Big Ten’s Player of the Week award for his contributions in NU’s most recent series loss to Rutgers, was notably quiet against the Hoosiers, hitting 2-for-14 while striking out six times.
The series opener was somewhat of a rarity for this year’s Northwestern team in that the ‘Cats neither hit nor gave up a home run. NU starter Mike Doherty didn’t have his sharpest stuff, finishing with a stat line of six innings pitched, four earned runs, seven hits allowed, three walks, two batters hit by pitch and only two strikeouts. Garrett Boeckle, who relieved the Massachusetts native of his pitching duties before he retired a batter in the seventh inning, allowed an earned run of his own.
IU’s starter, Tommy Sommer, was nearly flawless for much of the game, allowing zero runs through six innings pitched. As such, the Hoosiers reached the seventh-inning stretch with a 5-0 lead. However, in the bottom of the inning Sommer lost some of his touch. He would ultimately be charged with four earned runs in the seventh frame and retired only one batter before being relieved.
With two innings to play, Indiana’s lead had dwindled down to 5-4, giving the ‘Cats a chance to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. Unfortunately, Northwestern failed to tie the game against IU’s relievers, who pitched the game’s remaining two and two-thirds innings without giving up an additional run, securing a slim victory for the crimson and cream.
Northwestern earned its only win of the weekend on Saturday behind a stellar performance from second baseman Vince Bianchina. The first-year got things started for the ‘Cats in the second inning with a solo home run, and Anthony Calarco and Goosenberg built upon that momentum, hitting a pair of back-to-back RBI doubles later in the inning that left Northwestern with a 3-0 lead. The next inning, Bianchina hit another solo shot to extend NU’s lead to four.
Soon thereafter, Northwestern starter Tyler Uberstine, who had tossed a scoreless first three frames, ran into some trouble. He allowed a two-run homer to Indiana’s Tyler Van Pelt in the fourth, followed by another two-run blast off the bat of Cole Barr in the fifth that knotted the score at four. Uberstine was pulled after allowing the game-tying home run for Reed Smith, who closed the inning without further event and pitched another two clean frames. But the ‘Cats failed to break the tie in the innings that followed, and Smith gave up an RBI single in the eighth that left Indiana ahead 5-4.
Midway through the eighth, the scoreboard at Rocky and Berenice Miller Park read just as it had at that point a day earlier, but the ‘Cats finished stronger this time around. The team notched four runs in the bottom of the inning to regain the lead, and Sam Lawrence retired the Indiana side in the ninth without damage as NU went home with an 8-5 win.
However, it seemed as though the Wildcats used up all of their offensive juice in the Saturday comeback, as they were shutout for the first time in the 2021 season during the series closing matinee on Sunday. Indiana pitcher Gabe Bierman took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Leo Kaplan reached on an infield single to second base. Still, Northwestern never got much of anything going and was unable to put a single run on the board. The four runs Indiana scored on a pair of home runs and a sac fly were more than enough, and they took the game and the series with a 4-0 victory.
The ‘Cats will hit the road next weekend for Iowa City, where they’ll play a pair of two-game series; first against Maryland (who swept them in a two-game set at the start of April) and then against the hosting Hawkeyes.