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Baseball: ‘Cats win series against Spartans 2-1 and defeat Milwaukee in mid-week contest

Josh Reynolds’ boys are still sitting pretty just above .500 on the season.

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Yet another rain-soaked Friday pushed the start of Northwestern Baseball’s (19-17, 6-6 B1G) series against B1G foe Michigan State (18-21, 3-9 B1G). The result of the postponement was a doubleheader on Saturday, with the ‘Cats winning both in stride.

Northwestern’s bats were ablaze to start the day. Junior Stephen Hrustich earned his eighth homer of the season and sent two of his teammates around the bases as a result, putting the ‘Cats up to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning. The runs would not stop rolling in from there as first-year Bennet Markinson hammered home a grand slam in the fourth inning followed by an Ethan O’Donnell two-RBI double.

Making the start for the ‘Cats and earning his fifth win on the season was first-year Sean Sullivan, who led the team’s defense in striking out four Spartans on 7.2 innings pitched with only one run earned. Sophomore Kellen Pate closed out the contest on the mound, sending NU into the break with a 14-2 victory.

The second half of the doubleheader didn’t nearly bear as much excitement, but it yielded the same result. It was O’Donnell yet again who could not be stopped at the plate, popping home two runs before first-year Patrick Herrera and senior Anthony Calarco batted in two RBIs to bring the ‘Cats’ run total to four.

Middlebury graduate transfer Michael Farinelli pitched the majority of the contest, striking out four batters and giving up one earned run, and sophomore Jay Beshears closed it out at 4-2 with a strikeout of his own. Over the course of both games, NU combined for 19 hits and almost just as many runs, all while allowing only 14 hits and four runs from the Spartans.

The third and final contest of the series did not go the ‘Cats' way, though they hopped out to an early 2-0 lead courtesy of a Markinson hit-by-pitch RBI sending O’Donnell home and a Vince Bianchina RBI shortly after that sent Calarco home as well. Michigan State countered with a homer hit off first-year Grant Comstock in his fourth start of the year.

Both teams traded runs until the fifth inning when the Spartans fully took advantage of Comstock and batted in four runs to take the lead at 6-4. The ‘Cats then rotated through four (!) relievers who gave up a combined five runs to close out the contest, despite RBIs by first-year Andrew Pinkston, O’Donnell and Calarco finalizing the score at 11-7.

After closing out the series 2-1, Northwestern sauntered into its Tuesday matchup versus its neighbor to the north, Milwaukee. It was graduate student Ruben Fontes who opened the contest with a bang, knocking a homer out above center field to bring himself and two of his teammates around the bases. Calarco, Herrera and Beshears earned an RBI each in the following innings, and Hrustich rounded out the ‘Cats scoresheet with a homer to bring NU’s final run total to eight.

Sophomore David Utagawa started his second contest of the year on the mound, pitching four innings and striking out one batter. Five other pitchers contributed to the shutout, allowing a total of four hits throughout the contest.

Now at an even .500 in conference play, NU will take on Maryland this weekend in College Park. First pitch of the series is set for 5:30 p.m. CT on Friday.