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Baseball: Buckeyes upset ‘Cats in brutal series sweep

Northwestern is in the midst of a five-game losing streak for the second time this season.

Photo by John Konstantaras.

The last week and a half has not been kind to Northwestern Baseball. After sustaining a 13-0 loss at cross-city rivals UIC, Ohio State rolled into Evanston and dealt the ‘Cats their second sweep and third series loss in conference play this season. Ahead of the series, the Buckeyes hosted a 3-13 Big Ten record, good for second to last in conference standings and well behind the Wildcats, who sat at 7-8 in B1G Tournament contention.

It didn’t take long for OSU to knock Northwestern down and out of the top eight, dampening the team’s hopes for its first postseason appearance since 2017.

It was the rain yet again that emerged victorious on Friday, pushing game one of the series to Saturday morning for a doubleheader. In the beginning it wasn’t all bad, with sophomore Jay Beshears and Buckeye slugger Kade Kern battling it out at the plate over the first three innings, both earning four RBIs to tie the score heading into the sixth.

First-year Sean Sullivan started the game on the mound and pitched five innings, walking three and striking out five before being relieved by Coby Moe, Beshears and Reed Smith. Moe gave up two earned runs in the sixth to send the Buckeyes up 6-4, but two more RBIs courtesy of catcher JC Santini and first-year Bennet Markinson evened the score one final time before it all fell apart for the ‘Cats.

OSU batted in a whopping eight runs in the top of the ninth, earning a 14-6 victory in the first match of the doubleheader. Moe was afforded the loss despite Beshears allowing six earned runs and five hits in relief before Smith closed out the first game of the doubleheader.

Unfortunately, the Buckeyes’ bats did not cool down in game two. Graduate student Michael Farinelli earned the start and managed a scoreless first inning before *stuff* hit the fan. OSU entered the second with a vengeance, batting in seven earned runs off Farinelli before scoring another three unearned to close out the inning with — wait for it — a 10-0 lead.

None of NU’s relievers could stop the Buckeye onslaught. David Utagawa and Jacob Scharm combined for 13 (!) more earned runs by the bottom of the fifth before their teammates managed to finally round the bases thanks to a homer by Tommy D’Alise for two RBIs. However, there wasn’t much the ‘Cats could do at that point to catch up despite scoring seven more times before the final out.

Sophomore Kellen Pate closed out the match and the scoreline at 25-9 — Northwestern’s worst loss since giving up 23 runs and losing by 15 to Duke in February 2019, coincidentally also in game two of a doubleheader. The ‘Cats at least won game three of that series, but that wasn’t the case on Sunday.

Though not a blowout like the first two contests, Northwestern still couldn’t finish it out. Steven Hrustich opened scoring for the ‘Cats with an RBI sending Ethan O’Donnell home in the bottom of the first. OSU’s leadoff hitter Marcus Ernst tied it up at one with an RBI of his own in the third before first-year Grant Comstock handed the Buckeyes the lead off a wild pitch in the fourth.

Comstock gave up one more run before being replaced by junior Jack Sauser, who gave up one RBI before Northwestern’s lineup surged back in the bottom of the sixth. RBIs from D’Alise, Santini and Beshears, albeit the latter off a hit-by-pitch, tied things up at four. Then, D’Alise hit an RBI single to send the ‘Cats ahead 5-4 with two innings remaining.

Unfortunately, Sauser could not hold down the fort and gave up another run in the top of the eighth as the ‘Cats slowly saw their consolation victory slip away. Smith entered the game in relief and dealt his teammates the final fatal blow off an earned run in the top of the ninth, closing out the series without a win.

Northwestern now sits at 7-11 in conference play, good for ninth place in the standings and one spot removed from the B1G Tournament. Another midweek non-conference matchup victory versus Milwaukee tonight at 6:30 PM CST could offer the ‘Cats a little bit of a morale boost before facing eighth place Purdue at home this weekend in their second-to-last series of the regular season.