Dropping the first six games of the season is not how Jim Foster wanted to open up a new chapter of Northwestern baseball. After being swept by Texas State for the first series of the year, the ‘Cats headed to the Carolinas this past weekend, meeting a similar fate. Lacking in run prevention and run support, Northwestern is six games in and has yet to see a victory.
On Friday, Northwestern faced off against Gardner-Webb. Michael Farinelli pitched four innings, allowing three runs, two earned, striking out four and walking three.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs got on the board first. After a single advanced a runner from second to third base, a throwing error brought the run home. Northwestern responded in the subsequent inning with a Trent Liolios ground-out RBI. That was the last time the score remained even. Trailing by two in the seventh inning, the ‘Cats second and only run came off an RBI from Tony Livermore that sent Griffin Arnone home. Gardner-Webb added three more runs in the last two innings to win 6-2.
In the loss, Ethan Sund had a noteworthy appearance out of the bullpen. In his first appearance against Texas State, the graduate student allowed four hits and two runs while only recording four outs. He improved drastically upon this outing, throwing two shutout innings, where he gave up one hit and struck out four. With early-season pitching struggles, a reliable bullpen arm would be nice for Foster to have.
Only garnering three hits, the low offensive production set a trend for the weekend headed into South Carolina.
On Saturday, the Northwestern offense seemed slightly more alive but nowhere near Presbyterian’s. The Blue Hose had 10 hits and drew six walks, while the ‘Cats settled for five hits and no walks.
Behind 3-0 in the fifth inning, Arnone and Cooper Foard had back-to-back scoring doubles to make it a one-run game. The comeback stopped there with Presbyterian adding another run in the bottom of the seventh to defeat Northwestern 4-2.
In five innings, Matt McClure gave up three runs, six hits and two walks but struck out six. This was also a huge improvement from his last start, where he gave up 6 runs in 3.1 innings.
Despite the loss, Foard and Arnone offer some reason for optimism. Foard went 3-for-3, including two extra-base hits, and Arnone moved to four RBIs on the season to lead the ‘Cats in the respective category.
Northwestern hoped to at least have a win following the rough stretch, but allowing a grand slam in the first inning is a pretty solid way to kill momentum.
USC Upstate tallied on nine runs, while the Northwestern bats stayed quiet in times of opportunity. On five walks and three hits, the Wildcats got runners into scoring position four times, including a runner on third with only one out, and failed to bring the run home each time.
In the deflating shutout loss, the pitching staff gave up nine hits and five walks but did manage to strike out 11. Luke Benneche took the mound for his first start of the season, giving up five runs in three innings.
Six straight losses set a rather defeated tone for the season, but there is a lot of baseball left to be played. Hot streaks and soul-sucking droughts are inherent in this sport, and this is the beginning of a brand-new era. After all, Rome wasn’t built overnight.
Northwestern heads to Louisiana Tech for a series this weekend. The games are Friday at 6 p.m. CT, Saturday at 2 p.m. CT and Sunday at 1 p.m. CT.