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Baseball: Pitching struggles overshadow the offense, as Northwestern drops 12 straight

When it rains, it pours, and a storm cloud is following the ‘Cats.

In terms of new beginnings, Northwestern would probably like another.

As inevitable as streaks may be to baseball, 12 consecutive losses are rather hard to come by, and for that to not just be the start of a new season, but also the Jim Foster reign, is troubling. To make matters worse, two assistant coaches and the team’s hitting coach reportedly departed before the two-week mark. NU has since hired Dennis Cook, who pitched for 15 seasons in the MLB, but it hasn’t gotten any closer to finding answers for the bats and arms.

Following a three-game sweep by Louisiana Tech, Northwestern stayed local to face UIC. With eight hits and five extra-base hits, the bats had a solid showing for a struggling team, but eight errors spoke volumes to the team’s inability to outperform its opponents so far this season.

The Flames jumped ahead quickly with three runs in the first inning, which was how long sophomore Grant Comstock lasted on the mound. The sophomore gave up three earned runs and three walks; he was also pulled after two innings against Texas State where he gave up five earned runs.

The Wildcats were able to get within one, adding runs on groundouts from Bennett Markinson in the second inning and Vincent Binachina in the third inning.

Trailing by three in the fourth inning, Griffin Arnone knocked one out of the park to tie the game at five. The even game was short-lived, as the Flames piled on four runs in the sixth inning and one in the seventh to eventually go on to win 10-6.

In the loss, Northwestern’s pitching surrendered 15 hits to UIC, and only one pitcher of five, Ryan Keenen, who had the eighth inning, didn’t give up a run. What should not go overshadowed, however, is Alex Calarco’s 2-for-4 hitting performance. The sophomore did not record a hit in his first six games, but he earned six across the Louisiana Tech series and continued his success at the plate into a new set of games.

On Friday, Northwestern’s struggles continued into a doubleheader against Saint Louis. In the first game, the ‘Cats got off to an early two-run lead with an Arnone homer and an RBI single from Kevin Ferrer. The three-run home run was the Elon transfer’s second in as many days, extending his recent stride of success at the plate.

The Billikens got ahead 4-2 entering the third inning, but the Wildcats were able to requite the score on an RBI single from Cooper Foard and sac fly from Bianchina. That was the last time the advantage remained even, as Saint Louis went on to score 12 more runners in four-run, five-run and three-run innings.

Conversely, the Wildcats added two to their score thanks to another hit from Arnone, and a series of errors that allowed Stephen Hrustich to come home. The Billikens managed 16 runs and six extra-base hits on 15 hits to outmatch the Wildcat pitching. In four innings, Matt McClure gave up eight runs on nine hits, but also struck out six. Luke Benneche, Nolan Morr and Reed Smith came in for relief and also yielded runs. Although Northwestern generated some offensive production in the 16-6 loss with 10 hits, it also stranded 13 runners.

Similar to the first game, Northwestern once again got off to an early first-inning lead it couldn’t maintain in the back-half of its double-header. Hrustich’s first home run of the season gave the ‘Cats its only three runs for four innings. Over that duration, Saint Louis put up eight runs, which included the Billikens earning their own three-run homer.

Trent Lilios added two RBIs — one of which came off a double — to give the ‘Cats two more runs before they fell 14-5 to the Billikens. Northwestern had 11 hits and Saint Louis had 12; however, between leaving nine on base and pitching to Patrick Clohisy, who had seven RBIs for the Billikens, the Wildcats were outmatched.

Sam Garewal was on the mound and let up two hits and two runs over three innings. The outing improved upon the first year’s previous three appearances and was a solid change of pace for the ‘Cats, who have grown used to changing pitchers and giving up many runs early.

Despite another tough week, Calarco, Arnone and Hrustich provided some engineering for the offense, which has been significantly lacking and is needed in relation to run prevention struggles. After 18 hitless at-bats, Calarco is on a six-game hitting streak, which includes four multi-hit games. With five RBIs and hits in his last four games, Arnone now leads the team in RBIs and homers with nine and three, respectively. As for the senior, Hrustich is on a hot streak— recording six hits, contributing five RBIs and coming across home plate seven times in his last five games.

Northwestern heads back to the diamond this weekend in Indianapolis to face Butler for a doubleheader on Saturday and a game on Sunday.