Northwestern baseball ventured west to DeKalb, Illinois on Tuesday and walked away with a 16-5 victory over Northern Illinois to complete a two-game season sweep of the Huskies and snap a four-game losing streak.
NIU rolled out Jacob Wilde as its starting pitcher. He entered his start having allowed seven or more runs in each of his past three appearances, and Northwestern made sure the trend would continue for one more start.
After the Wildcats went down 1-2-3 in the first, they wasted no time getting on the board in the second. On the third pitch of the inning, Alex Calarco launched a solo home run to left center to plate the first run of the ballgame.
The fun was only getting started for the ‘Cats as they went on to score four more runs in the second inning and four in the third to race out to a 9-0 lead. All nine runs were charged to Wilde, whose outing concluded following the third inning. Some highlights of the onslaught included Owen McElfatrick notching an RBI double and a pair of RBI singles from Bennett Markinson.
NIU did not lay down easily despite the deficit, chipping away with four unanswered runs over the middle three innings — courtesy of three home runs, including a two-run jack from Tyler Thierry to make the score 9-4 through six frames.
The Northwestern offense awoke from its midgame slumber in the seventh, however, to make sure the Huskies would not get any closer than five. Calarco again got the rally started with an RBI double, and he later came around to score on an RBI single from Luke Tanner two batters later. Tony Livermore concluded the three-run seventh with a sacrifice fly.
The offensive barrage did not stop there, as the Wildcats went on to add four more runs over the final two innings. In the eighth, Steven Hrustich and Kevin Ferrer each launched solo home runs to left field, and RBI doubles in the ninth from Hrustich and Calarco capped off the scoring.
Overall, ten different Wildcats recorded a hit in the contest and five notched multiple hits. Calarco led the way with a 4-for-6, three RBI performance that saw him finish just a triple shy of the cycle and cross the plate three times himself. Other standouts included a two-hit, four-run scored game from Ferrer, and a 3-for-6 day from Hrustich with two RBIs and three runs scored.
On the mound, Northwestern got a strong start from left-hander Sam Garewal. The first year from San Diego pitched three shutout innings, giving up only two hits and striking out four Huskie hitters. Garewal was followed by six relievers, with Drew Dickson, Reed Smith, and Ben Grable each putting together scoreless one-inning appearances. Ethan Sund got credit for the win after pitching a one-run fifth inning.
Most encouragingly for pitching coach Dennis Cook, the Northwestern pitching staff continued a positive trend over the past week of limiting free bases to opposing hitters. After walking 10 and hitting a whopping six batters last Tuesday against UIC, Northwestern has not issued more than six free bases in any game since. Against NIU, Northwestern pitching only issued four free bases on two hits and two walks. This trend needs to continue if Northwestern wants to contend down the stretch of its season.
Looking forward, Northwestern will return to Rocky and Bernice Miller Park for a three-game series with Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights come to Evanston with a 21-16 record overall and a 4-5 mark in the Big Ten. The action begins with a 3:00 PM first pitch on Friday afternoon.