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Baseball: ‘Cats struggle on the mound, swept for the second weekend in a row

It’s been a tough year for Northwestern baseball. It didn’t turn around at all this weekend in Evanston against Rutgers.

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The losing continued for Northwestern baseball this weekend against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (24-16, 7-5 B1G) at home. The ‘Cats were swept and fell to 6-28 on the season, and just 3-9 in conference play. Once again, the pitching wasn’t there for Northwestern this weekend. Since the offense also struggled to put runs on the board, winning wasn’t really in the cards.

In game one on Friday, Rutgers built a 4-0 lead by the fifth inning. The ‘Cats were unable to put any dent into that lead, scoring their only run of the game on a Tony Livermore infield single. They would go on to lose 7-1. Rutgers’ third baseman Chris Brito, who had four hits in the weekend opener, blasted two homers and had an RBI double, driving in four on the day. The Scarlet Knights also benefited from a lights out Christian Coppola start in which he pitched six innings of one-run ball.

Matt McClure had a rough start for Northwestern, surrendering four earned runs in four innings before being pulled. The junior’s ERA now sits at 6.38, and he had his second straight start during which he was pulled before the fifth.

In their second outing, the ‘Cats fared a little better offensively, but it still wasn’t enough to lift them past the Scarlet Knights. Brito started the scoring once again with an RBI double in the first inning off Northwestern starter Michael Farinelli. Outfielder Evan Sleight followed that up with a two-run double to give Rutgers a 3-0 advantage before the ‘Cats even stepped to the plate.

Northwestern got one back in the bottom half of the first, but Farinelli didn’t give the offense much of a chance to stay in the game. He went on to allow eight earned runs off of 10 hits in four innings. After the ‘Cats lost 11-7, Farinelli fell to 1-7 on the year, and his ERA rose to a whopping 9.56.

The top of the ‘Cats’ order showed some offensive prowess. Tony Livermore was the most notable, going 3-for-4 on the day with a homer to right. Outfielders Kevin Ferrer and Stephen Hrustich also chipped in with two hits each. The one through three spots in the order combined for seven of the ‘Cats nine hits. However, there wasn’t much going on when they weren’t due to bat.

Northwestern was a shell of its game two offensive self in the series finale. Rutgers’ starting pitcher Drew Conover mowed the ‘Cats down for seven innings, only allowing one run on four hits.

Luke Benneche was not as effective for the home team trying to avoid its second sweep in as many weekends. He gave up four earned runs on four hits in four innings pitched. He also balked in the first run of the contest. That stat line, while interesting, isn’t quite good enough to win ball games.

The ‘Cats went on to fall 5-1 on a dreary Sunday in Evanston. Northwestern’s only run of the game came on a wild pitch in the seventh inning when catcher Alex Calarco came streaking home. The Scarlet Knights did just enough offensively to put runs on the board, riding contributions from Josh Kuroda-Grauer and Ryan Lasko to the sweep.

Northwestern will play next at home against Milwaukee (19-17, 9-8 Horizon League) on Tuesday, and then next weekend on the road against Michigan State (23-13, 6-5 B1G).