Don’t look now, but Northwestern’s baseball team (3-20, 1-2 B1G) is on a roll…sort of?
Winning two of their last five, the ‘Cats are soaring. In fairness, losing 12 straight to start the season makes even a single win a salivating sight.
Northwestern picked up its second victory of the year against Northern Illinois, 15-11, on March 28. The battle versus the Huskies marked the team’s first home game of the year, over an entire month into the season. Nolan Morr earned the win coming out of the bullpen, and the ‘Cats showed resilience, busting open a seventh-inning tie.
Heading into a week stacked with formidable competition — Purdue and Notre Dame, both hovering around 0.500 — NU aimed to start stacking wins. First up were the Boilermakers, who hosted the Wildcats for a three-game slate.
Purdue got things started, beating Northwestern, 8-4. Matt McClure started for the ‘Cats, marking his seventh headlining appearance of the year — good for most among pitchers in the Big Ten. After allowing a Purdue single in the first inning that drove in a run, McClure settled down for a while. The ‘Cats had an answer to the early black and gold run, pushing two runs in thanks to an RBI single from Stephen Hrustich, and a home run courtesy of Griffin Arnone. The lead fell apart in the bottom of the sixth when McClure let in three runs. Northwestern never regained the lead.
The high point of the series was in game two — the Wildcats’ lone win of the weekend. Michael Farinelli clutched his first win of the season with nine strikeouts in 6.1 innings of work. Northwestern jumped ahead in the top of the fourth with another Arnone dinger. The ‘Cats were up 7-3 heading into the ninth, and Ben Grable managed to tally a save on the day. Left fielder Luke Tanner led the team in hits (3) in the first part of the doubleheader. Otherwise, it was a balanced attack from Northwestern’s bats, who mashed eight hits in the contest.
The tiebreaker lived up to its coveted name in the final game of the series. Taking place just hours after the second game, the game went the distance plus an extra six outs. NU battled all the way back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game in the ninth. Alex Calarco and Hrustich tacked on RBI singles in a rally that sent the game to extras. Luke Benneche, who had relieved Sam Garewal after four innings, pitched a clean five innings before allowing a Lukas Cook walk-off homer in the tenth.
After a so-so weekend in West Lafayette, the ‘Cats started the trek back to Evanston. On their way back to campus, they took a stop in South Bend, Indiana, where they took on the Fighting Irish in a one-game square-off.
Long story short, the team should have saved gas money and headed straight home. In a 12-0 rout, Northwestern fell to Notre Dame in a loss that saw the Irish generate 14 hits on 44 batters. David Utagawa took the mound for the ‘Cats and allowed six runs in the second inning. The best offensive performance for the purple and white came from Hrustitch, who went 1-for-3.
On the bright side, things are turning up for NU. Granted, the bright side is merely relative after an 0-12 start. But with 27 games left on the docket before the Big Ten tournament, nothing is out of the picture for the ‘Cats.
The team will get three days off before rival Illinois comes to town for a trio of games over the weekend. The first pitch of the series will be thrown at 3 p.m. CT on Friday. All three showdowns will be available on B1G+.