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Baseball: ‘Cats swept again as the difficult season moves into May

Northwestern had a couple of bright spots this weekend, but they weren’t enough to put any Ws on the board at Michigan State.

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Fresh off a feel-good 10-0 win against Milwaukee, Northwestern baseball fell back into its losing ways this weekend in East Lansing at Michigan State (28-13, 10-5 B1G). The ‘Cats, now 7-31 and 3-12 in conference play, once again couldn’t get much going on the offensive side of the ball and didn’t keep things close enough to be within striking distance. As the season moves into May, Northwestern is running out of time to break free from that trend.

The ‘Cats and Spartans played a doubleheader on Saturday and then finished up on Sunday at noon. In game one of the weekend, NU starting pitcher Matt McClure went five innings, but allowed five earned runs on six hits. His ERA rose to 6.62 on the season, the highest it’s been since March, and the ‘Cats eventually fell 8-3.

For the Spartans, the damage was spread throughout the lineup. Shortstop Mitch Jebb went 2-for-5 with an RBI, while slugging first baseman Brock Vradenburg chipped in with two RBIs in the contest. Spartan starter Joseph Dzierwa was effective enough to hold the ‘Cats to three earned runs in six innings of work. He improved to 5-2 on the season and lowered his ERA to 4.89.

For Northwestern, Cooper Foard and Kevin Ferrer both hit bombs, but nobody else contributed much of anything. The ‘Cats only had five total hits in nine frames and limped into game two.

They didn’t have much luck later in the afternoon either, falling 6-3. This time, Vradenburg powered the Spartans to victory, crushing two homers and driving in four in a 3-for-3 performance.

Northwestern starter Sam Garewal had a long leash in this one, giving up all six runs in six innings pitched. The lefty California native has had a rough season, and his ERA now sits at 7.52. On the mound, the only plus for the ‘Cats was that reliever David Utagawa pitched three solid innings to close out the game without surrendering a run.

At the plate, Northwestern hit poorly once again, this time racking up just four hits in the game. All of its runs came in the seventh inning off doubles from outfielder Griffin Arnone and DH Luke Tanner. Alas, it wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit and the ‘Cats fell to 0-2 on the weekend.

In the final game of the weekend, Northwestern starter Luke Benneche actually got off to a decent start. The junior has had a difficult season, but he held the talented Spartan lineup to just one run in the first four innings. In the fifth, however, disaster struck. Michigan State catcher Brian Broecker hit a triple, driving in two. Later in the inning, third baseman Dillon Kark followed that up with another two-RBI triple, and all of the sudden, the ‘Cats found themselves trailing 5-1.

From there, the odds of winning were bleak, and the ‘Cats eventually fell 9-3, suffering their third sweep in as many weekends. Despite another solid performance from Ferrer (2-for-4 with an RBI double), the ‘Cats couldn’t score enough runs to push the high-scoring Spartans.

Northwestern’s season continues on Tuesday at UIC (19-20, 6-12 Horizon League), and then the Wildcats are back at home next weekend against Indiana (31-14, 9-6 B1G).