Northwestern baseball (8-34, 3-15 B1G) was never able to put all the pieces together last weekend, dropping all three games against Indiana (34-14, 12-6).
Northwestern kept all three games close against a talented Indiana squad which is third in the conference, but the team couldn’t muster together a quality all-around performance throughout the weekend. The bats went silent in a 4-0 loss on Friday and in a 5-2, 12-inning defeat Saturday. When the bats woke up for a nine run explosion on Sunday, Wildcat pitchers could not fool the Hoosiers, who took the series finale by a final score of 11-9.
On Friday, Northwestern trotted out graduate right hander Michael Farinelli in place of the injured Matt McClure, who had started the ‘Cats’ past six series openers. Farinelli’s outing got off to an inauspicious start in the top of the first, as Indiana’s Carter Matheson blasted a three-run homer with two outs to put the visitors on top 3-0.
To his credit, Farinelli did settle down after the first inning as he held the Hoosiers off the scoreboard for the next six frames. He ended up pitching two outs into the eighth inning, when he was relieved by Nolan Morr, leaving runners on first and second. Morr promptly allowed Matheson to notch his fourth RBI of the day on an RBI single to right field, upping the lead to 4-0. The run was charged to Farinelli, who finished with an impressive final line of 7.2 innings pitched with six hits, four runs, one walk and five strikeouts.
Despite this strong performance from Farinelli, Northwestern was unable to muster any offense all day. The Wildcats did manage to get a hit in every inning except for the first, but left twelve runners on base and could not manage a single timely hit to drive a run in. Their best scoring chance occurred in the ninth, when Alex Calarco, representing the tying run, stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. However, despite the golden opportunity, he struck out swinging to end the game.
It did not take Northwestern long to get on the board in Saturday’s contest. In the bottom of the second inning, Bennett Markinson doubled to lead off the frame and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt from Evan Minarovic. Owen McElfatrick then tried a squeeze bunt to drive in Markinson, but Indiana played it perfectly and cut down Markinson at home. However, Cooper Foard made sure the Wildcats would not leave the inning empty-handed, smacking a double to left field, which scored McElfatrick all the way from first to give NU the early lead.
The ‘Cats would extend the lead in the fifth inning. Tony Livermore singled to center to begin the inning, and two outs later, Luke Tanner stroked an RBI double down the right field line to make it 2-0, Northwestern.
Until the 8th inning, it seemed as though two runs might be enough to propel Northwestern to victory. Left hander Sam Garewal started for the ‘Cats and was tremendous, pitching 6.1 shutout innings while giving up just four hits, striking out seven and allowing no walks.
Coby Moe relieved Garewal and finished the seventh without allowing any Hoosiers to score, but he ran into trouble in the eighth. After giving up a one-out single to Indiana’s leadoff hitter, Phillip Glasser, Moe was pulled in favor of Ben Grable. Grable immediately let Indiana tie the game on back-to-back RBI hits.
The game went to extras and remained tied all the way until the 12th inning when Indiana, with Grable still on the mound, pushed across three runs thanks to a three-hit frame and an error by McElfatrick. The go-ahead blow was an RBI fielder’s choice, courtesy of the Hoosier’s Phillip Whalen. Northwestern went three-down in the bottom of the twelfth as Indiana locked up the extra inning victory.
Sunday’s game featured more runs in the first inning than were scored in all of Saturday’s game. Northwestern starter Luke Benneche’s outing got off to a rough start, as Indiana loaded the bases before an out was recorded. The Hoosiers went on to score five in the opening frame with the dagger blow being a two-out, two-run double from Phillip Serutto. It appeared as though they were ready to race away to a blowout victory.
Northwestern would not go down easily, however, immediately getting three runs back in the bottom half of the first. Stephen Hrustich had an RBI groundout while Markinson and Griffin Arnone had RBI hits in the frame.
The ‘Cats then cut the deficit to one in the third on an RBI double from McElfatrick, but they would not be able to narrow the Hoosier lead the rest of the way. Indiana extended the lead with four runs in the fourth inning on Benneche, who was pulled with one out in the frame in favor of Jack Dyke. After the Wildcats managed to claw their way back to within three thanks to a two-run homer from Alex Calarco, the Hoosiers tacked on two more runs in the seventh inning off of the duo of Dyke and Kellen Pate.
Although Northwestern dropped all three games, there were some bright spots. The team did not lay down in any of the contests and had a chance to make some noise at the end of each one. The starting pitching was phenomenal on Friday and Saturday, and even though the results were not there on the scoreboard, the offense was consistently getting on base.
Jim Foster’s bunch will look to build on these bright spots over the course of four road games this week, starting Tuesday evening at Milwaukee and wrapping up with a three-game road set in Ann Arbor against Michigan.