For the first time since April 2010, Northwestern baseball (10-20, 2-4 B1G) has won two straight weekend series. You read that right. It's been seven years, but Spencer Allen's team reached a signficant mile marker this weekend. The ‘Cats followed up last week’s series win over Air Force with an impressive series win over Iowa (19-11, 3-3 B1G), moving up to 10th in the conference.
Much like last weekend's series win over Air Force, it took a weekend-long come-back for Northwestern to save the series. The Hawkeyes took the opening game of the series Friday, winning 14-2. Iowa’s Nick Gallagher – who had professional scouts watching him from the stands – stifled the Northwestern offense, throwing seven shutout innings on the mound. On the other hand, NU pitcher Tommy Bordignon struggled with location, giving up five earned runs in just two innings of work. The bullpen hardly fared better: Three separate relievers gave up nine runs over 6 innings before Tyler Lass pitched a scoreless ninth.
For Iowa, shortstop Mason McCoy carried the offensive load early, batting 3-for-5 with a four RBIs, including a solo home run in the fifth inning. The loss dropped the Wildcats to 0-4 in conference play.
On Saturday, it looked like we might see a repeat of the day before when Tyler Cropley gave Iowa a 2-0 lead with a homer in the second. However, the NU offense came to life in the second as the 'Cats manufactured runs to take the lead. Leo Kaplan scored on an Iowa error to put NU on the board, then Iowa pitcher Ryan Erickson walked home a second run. With the game tied, Joe Hoscheit hit a two-run double to give the ‘Cats their first lead of the game. They scored one more on an RBI groundout by Lind and left the inning ahead, 5-2.
After adding one run in the fourth, Iowa tied the game in the fifth on a two-run bomb to left by B1G HR leader Jake Adams. Pitcher Hank Christie was pulled in favor of Sam Lawrence, who ended up being the day’s star: He pitched five scoreless innings, allowing just two hits along the way. In the bottom of the sixth, back-to-back RBI singles by Kaplan and Ben Dickey gave the ‘Cats a 7-5 lead that Lawrence held onto the rest of the way.
On a Sunday where the weather was nothing other than “a beautiful day for baseball,” Northwestern was hungry to win another weekend series. Once again, Iowa struck first. Adams launched yet another two-run homer in the top of the first, Cropley hit a two-run bomb of his own and Chris Whelan made it 5-0 with an RBI single in the fourth. Pretty quickly, we all declared Saturday and aberration and remembered that, objectively, we just aren’t that good at baseball.
Think again. The rally began in the bottom of the fourth when Kaplan ripped a double down the third base line, plating NU’s first two runs. Dickey kept the line moving with two more RBI on a single, cutting Iowa’s lead to just one.
The fun didn’t end there. On a double play ball by Connor Lind in the fifth, Jack Dunn scored to tie the game at five, driving home the lesson that double play balls always yield great results. Leadoff man Alex Erro delivered the final, crucial RBI on a single to right field in the sixth, making it 6-5. Pitcher Pete Hofman kept the Iowa bats quiet for the end of the game, throwing a scoreless final third for the three-inning save.
Coming off their first two wins in conference play and a rare back-to-back series win, the ‘Cats take on Western Michigan at home on Tuesday and Bradley away on Thursday before a weekend series in Champaign against Illinois.