Northwestern baseball (16-29, 6-18 B1G) may be officially eliminated from postseason contention, but that did not stop them from concluding their Big Ten schedule with a pair of well-played games against last year’s Big Ten champion, Iowa (29-18, 10-9 B1G). Coming off an extra-inning thriller on Friday, the Wildcats split matchups on Saturday and Sunday.
Northwestern clinched the series win over Iowa today with a 4-0 win at Rocky Miller Park. The Wildcats held Iowa to only 4 hits in this rainy battle. For Iowa, the pair of losses come just days after they beat No. 12 Oklahoma State at home. For Northwestern, this is their first Big Ten series win since their Penn State sweep two weeks ago. The series win leaves Northwestern as the winner (loser?) in the battle for the cellar, which is a good thing; Penn State has secured last place in the conference.
Connor Lind’s bat was the story of the day as he got started early on his 3-for-3 game. In the bottom of the first inning, Lind put the first pair of runs on the board with a two-out shot over the head of the right fielder.
After a two-hour rain delay, Northwestern added a cushion to their lead when Connor Lind came to the plate for his second at bat of the day. With runners on first and second, Lind singled to left field to bring home Game 1 savior Jack Dunn.
The ‘Cats struck again in the sixth, attacking with fundamentals as Leo Kaplan brought home Lind with a sacrifice fly ball.
Outside of Jack Lind’s clutch offensive performance, first year Hank Christie was incredible on the bump today. The starting pitcher went seven innings without allowing a single run and dominated the flow of the game. The start demonstrated the considerable impact that Christie could have on this program for the next three years.
Northwestern fell to Iowa in Sunday’s series finale, 10-7, but didn’t go down without a fight. A midgame offensive outburst from the Hawkeyes proved too much for the Wildcats to overcome.
The scoring kicked off in the top of second. Northwestern's sophomore southpaw starter (say that five times fast) Matt Gannon walked Matt Hoeg to lead off the inning, which almost never ends well. Gannon promptly retired the next two batters but after Hoeg stole second, Ben Norman singled him home. Norman went on to score on a throwing error by catcher Jack Claeys to give Iowa a 2-0 lead.
Northwestern answered in the bottom of the third, capitalizing on small ball and Hawkeye mistakes. For the first run, freshman Casey O’Laughlin reached on an error with 1 out, Jack Dunn sac-bunted to put him on second, and Alex Erro doubled to left to plate the unearned run. Iowa was not done making errors: After Clayes walked, he and Erro came around to score on a Willie Bourbon single combined with a throwing error. The ‘Cats took a 3-2 lead and were hungry for a sweep.
Iowa, as it turns out, was not ready to be swept. The Hawkeyes scored 6 unanswered runs over the next 4 innings. The highlights were a Robert Neutron bomb off Tommy Bordignon to lead off the seventh, and a Norman double to plate two later in the inning.
The ‘Cats inched back in the bottom of the seventh. O’Laughlin and Dunn singled to lead off the inning, and Claeys did the same to batters later to score O’Laughlin. In the bottom of the ninth, now trailing 10-4, Northwestern put up a 3-spot on a Claeys dinger, bringing the final score to a respectable 10-7.
The Wildcats have concluded their Big Ten schedule, but will take the field at Rocky Miller Park on Tuesday for a battle with Notre Dame (23-25).