Baseball drops two of three to Michigan State

    Coming off a weekend sweep at the hands of their in-state rivals in Illinois, the Northwestern Wildcats (9-24, 3-6 B1G) rallied for an inspring comeback win on Friday night, but couldn't carry the momentum through the weekend, dropping two of to conference rival Michigan State (18-15, 4-5 B1G). 

    Friday's contest looked like it could turn into a a continuation of last Sunday's 17-2 drubbing at Illinois, as Northwestern fell behind early. Winners of four straight heading into the series, MSU plated three runs in the second and two in the sixth.  The Wildcats, whose slumping offense had mustered more than five runs only once in their last seven games, found themselves behind 6-2. But the 'Cats pounced when a Spartan error opened a slim window of opportunity in the eighth. Six singles ensued, as Anthony Freschet, Kyle Ruchim, and Zach Jones combined to drive home five runs and hand Northwestern a 7-6 lead they would not relinquish. 

    On the mound, Brandon Magallones struggled early, but grinded through seven innings to earn his third victory of the season. His two strikeouts put him one shy of Northwestern's all-time career top 10 list. Jake Stolley sidestepped out of trouble in the 8th and 9th to grab his 4th save of the year. 

    The Wildcats refused to relent as they entered Saturday's contest. Ruchim doubled to lead off the game, eventually scoring on a Spartan error, and later singled to spark a five run rally in the the third. Behind 6.2 innings of three run ball from starter Matt Portland, Northwestern entered the ninth up 6-3. Making his first relief appearance of the year after seven starts, Reed Mason worked out of a jam in the 7th and pitched in the scoreless eighth. But the Spartans strung together five hits and a walk in the ninth to tie the game at 6-6 and set up runners in scoring position with one out. An intentional walk loaded the bases, and Mason needed a ground ball to escape. He got one, but the Spartans' Zack McGuire pounded it to the 5-hole between third and short, within reach of Grant Peikert's glove, but too deep for the shortstop to turn two. Michigan State stormed the field to celebrate a walk off victory. 

    MSU celebrated again on Sunday, albeit much earlier in the game, smacking a pair of doubles off of starter Joe Schindler en route to a three-run first inning. Schindler surrendered three more in the fourth and normally robust Stolley fared little better, allowing another trio of Spartans to cross the plate over an inning and two thirds. 

    Zach Jones went 4-4 and Scott Heelan picked up a pair of singles and RBIs, but the Wildcats fell 14-3. The loss marked the third time Northwestern has been outscored by more than ten runs this season. 

    Northwestern will look to get back on track in a more familiar environment Wendsday. They return to Chicago to take on the UIC Flames. 


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