They say all good things must come to an end.
So too must all mediocre things.
On Saturday in New Jersey, Northwestern baseball’s pedestrian 15-39 season (7-17 B1G) came to end, but the Wildcats were able to close out Spencer Allen’s first season as head coach with a win over Rutgers (27-28, 9-15 B1G) in a three-game series over the weekend.
In the first match of the slate on Thursday, Northwestern’s offense scored as many runs against the Scarlet Knights as it did over four games against Cal last weekend. The ‘Cats kicked things off early thanks to a two-run homer in the first from Joe Hoscheit, his eighth long ball of the year. The ‘Cats added another in the fourth when Connor Lind doubled down the left field line, scoring Hoscheit for a 3-0 lead. Rutgers would break the shutout with a one-run single from junior Gaby Rosa in the fifth, but that’s all they would get. Mat Jones connected for a two-run homer of his own in the seventh, giving the ‘Cats a 5-1 lead. In his final collegiate game, Northwestern ace Reed Mason pitched a seven-inning gem, allowing just one run on three hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Freshman Tyler Lass entered with a runner on base in the ninth and kept the Knights off the board for his third save of the season in the 5-1 victory.
There was a little more offense in game two, as both Northwestern’s Joe Schindler and Rutgers’ John O’Reilly were roughed up for six earned runs apiece. Northwestern scored in the top of the first, but Rutgers responded with three in the bottom half for a 3-1 lead. The ‘Cats pushed across an unearned run in the second, but then Rutgers pushed across four more and held a convincing 7-2 lead after six innings.
But that’s where things unraveled for Rutgers. The Wildcats worked the bases loaded against O’Reilly in the seventh, and then the rally started when Hoscheit drew a walk to bring the first run in. From there, Lind, Jack Claeys, Willie Bourbon, Jake Schieber and Jack Dunn would all drive in at least a run, and the ‘Cats exited the inning with a 10-7 lead. Rutgers pulled one back in the eighth on a sacrifice fly, but Northwestern responded in the ninth with an RBI single from Ben Dickey, who eventually came around to score himself. Those runs would prove to be critical, as Rutgers would tack on two more in the bottom of the ninth on a triple and a sac fly, but the Knights couldn’t complete the comeback, falling 12-10. Not many guys had a good pitching performance, but Northwestern’s Josh Davis probably had the best, tossing 1.1 scoreless innings for his second win of the year.
Northwestern’s hitters seemed like they wanted to sweep the series Saturday. But their pitchers didn’t seem to get the memo. The ‘Cats scratched across three runs against starter Kevin Baxter in the first on singles from Lind and Dickey, but Rutgers rebounded with four of their own in the bottom half against Jake Stolley. Unfazed, Northwestern tied the game in the second on a Matt Hopfner single and then took a 6-4 lead when Lind drove in two more. The ‘Cats extended their lead to 7-4 in the fourth, but they wouldn’t cross the plate again. Rutgers scored once in the fourth, and then tied the score in the fifth on a wild pitch and a sac fly off of reliever Dan Kubiuk. Then Rutgers took the lead for good in the eighth when R.J. Devish doubled in two runs and then scored himself. Reed Shuttle slammed the door in the ninth, striking out the side in a 10-7 Rutgers win. Rutgers’ Ryan Fleming was nearly flawless in relief, picking up his fifth win of the season by allowing just one unearned run on two hits in six innings.
It wasn’t a great debut season record-wise for Spencer Allen. The 39 losses accrued this year are the most in a season in Northwestern baseball history, and this series win over Rutgers was just the second all year. The team’s 6.29 ERA was good for last in the Big Ten, and with Mason and Stolley moving on, Northwestern will need to find some answers in the offseason.
But it wasn’t all bad. Matt Hopfner’s .355 average was seventh-best in the league, and he’ll be back to anchor the offense for another year, as will freshman shortstop Jack Dunn. Zach Jones departs with 209 career hits, one of the top-ten totals in program history. It was a tough season, there’s no doubt, but this was just the beginning of the Allen era, which figures to only improve as the program evolves.