Davis (3-1, 3.24 ERA) faced 17 batters but only allowed two hits over five scoreless innings on the mound. He had a career-high six strikeouts. Going into the game, Davis said he specifically wanted to avoid allowing free bases and walks.
“It was basically just pound the zone, make them earn it,” he said. “I got bailed out by [outfielder Matt Hopfner] a few times – first and second innings he made a couple great plays. When you have a great defense playing behind you, all you’ve gotta do is pound the zone and let those guys work.”
The ‘Cats established a 6-0 lead through the first seven innings, scoring once in the first, again in the second, three times in the fourth and once in the fifth. Head coach Spencer Allen said that Davis’ solid performance on the mound contributed to Northwestern’s offensive success.
“He takes these games very seriously and went out and set the tone,” Allen said. “He’s got good sync in his fastball when he’s in the zone. His slider was good today. It’s just easier to play this game when you have a little bit of a lead, and getting those early runs helped.”
Going into the sixth inning, Allen pulled Davis out and replaced him with junior JR Reimer. Reimer only pitched for one inning, and Northwestern used five different pitchers over the final four innings.
On the offensive front, Northwestern was led by freshman outfielder Leo Kaplan, who went 2-4 with a run in the second inning followed by a homer in the fourth.
“As a team, we were just looking for pitches early that we could drive,” Kaplan said. “This team was throwing a lot of strikes early in counts, and we knew that. We were just going out there and trying to put good swings on the ball.”
After being named Big Ten Player of the Week, senior Joe Hoscheit stayed hot: He was 2-3 with an RBI and a walk. Sophomore Jack Dunn scored off Hoscheit’s RBI and also had an RBI for NU.
In the fourth inning, sophomore Ben Dickey and freshman Charlie Maxwell found their way to home plate, putting Northwestern up 5-0, and Maxwell scored again in the fifth off an error from the catcher. The sixth and seventh innings were completely scoreless, but a run by the Panthers in the eighth was followed up by three more in the ninth to narrow Northwestern’s lead to only two runs. But the 'Cats held on for the win.
The Wildcats travel to Penn State this weekend for an important Big Ten weekend series. Allen said he’s trying to take the season game-by-game but is aware that NU’s place in conference standings will be significantly impacted by the relatively few Big Ten games they have left.
“We’re going to have to battle, scratch and claw,” Allen said of the Penn State series. “It’s a big series, and I don’t think I’m going to have to say anything, I don’t think any of the coaches are going to have to say anything. These guys understand that with five series left, we have to make some hay and we have to do it soon.”