Northwestern (8-24, 2-7 B1G) traveled to Lincoln this weekend, looking to halt a four-game losing streak against conference rival Nebraska (22-10, 7-2 B1G).
The three-game series with the Cornhuskers began Friday evening and the premier pitching matchup between NU junior southpaw Reed Mason and Nebraska sophomore Garrett King did not disappoint.
After jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first on RBI’s from Matt Hopfner and Joe Hoscheit, the Cornhuskers responded with three unanswered runs, going on to take the opener 3-2.
King settled down after a rocky first, finishing his day with six quality innings of work, seven punch-outs and his fourth victory of the season.
Mason, who got the loss after tossing a solid six innings with six strikeouts and only two earned runs, was simply out-dueled, tallying his third loss of the year.
On Saturday afternoon, the Wildcats came up just short once again, falling to Nebraska 8-7.
Northwestern starting pitcher Dan Kubiuk, along with relievers Joe Schindler and Tyler Lass, surrendered all eight of Nebraska’s runs within the first six innings, a deficit too sizable for the ‘Cats to overcome.
The ‘Cats, however, didn’t go down without a fight. Joe Hoscheit singlehandedly brought NU back within striking distance, hitting home runs in both the seventh and eighth innings, driving in a total of five runs.
Nonetheless, the Wildcat rally proved to be too little, too late as Nebraska’s freshman closer Chad Luensmann shut the door in the ninth, capturing his seventh save of the season and securing the one-run Nebraska victory.
After two straight losses to open the series, the Northwestern bats woke up in a big way Sunday, tallying 11 runs on 14 hits in an 11-3 blowout victory in the series finale.
Jake Stolley, who started for the ‘Cats and tossed three scoreless innings, combined with four other Wildcat relievers to hold the Huskers offense to three runs on 11 scattered hits.
The highlight of the day, however, was NU’s offensive outburst. Catcher Mat Jones led the charge, going three-for-five, blasting his first home run of the season and knocking in four runs.
With the win, Northwestern finally put an end to its six-game losing streak and finished a three-game series with Nebraska, a perennial Big Ten title contender, with a plus-six run differential – a hint of optimism for the struggling Wildcats.
Up next for the ‘Cats? NU returns home this Wednesday to face Bradley University and will square up against their feline foes, the Penn State Nittany Lions, in a weekend series at Rocky and Berenice Miller Park.