Starting pitchers Brandon Magallones of Northwestern and Wyatt Strahan of USC each dominated from the outset, and the Trojans held a slim 1-0 lead through the first five innings.
But Strahan’s control problems eventually caught up to him as he walked the bases loaded in the top of the sixth. The Wildcats then capitalized with an RBI single by sophomore right fielder Jake Schieber, followed by a go-ahead sacrifice fly from senior third baseman Nick Linne.
Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, Magallones was unable to hold the lead in the bottom half of the inning, allowing a game-tying single at the hands of USC second baseman Dante Flores. Then, in the bottom of the eighth, Northwestern freshman pitcher Joe Schindler allowed a go-ahead single to USC third baseman and cleanup hitter Kevin Swick, giving the Trojans a 3-2 lead heading into the ninth inning.
Sophomore reliever Brent Wheatley came in to try to shut the door for USC, but Northwestern didn’t go down without a fight. Down to their final out with nobody on, the ‘Cats mustered up a rally, sparked by senior shortstop Kyle Ruchim’s double followed by a game-tying single by catcher Scott Heelan.
The Trojans didn’t score in the bottom half of the ninth, but they sure came close. Senior Jack Quigley came in to pitch for Northwestern with a runner on third and two outs, and made a dramatic, game-saving diving tag at home plate to nab would-be scorer AJ Ramirez.
It was only fitting that the back and forth game would go to extra innings, but it wasn’t meant to be for the Wildcats. In the bottom of the 11th inning, Quigley loaded the bases with nobody out, and freshman shortstop Frankie Rios scored the winning run for the Trojans on an error by Schieber.
The loss is particularly stinging for the ‘Cats because of the various opportunities on which they failed to capitalize throughout the game. They threatened with runners on first and second, both via walks, with only one out in the third inning, but failed to cash in. Then, in the fourth, Northwestern had runners on second and third with nobody out, but first baseman Zach Jones was thrown out at the plate by USC’s Swick while trying to score.
The ‘Cats will have to recover quickly, as they face the Trojans again tomorrow at 4 p.m. in the second contest of the three-game set.