Needing to sweep the Buckeyes (30-26, 10-14) for a chance to qualify for the Big Ten Tournament, Northwestern men's baseball (19-33, 7-16) came up just short, as they won the first two but weren’t able to get it done in the third. Although their season came to a close, there were some bright spots for the ‘Cats. They got dominant pitching performances by junior Brandon Magallones and sophomore Reed Mason, both of whom picked up wins. At the plate, the ‘Cats were led by freshman Matt Hopfner, senior Scott Heelan and sophomore Jack Mitchell, who each had major contributions during the three-game set at Bill Davis Stadium in Ohio.
In the first game of their three game set against the Buckeyes, the ‘Cats defeated Ohio State 6-3 behind a brilliant pitching performance by junior Brandon Magallones Thursday.
Magallones pitched eight innings, allowing just two runs, one earned, on seven hits. It wasn’t all smooth sailing though: He came close to giving up runs in the second, fourth and sixth innings. With his six strikeouts, he now leads the team with 44 on the season.
Matt Hopfner, the freshman left fielder from Edina, Minn., was the most consistent hitter for the ‘Cats all season, and Thursday was no exception. He entered the game batting .330, and improved that with his two for five performance at the plate.
In the top of the sixth, with the ‘Cats holding to a 4-1 lead, Hopfner doubled in two runners, which gave Magallones more than enough breathing room.
Sophomore Jack Mitchell, the light-hitting left fielder, had two RBIs of his own to help out the ‘Cats offense. It was his second multi-RBI game of the season.
In the ninth, with the ‘Cats up 6-1, Magallones was pulled after allowing a lead off double. It would have been his first complete game of the season.
His replacement, senior Jack Quigley, allowed the inherited runner to score and gave up a run of his own, before he too was pulled. Freshman Joe Hoschiet came in for the final out and got the job done.
The ‘Cats kept the winning streak going on Friday, as they defeated the Buckeyes 6-2 behind another brilliant pitching performance, this time by sophomore Reed Mason.
Mason picked his second win of the season and had arguably one of his best pitching performances to date. He tossed seven innings, allowing just two runs on three hits, while striking out seven.
Mason was replaced by freshman Joe Hoscheit, who pitched two brilliant innings in relief. He didn’t allow a runner to reach scoring position.
Hoscheit also had a nice game at the plate as well: He went three for four, proving that college pitchers can still be formidable with their bats. While Hoscheit did it all for the ‘Cats, he failed to drive anyone in.
No worries, though, because redshirt junior second basemen Scott Heelan had a monster night. He drove in four runs on three hits.
His most important base knock came in the seventh inning, with the ‘Cats down 2-1. With the bases loaded and two outs, Heelan doubled down the left field line, which cleared the bases and gave the ‘Cats a 4-2 lead, which they wouldn’t relinquish. The other big offensive contributor for the ‘Cats was sophomore Jack Mitchell, who had two RBIs on the afternoon, which gives him two consecutive multi-RBI games.
With only one win between them and the Big Ten Tournament, the ‘Cats came up short as their offense was held in check by senior Greg Greve, who pitched eight masterful innings, to lead Ohio State to a 5-2 victory over Northwestern Saturday.
The opportunities were there: Northwestern just failed to capitalize on them. They left seven men on base during the afternoon, which just didn't get the job done.
The lone bright spot for the offense was first baseman Matt Hopfner, who went three for four at the plate, bringing his average up to .326, which leads the team and is 12th in the conference.
Senior Nick Friar, who was on the hill for the ‘Cats, just didn’t have it on Saturday, and picked up his first loss of the season, in what will be his final performance in a ‘Cats uniform. He allowed 11 hits, five runs, three earned, in six and two-thirds innings. In fact, he only had one inning where he retired the side in order.
The bullpen has to be given credit for not letting it get too out of hand. The three pitchers who replaced Friar combined for one and one-third hitless innings.
While the season didn’t turn out the way the ‘Cats had hoped, they gave it one hell of an effort at the end. That effort says a lot more about this team than its final record, 19-33 (7-16).