Stephen Hrustich smiles as he walks up to the plate. Very few smiles were had in Ruston, La. last weekend, as the Wildcats lost all three of their games. Photo by Brandi Simpson / North By Northwestern

Northwestern baseball (0-10, 0-0 B1G) was swept last weekend by Louisiana Tech (8-4, 0-0 C-USA). While Northwestern came into the series winless and recently missing two assistant coaches and a director of baseball operations, the Bulldogs were fresh off of a controversial series split with #4 Ole Miss (10-2, 0-0 SEC) (and former Wildcat Anthony Calarco). The Wildcats weren’t expected to win this series, but there just may be a glimmer of hope within the losses.

Game One – Louisiana Tech 14, Northwestern 5

Blame it on the long ball.

Louisiana Tech hit four home runs on its way to a 14-run output. Graduate pitcher Michael Farinelli allowed six earned runs in 2.1 innings. Graduate pitcher Ryan Keenan allowed four earned runs in 1.1 innings. The Bulldogs only struck out six times as a team while grabbing 14 hits.

Northwestern had eight hits, with three coming from first-year center fielder Owen McElfatrick: he notched two doubles, a home run and two RBIs. Second-year catcher Alex Calarco joined McElfatrick as the only Wildcats with multiple hits on the day, getting his first two of the 2023 campaign.

Game Two – Louisiana Tech 5, Northwestern 4

So, so close.

Third-year pitcher Matt McClure pitched 5.1 innings (the first four completely scoreless), allowing three earned runs on three hits while striking out three.

Third-year lefty Nolan Morr pitched 3.1 innings in relief, striking out four while allowing just two hits.

The ’Cats jumped out to a 4-0 lead by the fifth inning thanks in large part to Calarco. The Wilmette native hit a sacrifice fly in the first and a single in the third to collect three RBIs. The Bulldogs battled back until third-year first baseman Dalton Davis hit a solo homer to tie the game in the eighth…

Then struck again with a walk-off RBI single in the 11th inning.

This game was the closest Northwestern has come to getting a win this season, but the team came up just short in heartbreaking fashion.

Game Three – Louisiana Tech 16, Northwestern 9

Just the way the old saying goes: Slow and steady wins the… college baseball game.

Northwestern’s offense exploded in the first, scoring six runs. Fourth-year right fielder Stephen Hrustich struck first with an RBI single. He added another RBI in the second, as NU led 9-3 going into the bottom of the second frame.

From there, Louisiana Tech slowly but surely got back into the game. The Wildcats wouldn’t score again after the second inning. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs:

  • scored three in the first,
  • two in the second,
  • tied the game with four runs in the third,
  • took the lead with a two-run fourth inning,
  • scored three in the fifth,
  • one in the sixth,
  • and added another run in the eighth for good measure.

Third-year pitcher Luke Benneche started the game, but pitched just two innings before he was pulled for first-year Sam Garewal, who pitched one inning and allowed five earned runs. The loss made for another promising start for the Wildcats spoiled over the course of the game, and solidified the weekend sweep.

On the positive side, in two out of three games, Northwestern’s offense went toe-to-toe with one of the better teams in the country. Calarco had an excellent weekend, going 6-for-14 with five RBI. McElfatrick had two games with multiple hits, and the team as a whole flourished offensively, rebounding from a rough weekend in the Carolinas.

Pitching wasn’t quite as stellar, but Saturday's extra-innings thriller could be a sign of more to come. McClure has looked better in each appearance than the last, and Morr shined in his best relief performance of the season.

The Wildcats returned to Illinois for a quick pit stop game, as Northwestern played UIC (5-6, 0-0 VALLEY) on Tuesday.