The Wildcats followed up their surprising series win against Iowa last weekend with a impressive 11-4 win against Western Michigan (13-15, 3-6 MAC) to extend their winning streak to three games.
Behind the power of three home runs and a strong pitching performance, Northwestern (11-20, 2-4 B1G) took the lead in the first inning on an RBI single from John Claeys and never relinquished it. Starting pitcher Josh Davis set the tone with four scoreless innings to start the game, enabling Northwestern to jump out to a 4-0 lead after capitalizing on sloppy play in the field from the Broncos.
“My command was pretty good today,” said Davis of his performance. “The key was getting ahead of guys and keeping the slider down in the zone.”
Western Michigan refused to give in. A fifth inning RBI groundout and a sixth inning two-run home run from outfielder Tanner Allison cut the Wildcats’ lead to 4-3. However, the ‘Cats took advantage of the Broncos’ mistakes again when, in the bottom of the inning, freshman Leo Kaplan scored on a wild pitch. In the top of the 7th, Western Michigan loaded the bases with one out, but pitcher JR Reimer got two big strikeouts and allowed just one run before he was taken out of the game in favor of southpaw Richard Fordon, who got Allison to fly out to end the threat.
“JR did a great job. He got a little fired up in that situation,” coach Spencer Allen said of the jam. “Fordon getting us out of there was huge – that’s the game right there.”
Indeed it was. Northwestern pulled away with back-to-back home runs from Claeys and Connor Lind in the bottom of the 7th before Kaplan’s 3-run bomb in the 8th turned the game into an 11-4 blowout.
“I fell down 0-2 ... he gave me a fastball on the inner half and I was just trying to find some barrel on it; thankfully the wind helped me out a bit and pushed it over,” Claeys said of his second homer.
Looking ahead, Northwestern will look to continue scoring early and often as they play another non-conference game against Bradley tomorrow before a three-game series against Illinois (11-18, 1-5 B1G) this weekend in Champaign.