Big Ten woes continued for Northwestern baseball (9-24, 1-14 Big Ten) this weekend as they got swept by Michigan State, making the 'Cats tied for last place in the Big 10. The three games were close, but the Wildcats displayed the same shortcomings that have been plaguing them all season.
This matchup started with a bang and ended with a whimper. Michigan State jumped ahead with 5 runs in the top of the first before starter Quinn Lavelle and Northwestern’s bullpen shut down the Spartans for the remainder of the game; however, the Wildcats could not muster the necessary offense in a 5-3 loss.
Whatever Lavelle ate for breakfast Friday morning should be permanently banned from his gameday diet. The Spartans quickly got runners on second and third for redshirt senior catcher Chad Roskelly, who roped a single to put the Spartans up 2-0. A couple batters later, senior Zach McGuire took the freshman deep down the left-field line to gain a 4-0 advantage.
However, coach Spencer Allen stuck with Lavelle, and it paid off. The southpaw settled down to throw 4 scoreless innings with 3 strikeouts as the Northwestern bats heated up.
The scoring for Northwestern commenced in the bottom of the 2nd. Charlie Maxwell, Connor Lind (3-4, 2 runs), and Ben Dickey notched back-to-back-to-back singles to put them on the board against Michigan State’s Ethan Landon. A few batters later, Lind capitalized on a Landon passed ball to plate the Wildcats’ second run.
The Wildcats were back at it in the fourth as a Jack Dunn bloop infield single brought home Dickey. However, Dickey was feeling overconfident and was easily thrown out at home to end the inning.
The rest of the game was quiet as the pitchers took control. In the bottom of the 9th, Northwestern failed to muster any offense against Spartan closer Mitchell Tyransaki, who struck out Casey O’Laughlin to end the game.
Northwestern struck first, but could not hold on for the win in Saturday’s pitching duel against Michigan State. The game marked the Wildcats fifth straight loss and moved the team to 1-13 in the Big Ten.
The first run of the game came in the bottom of the second from center fielder Ben Dickey who ripped a single to right to bring home first baseman Willie Bourbon. Dickey had a great game at the plate going 2 for 3 with a single, double and walk.
The Wildcats lead didn’t last long, as Michigan State responded with an immediate answer. Third baseman Marty Bechina led off in the top of the third with a walk before Northwestern starting pitcher Hank Christie forced two consecutive outs. However, a past ball and a walk with two outs allowed Michigan State to set up a scoring opportunity for two-spot Justin Antoncic who tied the game with a single to right. Designated hitter Chad Roskelly kept the two-out rally going with a bases clearing double to put the Spartans up 3-1.
While the ‘Cats tried to respond in the bottom of the third, they ultimately failed to capitalize and left the tying two runs on base. Michigan State tacked on another run in the sixth to increase their lead to 4-1.
The Cats went hitless for the next four innings until the eighth when Willie Bourbon added an RBI to his 2 for 3, 1 run game to make the score 4-2. The Cats were able to get a runner to second base with one out – putting the tying run at bat in the bottom of the ninth – but were unable to capitalize, leaving the final score at 4-2.
Sunday’s matchup resembled Friday’s as Northwestern fell early and failed to climb back. This time the Spartans only scored 4 runs in the first inning, capitalizing on a rocky start from another southpaw freshman, Jack Pagliarini. The damage came via RBI singles from McGuire and Zach Iverson as well as a successful suicide squeeze from junior Marty Bechina. Like Lavelle, Pagliarini battled on to throw 4⅓ scoreless innings, garnering 8 strikeouts in the process.
Northwestern got on the board in the third with a single from Jack Claeys that brought home Alex Erro. They then cut into the lead further in the sixth when Willie Bourbon tied Claeys for the team lead with his fifth home run, followed two batters later with Charlie Maxwell’s first career homer. The Spartans led 4-3 going into the seventh.
Bourbon did his best to will Northwestern to victory. The junior, and brother of freshman pitcher Charlie Bourbon, knocked in Dunn and Leo Kaplan to the the Wildcats their first lead of the game.
Alas, it was not meant to be. Before the Wildcats could get to their closer, McGuire outshined Bourbon with his second home run of the series to put the Spartans up for good and cruise to a 5-4 win.
The Wildcats now sit tied for last at 1-14 in the Big Ten. They have a midweek game at UIC before beginning their battle for the cellar this weekend against Penn State (8-25, 1-14 Big Ten).