IOWA CITY, Iowa — After a miserable doubleheader on Saturday, members of the Northwestern baseball team realized they had just become the cellar-dwellers of the Big Ten conference.
“We’re not pitching well and we’re not hitting well,” senior Jason Krynski said. “It’s frustrating. We can’t figure anything out. Nothing is working.”
But clutch hitting and better defense prevailed for the Wildcats (19-21-1, 8-12 Big Ten) on Sunday, as NU beat up on Iowa (14-28, 7-13) in the final two contests of a two-game series. The weekend split left the Cats in seventh place in their conference.
In 3-0 and 10-4 defeats on Saturday, NU couldn’t produce at the plate when it mattered most. The Cats came up with 17 hits on the day but left 18 runners on base and grounded into three double plays.
Defensively, NU allowed the Hawkeyes to score seven of their 13 runs in two-out situations.
The Cats hit rock-bottom as Iowa picked up their first back-to-back wins of the season.
“We’re frustrated, but the only way to go from here is up,” sophomore Mark Ori said after the games.
In dominating 8-2 and 3-0 victories on Sunday, the Cats looked like a different squad. They didn’t ground into any double plays and allowed just two Hawkeye runs in two-out situations.
“We knew we had our backs against the wall,” junior Jon Mikrut said. “We had to win, and we knew that we had nothing to lose.”
Much of Sunday’s success came from NU players who typically don’t see time in Big Ten contests.
Junior Chris Hayes started both games of Sunday’s doubleheader at second base, where freshman Caleb Fields usually starts. Hayes finished the day batting 3 for 6.
“Sometimes people wind up hitting walls and they have to sit down,” NU coach Paul Stevens said. “That’s where I think Caleb Fields is right now. But Chris Hayes did a great job out there.”
Freshman Geoff Dietz started the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader at catcher, sending the regular starting catcher, Dan Pohlman, to the designated hitter position. Dietz went 3 for 4 with one RBI in the shutout.
Freshman Mike Phelps batted 2 for 2 with two RBIs in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader, including the only triple of the weekend for either team.
“We were hitting well at the bottom of the order, and the guys at the top of the order were bringing people in,” Hayes said.
Mark Ori continued his hot streak, going 7 for 14 with one RBI. The Cats experienced a scare in the final game of the series, when Iowa’s Jesse Brownell collided with Ori while running to first base in the bottom of the fourth.
Ori immediately fell to the ground, bleeding from his nose. His nose was broken and didn’t stop bleeding for the remainder of the game, Stevens said.
“In was an accident and an honest mistake,” Stevens said. “Unfortunately it happened to our best hitter.”
Although NU recovered on Sunday, Ori’s injury and a seventh-place standing left the Cats with much to worry about.
“I’ll be honest,” Stevens said. “We’re pretty dinged up right now.”