Cats stay atop Big Ten; Siberio earns two saves, win in Iowa road series (Baseball)

David Morrison

Big Ten-leading Northwestern has made a habit out of coming from behind in the conference season.

The Wildcats trailed Illinois 10-1 on Apr. 14 before storming back to take the game 19-18.

They followed this performance up the next weekend by erasing a 4-1, last-inning deficit in beating Penn State 5-4.

“It gives us the knowledge that no matter what point of the game it is, no matter what the score is, we can win the game,” sophomore outfielder Max Mann said. “At any point, our offense can explode.”

NU (17-24, 14-6 Big Ten) pulled off three more come-from-behind victories in taking three out of four games from Iowa (18-25, 7-13) last weekend.

“These guy have swung the bats pretty well when they’ve had to all Big Ten season,” NU coach Paul Stevens said. “We’ve come up with some timely hitting all year.”

Mann hit the game-winning home run in the top of the seventh inning Saturday.

The Cats trailed 8-4 heading into their last at-bat. With runners on second and third and the Hawkeyes one out from victory, third baseman Caleb Fields reached on a throwing error, which scored Aaron Newman.

Senior Anthony Wycklendt followed Fields with a three-run home run to tie the game.

This set the stage for Mann.

“(Stevens) was telling me to sit back and wait for the changeup because the pitcher was throwing a majority of them,” Mann said. “I went into the at-bat looking for something to drive.”

Mann went 6-for-12 in the series, with three RBIs. He was hitting .153 with three RBIs before the trip to Iowa.

Senior Julio Siberio pitched a perfect inning to seal the game for the Cats.

Siberio, who had also earned the save in Friday’s win, picked up the win in the last game of the series. He gave up two runs in 5.1 innings of relief.

For the series, Siberio allowed three runs and struck out five in nine innings of work.

“He was ungodly all weekend,” Stevens said. “I can’t even tell you how phenomenal he was. If he’s not (Big Ten) Pitcher of the Week, there’s something wrong. He carried us on the mound all weekend.”

Junior pitcher George Kontos, who gave up seven runs in one inning in NU’s 16-2 loss in the first game Sunday, also started the second game.

He pitched three scoreless innings before giving up four runs in the fourth and yielding the mound to Siberio.

“We need him throwing the ball well,” Siberio said. “It was good for his confidence for him to be able to come back out and shut people down.”

The Cats’ bullpen got a lot of work. Besides Kontos’ one-inning outing, junior Dan Brauer lasted only 3.2 innings and gave up eight runs Saturday. It was the first time in the conference season he had failed to throw a complete game.

NU starters averaged less than four innings against the Hawkeyes.

“It’s important we get all our pitchers going,” Siberio said. “When we’re playing four games per weekend and a midweek game, we need arms flourishing.”

Reach David Morrison at [email protected]