Bats come alive in 5-inning win

James Graham

It was a cold, wet day at Rocky Miller Park for Northwestern’s game against Chicago State (3-26).

But despite the chilly weather, the Wildcats made sure they kept the stadium warm with their red-hot hitting.

The Cats unleashed 17 hits in just five innings in a rain-shortened 13-0 victory. The triumph pushed NU’s winning streak to three games and overall record to 7-14.

After a tense series against Michigan State over the weekend, this game gave the Cats a chance to really let loose and play.

“It makes the game fun,” sophomore first baseman Jake Goebbert said. “It’s why we play the game to go up and feel like you can’t get out.”

Despite the lopsided final score, the game was close in the early innings.

CSU came out strong in the top of the first against sophomore starter Joe Muraski, putting men on first and third before Muraski whiffed Cougar shortstop Jordan Hass to end the threat.

But NU’s offense struggled to bring men home. In the first two innings, the Cats stranded three men on base including two runners in scoring position with only one out.

“I think we were a little anxious early,” second baseman Jake Owens said. “But after the second, I think guys really settled down and started seeing the ball.”

NU’s bats came alive during the third inning. Sophomore shortstop Kenneth Avila led off the third inning with a bloop single to center field. Owens plated Avila with a towering triple to right field to open the scoring before coming home on a sacrifice ground out by senior outfielder Aaron Newman.

Then Goebbert came to the plate. The sophomore struggled in the Michigan State series, going 2-for-13. But in just one swing, he matched his weekend production with a towering solo home run, his fifth of the year, off the left field scoreboard.

“The pitcher had been throwing strikes early in the count and I was looking fastball,” Goebbert said. “Everyone else (on the team) had been squaring the ball up good and I just wanted my shot.”

Goebbert’s homer set off a barrage of hits. The Cats put up 14 hits in three innings against Chicago State starter Josh Appelbaum, including home runs from right fielder Nate Roberts, Owens, and another from Goebbert, before the game was called due to lightning.

The Cats also saw a huge hitting performance from Owens, who went 3-for-4 and was a double away from hitting for the cycle. But the second baseman shrugged it off as just part of a prolific day.

“Those things are just chance,” Owens said. “It’s just about putting the bat on the ball and hoping it goes where you want.”

In addition to the huge day at the plate, NU also got a spark from the return of oft-injured senior outfielder Mike Kalina, who hasn’t played since March 23 due to an undisclosed injury. Kalina put in a solid game, going 2-for-4 from the plate to push his batting average to a staggering .474.

“More than the runs and the hits I was just ecstatic to see Michael back in the lineup,” coach Paul Stevens said. “First and foremost, that was my biggest excitement of the day.”

After a rough outing last Friday, Muraski came back with a solid performance. The team’s ace gave up five hits and struck out four in an abbreviated complete game shutout.

“We got Joe some work today, which he desperately needed,” Stevens said.

The Cats will hope to ride their growing momentum into this weekend’s four-game home series against conference rival Minnesota.

“It’s games like this where you come out and get things done that are big,” Owens said. “Everyone’s getting good swings and it’ll really build confidence going into the weekend.”

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