Baseball: Milwaukee’s best tops NU

Matt Forman

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“Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don’t.”

That was freshman third baseman Chris Lashmet’s reaction to a game-altering call after Northwestern lost 6-5 to Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Wednesday.

Trailing by one run in the bottom of the eighth inning, Lashmet stepped to the plate looking to tie or take the lead for the Wildcats, who had trailed by five runs three innings earlier.

With men on second and third and two outs, Lashmet grounded sharply to UW-Milwaukee shortstop Wes Munson, who quickly threw to first. The throw was clean, but mishandled by Panthers first baseman Shawn Wozniak.

As quickly as it appeared that NU had tied the game, first base umpire Jeff Collis ruled Lashmet out at first, halting the rally.

And as quickly as coach Paul Stevens can say “Wildcats,” he rushed from his normal home in the third-base coaches box to where Collis was standing on the other side of the diamond to argue the call.

“There’s not a whole lot I could do,” Stevens said. “I said what I had to say (to the umpire), but after that it may get a little too personal, and I may have a quick exit.”

After failing to push across a run in the eighth, NU went down in order in the final frame. Freshman outfielder Nate Roberts pinch-hit for Jim Grieco in the ninth, sending a high fly ball that died at the warning track in center field.

Two of the Cats’ top starters built an early deficit that proved too much to come back from. Starting pitcher Bo Schultz allowed three runs in three innings. Stevens inserted sophomore Joe Muraski, who allowed two more runs to UW-Milwaukee (15-27) in one inning of work. The Panthers added one run in the fifth off Brian Morgan, extending their lead to 6-1.

“I think it’s disheartening because I was expecting a little more from Bo and Joe,” Stevens said. “But besides that, I wasn’t too upset about how we approached things.”

While the Cats trailed by five runs early on, they fought back, scoring in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.

Tony Vercelli started the late game rally for NU (16-20) in the sixth. After fouling off several pitches, the junior catcher smacked a solo home run to left center, moving NU within four.

“I was just trying to make contact,” he said. “I got under it a little bit, but it went out.”

Vercelli also contributed to NU’s first run, hitting an RBI groundout to third that scored senior Mike Kalina. The junior catcher went 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs, highlighting NU’s offensive production.

In the seventh, Lashmet singled to left field, scoring outfielder Aaron Newman from third base. NU loaded the bases after junior shortstop Tommy Finn reached on an error and Grieco walked. Six-hole hitter Max Mann struck out, stranding all three Cats’ baserunners. That trend haunted the team all day, as NU left 11 runners on base.

Compounding the troubles pushing runs across the plate was the team’s play in the field. After committing 10 errors this past weekend against Ohio State, the Cats had two more Wednesday. Both of those errors were by Lashmet.

“We need to clean it up a little, and start concentrating more in the field,” Lashmet said.

Stevens was impressed with the way his team battled from the five-run deficit. But throughout the season, the Cats have found themselves on the wrong side of one-run games in non-league contests, losing four of five.

“One-run games…” Vercelli said. “You feel like you should win all of them.”