Baseball: Hawkeyes rattle Cats in Saturday blowout

Cameron Zick

Northwestern might have found its cure for its late-inning collapses.

One game after shutting out Notre Dame for one and one third innings at U.S. Cellular Field for a 5-1 win, sophomore relief pitcher Cole Livermore came on again to preserve a 4-3 NU (10-24, 2-8 Big Ten) win on Friday against Iowa (12-22, 3-8). Livermore again retired four batters in relief and helped the Cats take one out of two from the Hawkeyes. Sunday’s rubber match was canceled due to the rain.

Just as NU has bounced back with three wins in its last four games, so has Livermore, who is coming off a shoulder injury that sidelined him for all of last season.

“It’s great to see Cole out there throwing the ball well again,” senior shortstop Tommy Finn said. “He’s worked his way back into the rotation. He has a pitch count now that he’s recovering from an arm injury, but he’s pitching great late in games.”

Livermore wasn’t the only NU pitcher to make an impression in Friday’s win. Junior starter Joe Muraski threw seven innings, allowing only two earned runs and striking out five batters. After allowing his only two runs in the fourth, giving Iowa a 2-1 lead, NU responded right back with two runs of its own with RBI doubles by freshman outfielders Quentin Williams and Hamilton Wise.

A seventh inning home run by Iowa tied the game and put NU on its heels late once again. However, with the help of a confident bullpen, the Cats plated the winning run in the seventh on a RBI groundout by senior Tony Vercelli.

“It was great to see Hamilton pick the team up with a double and have Tony come through,” sophomore third baseman Chris Lashmet said. “It could have easily been a double play, but he hustled down the line. The bottom part of our lineup has been struggling in the last couple games, so it’s great to see them start hitting balls hard and picking us up.”

The win marks only the third time this season NU has held on for a one-run victory.

“Obviously, we have lost a lot of games in the seventh, eighth, and ninth inning,” Finn said. “Whether we were blown out or we let one or two slip away, we never managed to get back in the game after a blown lead. It was huge to take lead and hold on to it.”

The momentum garnered from a three-game winning streak did not carry over into the second game of the series, as NU fell, 10-1, Saturday. The Hawkeyes pounced on the Cats pitching staff with 17 hits, while the Hawkeyes held the Cats to only five. Two runs in the first inning and a six-run fourth were too much for NU to handle.

“We really couldn’t hit,” Lashmet said. “But I didn’t think their pitcher was all that great. It’s tough to get down early, our team loses energy.”

With a rained out game on Sunday, tenth-place NU settled for a split against the ninth-place Hawkeyes. After two more weekday games against non-conference foes, NU will get a chance to capture its first Big Ten series win over Ohio State this upcoming weekend.

“We were looking for a little more this weekend after coming off big wins,” Finn said. “We have to put it behind us, but at least we got another win in the Big Ten. Hopefully we’ll get another two wins this week and take that momentum into Ohio State.”

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