Baseball: Jokisch’s gem guides Wildcats over Spartans

Jimmy Carlton

Eric Jokisch claimed after Thursday’s game that his command against Michigan State wasn’t his best. But even on an off day, the junior starter was sterling, keeping the Spartans at bay to help Northwestern win, 2-1, at Rocky Miller Park despite a rare quiet day from the offense.

Jokisch nearly pitched a complete game, recording all but the last out and striking out three. He gave up just one run, a fourth-inning mistake that Spartans designated hitter Chris Roberts smashed over the right field wall. Jokisch allowed 11 base runners-three on walks-but escaped trouble throughout the game by inducing Michigan State batters to hit into five double plays. The two-for-ones allowed Jokisch to keep his pitch count down and work productively into the ninth inning.

“Any time you can throw one pitch and get two outs, that’s pretty productive,” coach Paul Stevens said. “It allows your pitcher to hang around for a long time.”

Early in the game, the pitcher got out of trouble twice on double plays with runners in scoring position. In both the first inning, when Michigan State (33-18, 10-12 Big Ten) had runners at first and third, and the second, when the Spartans loaded the bases, Jokisch dodged danger and walked back to the dugout unscathed.

“The defense did a great job,” Jokisch said. “Especially early on, those were huge turns. I really didn’t have anywhere close to my best stuff, but I got some ground balls and we turned the double plays we needed.”

Jokisch’s counterpart in the pitchers’ duel, Michigan State’s AJ Achter, limited the Cats to just two runs in eight innings. NU (23-29, 12-10), which had relied on the long ball recently to score runs, was able to get to Achter by playing small ball. With one out in the third inning, sophomore Geoff Rowan and freshman Arby Fields hit back-to-back singles to put runners at the corners. The Cats then scored the first run of the game when senior Chad Noble smacked another single to right field that scored Rowan.

“We try to get somebody on, get him over and someone’s going to get that big hit and knock him in,” Rowan said. “We have a trust in everyone, top to bottom. Whoever comes up to the plate, we’re confident in them to get that out.”

After Roberts’ home run tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the fourth, NU tacked on the go-ahead score in the bottom half of the frame, again the product of manufactured offense. Junior Chris Lashmet, who reached first after being hit by a pitch, advanced to second on sophomore Zach Morton’s single and to third on sophomore shortstop Trevor Stevens’ perfectly executed sacrifice bunt along the third base line. Freshman Colby Everett drove in Lashmet with a sacrifice fly to deep left to put the Cats up for good, 2-1.

“People can’t expect us to roll off 15 hits every game, that’s just not going to happen,” Paul Stevens said. “Thank goodness we have the long ball, but I love small ball and if you can play small ball you can manufacture runs and win games.”

NU withstood a late scare from Michigan State when Jokisch allowed runners to reach first and third with two outs. Stevens brought in sophomore closer Paul Snieder, who promptly got the final Spartan to fly out to Rowan in left field.

“When the ball was in the air, I was like, ‘This game’s in the bag,'” Rowan said.

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