Baseball: Starters take the mound, lead the way for NU

Jonah L. Rosenblum

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Dan Tyson, Michael Jahns and Luke Farrell took the hill for the Wildcats one weekend ago, and not one of the three starters made it past the fourth inning.

This weekend, the same three hurlers took the mound with far more success, helping Northwestern (11-21, 4-5 Big Ten) take two of three from Minnesota (11-15, 3-6) for its first Big Ten series win.

“It was definitely a big weekend for our rotation,” Farrell said. “We needed to go out and prove to ourselves and our team that we can give our team a chance to win every day.”

Jahns was the first to prove his worth. After lasting just three innings against Penn State, Jahns struck out six Minnesota batters in his first three frames Friday.

“He pounded the zone with his fastball,” Farrell said. “Then, he got a lot of swing-and-misses with his curveball.”

Jahns was dominant early, taking a 3-1 lead into the sixth inning, but the Golden Gophers led the inning off with a single and a walk, ending Jahns’ day.

His replacement, freshman reliever Jack Quigley, struggled, allowing both inherited runners to score along with one of his own. Minnesota didn’t stop there, tagging Quigley for three more runs in the seventh as the Golden Gophers took the opener 7-4.

After Minnesota rode the late innings to victory Friday, NU pulled the same trick Saturday.

Minnesota jumped out to an early lead in the bottom of the first, scoring a run on three consecutive hits, but Farrell was able to escape the frame without further damage, and the game quickly turned into a pitcher’s duel between Farrell and Minnesota’s Phil Isaksson.

“Pitching in games like that is a lot of fun,” Farrell said. “At that point, you’re almost competing against the pitcher you’re facing while also competing against the hitter at the same time.”

After scoring just one run in its previous ten innings, NU broke through against Isaksson in the fifth, as an RBI single by Nick Linne tied the contest.

The game remained tied at one when Farrell departed after seven sterling innings.

“He just attacks hitters,” coach Paul Stevens said. “That was the key to Luke. He kept his defense in the game by not going deep in the count and made them do their job while he was doing his.”

After Farrell left, Linne led off the eighth inning with a single. Junior shortstop Trevor Stevens followed with a sacrifice bunt, advancing Linne to second.

That ended Isaksson’s day, as Minnesota put in one of the game’s best relievers, Scott Matyas, who entered with a .053 batting average against with runners on.

Those stats failed to hold up against NU. Junior first baseman Paul Snieder drove Linne home with an RBI single, senior third baseman Chris Lashmet followed with another single, and freshman Jack Livingston drove the pair in with a pinch-hit RBI double.

“There isn’t anybody in the country that Livingston fears,” Stevens said. “You know (Matyas is) a great relief pitcher. He’s a guy that comes after you. We just went up there and decided that we were going to walk out of the on-deck circle and swing the bat.”

Given a 4-1 lead to protect, freshman infielder and pitcher Kyle Ruchim took over where Farrell left off, easily retiring the Golden Gophers in the eighth and the ninth innings to secure the victory.

Sunday, pitching again dominated, as Tyson and Minnesota’s Austin Lubinsky both had strong starts.

NU jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a Jack Havey RBI single in the first, but junior shortstop Trevor Stevens’ error helped Minnesota tie the score in the third.

Catcher Geoff Rowan put the Cats back on top with an RBI single in the fourth, but Tyson quickly endangered his newfound lead, surrendering a double and an intentional walk with two outs in the fifth. Both runners came home when Ethan Bramschreiber entered the game and surrendered a 2-RBI double to the first batter he saw.

“He didn’t give up a double,” Paul Stevens said. “Bramschreiber made the pitch he was supposed to make and that ball should have been caught.”

Trailing 3-2, NU tied the game on an RBI single by Lashmet, and took the lead one inning later, when Ruchim led off with a triple, and Rowan drove him in with a sacrifice fly.

A stingy Cats’ bullpen made sure that lead would stand, as Bramschreiber recovered to toss four scoreless innings. Snieder came in to record the final out.

Sunday’s victory did more than seal a series win, it also represented a sizable change in momentum.

“After the Friday night game, (Minnesota was) definitely in a situation to start smelling sweep,” Paul Stevens said. “For us to go in there and win the last two games of this series was no small feat. I attribute a lot of that to the intestinal fortitude of this team.”