Baseball: NU’s postseason chances slim after series loss at Indiana

Jonah Rosenblum

Northwestern continued to fall further behind in the Big Ten race this weekend, dropping two out of three to Indiana to slide to eighth place in the conference standings.

While mathematics might still give the Wildcats a chance, they must get their bats going on a consistent basis if they want to make the late-season run needed to extend their 2011 campaign.

NU began this weekend’s series where it left off last weekend, letting another strong start fall by the wayside due to offensive ineptitude.

Senior left-hander Matt Gailey gave NU all he had in his first start in three years, holding Indiana at bay for seven innings before surrendering a single, a double and an intentional walk in the eighth.

Already trailing 2-0, the Cats brought in reliever Paul Snieder, but the junior was unable to get them out of the bases-loaded jam, as Hoosiers’ shortstop Michael Basil singled in two runs and second baseman Micah Johnson followed with an RBI single of his own.

Meanwhile, Indiana’s Joey DeNato shut NU out for eight innings, allowing just six hits and three walks. He struck out seven hitters before turning the ball over to Ryan Halstead, who retired the Cats in order to seal the win.

Although the Cats struggled to reach base Friday, they did have their chances against the Hoosiers’ staff. Senior third baseman Chris Lashmet twice hit into double plays with runners on first and second to kill potential rallies.

Lashmet had his revenge the next day, however, leading the Cats to a 9-6 victory. After hitting just one home run in his first 40 games of the season, the senior knocked two balls over the fence Saturday, finishing the day with four hits, two runs batted in and three runs scored.

He was joined by his junior partner in crime, Snieder, who had three hits, including a home run in the top of the third.

Overall, NU notched 16 hits, its fourth-highest total of the season. And this proliferation of hits proved just enough to help the Cats withstand a late Hoosiers rally.

Unfortunately, NU apparently used up all of its hits Saturday, as Indiana southpaw Blake Monar stymied the Cats on Sunday. The junior surrendered just three base knocks over the first five innings.

With NU unable to score, Indiana took a two-run lead in the bottom of the third, and added another run in the top of the fifth with the help of two Cats errors. Junior pitcher Michael Jahns escaped further damage in the fifth, inducing Hoosiers slugger Alex Dickerson into a double play.

Jahns kept his team in the game, and the Cats drew within one run in the sixth inning, as sophomore first baseman Jack Havey broke the ice with a home run. Freshman center fielder Kyle Ruchim followed with a double, and scored on an RBI base knock off the bat of freshman right fielder Jack Livingston.

NU was unable to remain in the game for long, however.

Already trailing 4-2 in the eighth inning, the Cats made the somewhat questionable decision to walk Johnson to bring up Dickerson with the bases loaded. The All-American candidate made them pay with a two-RBI single, and the inning, as well as the series, further deteriorated from there. The Hoosiers tallied five runs before the Cats could escape the frame.

Despite losing four of their last five games, the Cats remain in postseason contention due to a congested Big Ten race. In a conference where only the top six teams earn berths in the postseason tournament, NU currently stands two games out of a playoff spot.