Baseball: Cats hope to avenge 14-run comeback loss to Michigan

Jonah Rosenblum

Senior outfielder Brant Cavagnaro simply refers to it as the 14-run game. What he’s referring to is the last time Northwestern and Michigan faced off, a game in which the Wildcats blew a 14-0 lead to the Wolverines.

A year later, as NU prepares to host Michigan at Rocky Miller Park this weekend, Cavagnaro hasn’t forgotten what happened last season.

“We want to retaliate for last year’s loss in the14-run game,” Cavagnaro said. “We want to get back at them, show them what we’re made of.”

More than simply showing the Wolverines what they’re made of, the Cats will be fighting for their postseason lives. NU stands two games out of a playoff spot and will need to be nearly perfect over its final six games if it wishes to reach postseason play.

Perfect implies not blowing leads, and NU is 17-0 this season when leading after eight innings. While the Cats started the year with one strong closer in junior Paul Snieder, they now have two, with freshman Kyle Ruchim now joining Snieder in closing games for NU.

“We have all the confidence in him and all the confidence in Snieder,” junior shortstop Trevor Stevens said. “It’s great now to have two guys that we know are going to get up on the hill, and that’s it: The game’s going to be over.”

On Tuesday, Ruchim came in and threw 11 of 12 pitches for strikes to shut the door on UIC.

On Wednesday, Ruchim didn’t even know he was going to pitch until 10 minutes before walking out to the mound. After Snieder surrendered a run on two hits to put the Cats’ lead in jeopardy, his freshman teammate came on with a University of Chicago runner on third and one out and took care of business, striking out two Maroons in a row to seal the 4-3 victory.

“That was an amazing thing that he just did,” Stevens said Wednesday. “He threw yesterday, and then to come into the game with one out and a guy on third base and you’re up by one, that was unbelievable.”

While Ruchim may be new to the closing role, he already has a closer’s mentality.

“He’s just very competitive,” coach Paul Stevens said. “If you’re sitting there trying to get your milk open, he’s going to make it a competition. Who can do it faster? That’s just the type of kid he is.”

According to Ruchim, being unflappable is simply part of the job description.

“If you show the other team something’s bothering you or you let it bother you and you miss a pitch here, that’s the game,” Ruchim said. “The biggest difference between closing a game and starting a game, you have to come out and just be spot on with your accuracy.”

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