Baseball: Eight-run inning powers slugging Wildcats past Fighting Saints

Northwestern infielder Colby Everett went 3-for-5 at the plate in the Wildcats win. Everetts single in the sixth inning gave NU its first lead of the game.

Daily file photo by Meghan White

Northwestern infielder Colby Everett went 3-for-5 at the plate in the Wildcats’ win. Everett’s single in the sixth inning gave NU its first lead of the game.

Alex Putterman, Reporter

The Wildcats finally played at home Tuesday, and they didn’t forget to bring their bats.

In its first game at Rocky Miller Park this year, Northwestern overcame a seven-run deficit to defeat St. Francis (18-13) in a 14-12 slugfest that featured 36 hits between the two teams. Senior shortstop Trevor Stevens and freshman first baseman Zach Jones each scored three runs, and the Cats’ second, third and fourth hitters combined for seven RBI, as NU improved to 11-9 on the season.

“I’m proud of every aspect of what we did,” coach Paul Stevens said. “Any time you have a win, it’s a great team-builder. Any time you have a comeback win, it’s even a bigger team-builder.”

St. Francis opened the scoring in the third inning, notching two runs off Cats’ freshman starting pitcher Matt Portland. After a hard-hit single from leadoff hitter Jesse Gregurich, outfielder Tim Reichert lashed a liner over the head of NU center fielder Jake Schieber. By the time the freshman halted the ball’s roll, Reichert was headed to third with an RBI triple. The next batter singled and the Fighting Saints led 2-0.

Stevens manufactured a run for the Cats in the bottom of the inning, but St. Francis responded immediately.

When Portland allowed hits to the first two batters in the fourth, Stevens called right-hander Nick Friar from the bullpen, ending Portland’s third career start.

“Matt Portland hasn’t thrown that many innings,” Stevens said. “He’s going to go through bumps and bruises … He did a good job. He wasn’t as sharp … but he went out and competed. And that’s all I can ask.”

But Friar allowed five more hits in relief, and when the barrage was over, NU trailed 8-1.

The Cats picked up a run in the fourth and two more in the fifth but yielded a pair of runs in St. Francis’ half of the sixth. Entering the bottom of the 6th, the Fighting Saints were up 10-4.

Then NU’s bats came alive.

The rally began with one out and didn’t end until each player in the Cats’ lineup had come to the plate and reached base. Freshman Jack Mitchell’s two-run double and senior Colby Everett’s game-tying, two-run single highlighted an eight-run explosion that included seven hits and six players driving in runs.

“We’ve come from behind several times this year, and we definitely believe we’re never out of a ball game,” said Everett, who finished 3-5 with 3 RBI on the day. “I’m just happy I was able to contribute to the team win. The team getting the win was the biggest thing.”

Two insurance runs in the eighth wrapped up the Cats’ big day in the batter’s box, and Friar was awarded the win despite allowing six runs in his three innings pitched. Junior right-hander Ethan Bramschreiber allowed two runs in the ninth after a scoreless seventh and eighth to close the game.

NU’s 14 runs marked the team’s second-highest total of 2013, behind the Cats’ 17 runs against Bucknell on March 16. Seven NU players tallied two or more base hits, including junior Kyle Ruchim, whose afternoon included a double, a triple, two runs scored and two more driven in. The second baseman, who leads the team with a .467 batting average, said in the later innings the team was more patient waiting for St. Francis’ low-speed pitching.

“A little bit of an adjustment for us facing a little bit slower pitching today,” Ruchim said. “Towards the middle part of the game, as the scoreboard tells, we made a good adjustment, started letting the ball travel a little more. That was probably the biggest thing.”