Baseball: Late-inning runs doom Wildcats to sweep at hands of Golden Gophers

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Baseball: Late-inning runs doom Wildcats to sweep at hands of Golden Gophers

Northwestern allowed 10 Minnesota runs in the seventh inning or later as the Wildcats got swept by the Golden Gophers.

Northwestern allowed 10 Minnesota runs in the seventh inning or later as the Wildcats got swept by the Golden Gophers.

Meghan White/Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern allowed 10 Minnesota runs in the seventh inning or later as the Wildcats got swept by the Golden Gophers.

Meghan White/Daily Senior Staffer

Meghan White/Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern allowed 10 Minnesota runs in the seventh inning or later as the Wildcats got swept by the Golden Gophers.

Alex Putterman, Reporter

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A groundball back to the pitcher was just what the Wildcats needed.

With one out and the bases loaded in a tied game Saturday, the potential double play chopper appeared made-to-order. But after senior pitcher Luke Farrell tossed the ball home for the sixth inning’s second out, junior catcher Jake Straub bounced his throw to first, watching the ball trickle into right field as the go-ahead run crossed the plate.

“I just didn’t clear the baseline enough,” Straub said. “Runner might have been a little bit in the way, caused me to make a bad throw. I tried to guide it around him and just made a bad throw.”

It was perhaps the most devastating of the many late-inning runs Northwestern (14-13, 4-8 Big Ten) surrendered in being swept by Minnesota (22-13, 7-2) over three games in Evanston this weekend.

The Cats allowed 10 of Minnesota’s 17 runs to score in the seventh inning or later, beginning with an eighth-inning Golden Gophers rally Friday.

NU starting pitcher Zach Morton was brilliant through seven innings, allowing 4 hits and 1 walk while keeping the ball on the ground and in the catcher’s mitt. Over the first seven frames, the redshirt senior recorded 5 outs via strikeout and 16 via groundballs, allowing only one ball to reach the outfield on the fly, a fourth inning double that plated an unearned run.

But in the eighth, Morton struggled to keep his pitches low and, as a result, saw his ERA grow. Minnesota started the inning with two singles and took a 2-1 lead a on a fielder’s choice. Two batters later, third baseman Ryan Abrahamson homered to left field, scoring 2 more runs.

NU junior Kyle Ruchim jacked a long ball of his own in the bottom of the inning, but a line drive double play in the ninth halted a potential Cats rally, and the 4-2 Cats loss ended one batter later with freshman Josh Perlmutter’s fourth strikeout of the game.

Farrell allowed 3 runs, 1 earned, in the first inning Saturday before settling in to throw seven more, scattering 6 hits in total.

“I had some trouble commanding my pitches, especially in the first inning.” Farrell said. “You never know what the transition is really going to be like from the bullpen to the actual game mound. At the same time, there’s no excuse to come out and not throw strikes or pound the zone.”

The Cats responded with 3 runs in their half of the first, one via another home run from Ruchim. After Straub’s error gave Minnesota the lead in the sixth, the Gophers added 2 more in the ninth, both runs scoring on wild pitches off freshman Reed Mason and cementing the 6-3 final.

“It’s always hard,” Farrell said. “Any loss is hard, especially in Big Ten because they are magnified a little bit, but we’re still keeping things positive.”

Sunday’s game also was close for six innings, a pair of unearned runs the only damage done off NU starter Brandon Magallones.

Then came a ferocious, defense-aided Minnesota rally in the seventh inning. The Cats made two two-out errors in the inning, enabling five Gophers to cross the plate.

NU scored a run of their own in the seventh but would succumb feebly thereafter, falling 7-1 to end the weekend.

“It’s always tough to sit there and lose a ballgame,” head coach Paul Stevens said. “(But) I believe that there’s a lot of intestinal fortitude and these guys will find a way to battle back.”

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