Northwestern’s second game in a National League Central venue didn’t go quite as well as its first.
Four days after beating Michigan 6-0 in front of more than 4,000 fans at Wrigley Field, the Wildcats (17-15, 6-9 Big Ten) lost 5-0 to Wisconsin-Milwaukee (14-16) in front of 567 spectators at Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers.
“We’ll learn from our mistakes we made today — and there were a few, to say the least,” coach Paul Stevens said. “And at the end of the day, we have to just put it behind us. We have to forget about it and move on.”
The Cats lost primarily because of their inability to hit. The team managed only 4 hits off five Panthers pitchers and only once had two runners on base simultaneously. To make matters worse, two of NU’s seven total base runners were picked off, and another was erased by a double play.
“We hit some balls hard that didn’t find holes,” senior third baseman Colby Everett said. “We made a couple mental mistakes, in addition to the fact they were running in a bunch of different pitchers, so you couldn’t really get used to one guy because you only saw each guy pretty much once.”
Freshman Reed Mason started on the mound for the Cats, throwing three scoreless innings before being pulled for fellow freshman left-hander Matt Portland, who retired five batters without allowing a run.
“We were planning on Reed going three (innings), and then we were just going to keep moving it along through the guys who hadn’t gotten to throw,” Stevens said. “We had a plan to just get guys out on the mound and facing hitters in a game scenario.”
Juniors Jack Livingston and Ethan Bramschreiber could not get through the sixth inning, combining to allow 2 hits and 4 walks while getting only 2 outs. The messy inning also included a wild pitch, a passed ball and an error from Everett, his fifth of the season and the fewest among the Cats’ regular starters in the infield.
“It kind of just got on me,” the senior said of the misplay. “It’s a quick field, and I was playing in and kind of got a little ahead of myself and probably tried to throw it before I had a good grip on it. It’s baseball. Every now and then those are going to happen.”
Wisconsin-Milwaukee plated 2 more runs in the eighth off NU junior Dan Tyson, the final runs in the 5-0 beating. The defeat was the Cats’ first non-conference loss since March 10. NU had won seven straight non-Big Ten games in that time.
Although out-of-conference matchups, usually played during the middle of the week, don’t count for the standings like Big Ten games do, the Cats say winning every game is important.
“Midweek games are another game,” said Trevor Stevens, redshirt senior shortstop. “It’s another win or another loss that goes onto our record. A lot of guys are really focused on keeping those wins coming and boosting our record. At the same time, it’s also a great chance to work on things that we might necessarily not being able to work on during Big Ten series games.”
The trip to Miller Park was the Cats’ third since 2010 and second in as many seasons. If NU plays on another Major League diamond this season, it will be at Target Field in Minneapolis for the Big Ten Tournament, for which the top six conference teams qualify.
“That’s been the goal the whole season,” Everett said. “To make the Big Ten Tournament. Obviously we have to take this one game at a time, but that’s what we have our mind set on.”