Baseball: Jack Livingston’s extra-inning double leads Northwestern to victory over UIC

Junior second baseman Kyle Ruchim prepares for a pitch. Ruchim went 1-for-5 in NUs 11-inning 5-3 victory over UIC on Tuesday.

Daily file photo by Meghan White

Junior second baseman Kyle Ruchim prepares for a pitch. Ruchim went 1-for-5 in NU’s 11-inning 5-3 victory over UIC on Tuesday.

Alex Putterman, Reporter

Even when they win, the Wildcats don’t make things easy.

Northwestern (21-20) defeated Illinois-Chicago (21-25) 5-3 in 11 innings Tuesday in Chicago after blowing a 3-1 lead in the ninth inning.

“I’m real proud of the guys,” coach Paul Stevens said. “They battled, they got ahead, and then they definitely didn’t collapse when (UIC) tied the ball game on us in the ninth.”

NU’s hero was junior designated hitter Jack Livingston, who doubled home the go-ahead runs in the top of the 11th inning.

But before Livingston’s shining moment came a full night’s worth of baseball.

The first three UIC batters singled in the first inning, putting the Cats down 1-0 almost immediately.

For the next three innings, NU freshman starting pitcher Reed Mason verged on disaster but ceded no more runs. He exited after the fourth having given up a total of 8 hits, 7 of them singles.

While UIC hitters bent Mason but didn’t break him, the Cats’ batters could barely reach first base. NU mustered only 3 hits through five innings and only once advanced a runner to second. The sixth inning was shaping up similarly until redshirt sophomore catcher Scott Heelan stepped to the plate with 2 outs and knocked a 3-2 offering over the left field fence for a solo home run. The blast was the first of Heelan’s career, which began two seasons ago at Virginia Tech.

“It felt great to be able to help the team in that situation,” Heelan said. “I’ve put a lot of work into my swing with the coaches and in the cages by myself. It was really nice to have that moment.”

The next inning, the light-hitting Cats came through with another long-ball. Freshman left fielder Jack Mitchell entered the game batting .195, but he singled in the second inning and made his next hit count. Batting with 1 out in the seventh, the freshman connected for his second home run of the season to give NU a 2-1 lead.

The Cats tacked on another run in the eighth via a sacrifice fly from senior Jack Havey. Junior Ethan Bramschreiber, who relieved Mason to begin the fifth, shut down UIC for four innings, allowing only 2 base runners and striking out 4 Flames during that time.

“Ethan did a great job today,” Heelan said. “He throws hard, so they really had trouble catching up to that. He was spotting up his pitches, and he was really mixing it up well. He came in and just did everything he possibly he could.”

Then, in the ninth inning, everything unraveled for NU. Bramschreiber retired the first batter of the inning but walked the second. Stevens called to the bullpen, summoning junior Jack Quigley for the last 2 outs. A walk and 2 singles later, the Cats’ lead was gone.

But with 1 out in the 11th inning, Heelan singled up the middle. After freshman Zach Jones singled Heelan to second, Livingston drove them both home.

“It was a 0-1 count, a fastball on the outer half and I hit it to left center, a line drive,” Livingston said. “It felt good to come up big in a situation where the team needed something good to happen.”

Junior Dan Tyson nailed down the victory in the bottom half of the inning, and NU had a 5-3 win that didn’t come easily.

“The team’s always excited to get a win in extra innings,” Livingston said. “You never want to lose a game in extras. They make you feel like you put in a little bit more effort.”