Baseball: Northwestern suffers ’embarrassing’ loss to University of Chicago

Northwestern first baseman Jack Havey went 1-for-2 with 2 walks and 2 runs scored in Wednesday’s loss to the University of Chicago. The senior is batting .336 with 22 RBI this season.

Daily file photo by Meghan White

Northwestern first baseman Jack Havey went 1-for-2 with 2 walks and 2 runs scored in Wednesday’s loss to the University of Chicago. The senior is batting .336 with 22 RBI this season.

Alex Putterman, Reporter

The University of Chicago is supposed to be one of Northwestern’s chief academic rivals — not one of its top athletic adversaries.

So the Wildcats’ 9-7 loss Wednesday to the Maroons (24-12) at Rocky Miller Park was particularly troubling for “Chicago’s Big Ten Team.”

“You go into these (out of conference) games, and you do kind of have the mindset of, ‘We should win this game. We do have better talent,’” senior Jack Havey said. “It definitely is a little embarrassing (to lose).”

The Maroons plated 3 runs in the first inning and continued from there. They scored in four of the first five innings and led 9-2 by the middle of the fifth. Although NU (21-21) outscored Chicago 5-0 the rest of the way, the deficit proved too large to overcome.

NU freshman starter Matt Portland submitted his worst start of the season in what will likely be his final start of the year. Portland allowed 6 runs on 7 hits in 4 innings, raising his final season ERA to 4.76.

“He just hasn’t had that much of an opportunity,” coach Paul Stevens said. “I’m not worried about the young man. I’m disappointed in today, but that does not diminish my spirits about where I think he’s going. Because he’s going to make a lot of noise around here before he’s done.”

Facing a procession of Chicago pitchers with underwhelming ERAs, NU’s offense eventually woke from their early slumber. The Cats scored a run in the fifth and 2 in the sixth behind contributions up and down the lineup.

“We go down in any game, and we’re going to keep fighting,” Havey said. “We don’t care who we’re playing.”

As NU’s offense worked to hit the team back into the game, junior reliever Dan Tyson held Chicago in check. The lefty pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings, quieting the bats that had torched Portland and junior reliever Nick Friar.

But the Cats stranded a runner on second in the seventh, then left two men in scoring position in the eighth, failing to score in either inning. NU snagged a pair of runs in the ninth but ran out of innings, falling by a 9-7 final.

“You look at the scoreboard, fifth inning on they didn’t score any runs and we put on five ourselves,” junior Kyle Ruchim said. “That speaks to the mentality we had. As the game progressed we just kind of looked to chip away. At the end we had a chance to possibly tie it, and we didn’t do it, but I thought we battled well.”

The contest was the final home date for NU’s five seniors, who celebrated Senior Day on Sunday against Ohio State. Havey, who went 1-for-2 with 2 walks, said it was disappointing to lose his last game in Evanston.

“You never want to lose games,” he said. “And that’s a game we should have won. It’s unacceptable, really.”

After the game, Chicago assistant coach Scott Budeselich pumped his fist and exclaimed, “This is Chicago’s real Big Ten team.”

Meanwhile, Stevens was less enthused. The coach dismissed his team promptly and sat alone in the dugout slouched with his head to the ground and his hands covering his face. When he sat up, he said he was disappointed in the first few innings but proud of the Cats’ resilience thereon.

“The word I want to use right now is ‘perseverance,’” he said. “That’s a lot of runs to be behind, and I thought they did a really good job of staying with it. It looked like it was a really large mountain to climb, but they didn’t back away from it.”