Baseball: Battered Northwestern suffers three straight losses in Tennessee

Alex Putterman, Assistant Sports Editor

The losses keep mounting for Northwestern.

The Wildcats fell to 2-8 on the season after being swept in three games this weekend at Tennessee Tech (11-1). NU fell by scores of 11-7, 12-2 and 8-6.

“The losses always weigh on you,” coach Paul Stevens said. “If I’m going to sit there and say I’m happy with the losses, I’d be lying, but I’m not going to sit there and give in and be all negative about stuff.”

Pitching was a problem in all three games, as the Cats allowed 31 runs (though only 22 earned) in 24 innings pitched.

On Friday, freshman Joe Schindler — starting in place of Brandon Magallones, who is out for at least a few weeks with a high-grade stress fracture in his shin — allowed seven runs, six earned, in five innings. Overall, the Cats ceded runs in six of the eight innings the Golden Eagles came to bat.

Sophomore Zach Jones had three hits for NU, and junior Cody Stevens added two more, plus a walk, as the Cats wasted their third-highest run total of the season.

The following day, NU scored first, via a first-inning solo home run from junior Scott Heelan, the team’s first long ball of the year.

“I was fortunate to be able to help the team in that situation and get some early motivation going,” Heelan said. “It’s always fun when you can deliver to help the team.”

But Tennessee Tech responded with an onslaught, plating 11 runs in the second-through-fifth innings. Cats starter Matt Portland was smacked around for 13 hits and 8 earned runs in his four innings of work, one of the worst outings of his career.

Sunday’s game carried more drama but the same ultimate result.

NU stormed back from a 5-1 deficit to tie the score at 6 in the seventh before allowing 2 late runs. The Cats managed 18 hits to the Golden Eagles’ 1 but stranded 13 runners on base. They struggled in the field as well, committing four errors, two of them from catcher-turned-second baseman Jake Straub.

After an injury to star senior shortstop Kyle Ruchim forced Cody Stevens to shortstop, second base has become a problem position for the Cats.

“We’re just trying a few different people to see where we can go and how we can work it,” Paul Stevens said. “There’s about four guys right now that are going to be getting opportunities, and we’ll see how it all fixes itself as we go along.”

The series was NU’s first since the news Ruchim will miss the year with an arm injury. Despite the second-base uncertainty, Stevens had a strong weekend as Ruchim’s replacement at shortstop, going 7-for-11 at the plate and not making an error in the field.

“I’ve been hitting the ball pretty well lately,” Stevens said. “This time I had a few well-placed balls. I had a few ground balls with eyes that got through or missed a glove here or sat right next to the line.

The injuries to Magallones and Ruchim — the team’s best pitcher and hitter, respectively — will continue to make things tougher for NU. But despite the Cats’ win-loss record, Paul Stevens is happy enough with how those on the field are managing.

“I’m really proud that on the wings of adversity,” he said. “Our guys are finding a way to soar.”

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