Baseball: Wildcats come back for miracle win before dropping double-header

Alex Putterman, Sports Editor

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At the seventh-inning stretch, it looked over. Luckily, the Cats played the last two and a half innings anyway.

Northwestern (6-24, 2-9 Big Ten) overcame a 13-3 deficit Friday to defeat Iowa (20-13, 5-7) 14-13 on a walk-off single at Rocky Miller Park.

Though the Hawkeyes took both games of Saturday’s double-header, the Cats won’t soon forget Friday afternoon’s drama.

“Everything that could go right went right. They kept battling and finding ways to do things,” coach Paul Stevens said Saturday. “It was emotionally elevating from any aspect of the game you wanted to see.”

The comeback began in the seventh, when the Wildcats mounted a five-run rally punctuated by a two-run home run from freshman third baseman Joe Hoscheit.

NU followed up with four runs on five hits in the eighth, cutting Iowa’s lead to one run entering the ninth. An RBI single from junior Cody Stevens tied the game, and three batters later sophomore Zach Jones stepped to the plate with the bases loaded.

Jones rapped a single to centerfield, scoring Stevens and inciting a Cats mob at first base.

“Of all the (walk-offs) I’ve had in my whole lifetime, that was probably my favorite one just because of how exciting it was,” Jones said. The team played so great. Any one of our guys would have gone up and done the same thing, but it was fun to be able to do that.

But after scoring 11 runs over the last three innings Friday, NU could muster only 1 over the next 18.

The Cats were slated to play single games Saturday and Sunday, but a threatening weather report forced some preemptive schedule-altering and a Saturday double-header. The change didn’t entirely spare the teams from Mother Nature’s wrath, as lightning in the area forced a 90-minute delay during the first inning of the first game.

Once play resumed, Iowa took control. The Hawkeyes scored 6 runs off Cats starter Brandon Magallones on their way to an 8-1 victory.

It took a surprise game-three starter to quiet Iowa’s offense.

Jack Quigley, usually the team’s ace reliever, had pitched the day before — throwing an inning and picking up the win Friday — but was called upon to start anyway. The senior ceded only 1 run and over six innings.

“The young man goes after people, he throws strikes,” Stevens said of Quigley. “There’s an intestinal fortitude about him that is second to none. He is the real deal.”

Quigley got out of trouble in the sixth thanks to his defense.

With the bases loaded and one out, Cody Stevens fielded a grounder, stepped on second and fired to first for an inning-ending double play. Stevens played impressive defense all weekend, handling the easy plays and diving for the hard ones.

“Every position that everyone plays, they’re expected to make plays,” he said modestly. “Nobody goes out and picks a position and goes, ‘I hope I make the play.’ Everyone goes out there and knows they can make the play. … Whether it’s an easy ground ball or a diving play, it’s one out.”

But the Cats’ bullpen struggled after Quigley came out, allowing a run in the seventh and three in the eight. Meanwhile, the bats provided little support, scattering eight hits but only reaching third base once.

After the thrilling start to the weekend, being outscored 13-1 in a double-header was not the desired follow-up.

“We didn’t pitch very well, to say the least,” Paul Stevens said. “We’ve got to do a better job of that. We’ve got to keep ourselves in games. We can’t give up crooked numbers so early and think in this ballpark you’re going to have nights like (Friday). We do have to score more runs; that’s absolutely a scenario.”

The Cats next host Milwaukee on Tuesday.

Twitter: @AlexPutt02