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Baseball: Northwestern takes two of three on the road at favored Nebraska

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Junior shortstop Cody Stevens was the hero for Northwestern against Nebraska on Friday, driving in the game-winning run in the top of the 12th inning. The Wildcats left Lincoln with two out of three victories over the Cornhuskers.

Junior shortstop Cody Stevens was the hero for Northwestern against Nebraska on Friday, driving in the game-winning run in the top of the 12th inning. The Wildcats left Lincoln with two out of three victories over the Cornhuskers.

Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Junior shortstop Cody Stevens was the hero for Northwestern against Nebraska on Friday, driving in the game-winning run in the top of the 12th inning. The Wildcats left Lincoln with two out of three victories over the Cornhuskers.

Alex Putterman, Sports Editor

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In front of as many as 5,000 fans on the road against one of the Big Ten’s best teams, Northwestern played as well as it has this season.

The Wildcats (10-25, 4-10 Big Ten) took two of three one-run games at Nebraska (26-16, 8-4) this weekend, shocking the heavily favored Cornhuskers, who had won 10 of their last 11 games.

“(The team) did a great job in getting two out of three,” coach Paul Stevens said. “It’s absolutely tremendous given where we were playing and how hot they were coming in. I was extremely excited about how the weekend unfolded.”

Friday’s win went to extra innings, with junior Cody Stevens delivering the game-winning hit in the 12th. Prior to Friday, the Wildcats had lost all four of their extra-inning games this season and last year lost at Nebraska in the 16th.

Stevens’ heroics were only possible because of NU’s pitching. Sophomore pitcher Reed Mason shut down Nebraska over 8 2/3 innings, allowing only one run on five hits.

Once Mason exited, senior Jack Quigley continued his excellent final season with 3 1/3 scoreless innings of relief.

Those performances set up NU’s 12th-inning rally.

Freshman Matt Hopfner led off the inning with a single past the third baseman, then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. With two outs, Stevens punched the ball up the middle to score Hopfner knock in the go-ahead run.

“We wanted to make a point, coming in here, playing a hot team,” Stevens said. “Coming through in the 12th, it was awesome. … It was a really good win for us. It was a really cool to be a part of it.”

Quigley’s one-two-three bottom of the inning closed NU’s exciting win.

The teams played a doubleheader Saturday in anticipation of Sunday thunderstorms and more close finishes ensued.

In the first game, the Cats broke a 2-2 eighth inning tie with a walk, a single and an RBI fielder’s choice from junior Jake Straub.

Again, pitching lifted NU, as junior Brandon Magallones fired eight strong innings, ceding 2 runs while striking out seven.

Magallones entered the season as the team’s ace but was injured early on and has been up and down since returning. He has essentially alternated good and bad starts in conference play, and Saturday was time for a good one.

“Finding a rhythm has been an issue this year for me,” Magallones said. “I’ve made really good strides this past week, and I think going forward I should be a lot more consistent.”

The third game of the series was similarly close to the first two with a dissimilar outcome.

For a while, it looked like the Cats might sweep the Cornhuskers. After three and a half innings, NU had an 8-2 lead.

But Hopfner, making his first career start on the mound, lost gas in the fourth. The freshman allowed three straight hits without recording an out, then was replaced by senior Jack Livingston, who let all three baserunners score and allowed a run of his own.

Nebraska scored two more the next inning to take a 9-8 lead, then after NU tied the game in the seventh, the Cornhuskers responded with a run in the eighth and closed out a 10-9 victory.

Overall, it was an impressive weekend from the Cats, who have now won six of their last nine games after losing 16 of 18.

“We always put on a uniform to win every game,” Paul Stevens said. “We went out Friday believing we could win. We knew that were hot, they’re a fundamentally really sound team. When Friday was over, we found a way to win, and then we were focused on putting on the uniform and winning on Saturday.”

NU’s next game is Tuesday, at home against Wheaton College.

Email: asputt@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @AlexPutt02

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