Baseball: Northwestern walks off in dramatic win over Chicago State


Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior Dan Tyson started Wednesday’s game against Chicago State, keeping Northwestern in the game through five innings. The Wildcats won on a Jack Mitchell walk-off single in the ninth.

Jesse Kramer, Reporter

Luck was not on Northwestern’s side during the team’s 5-22 start to the season. Recently, that has changed.

When a line drive by sophomore pinch hitter Jack Mitchell evaded the reach of Chicago State left fielder Joelh Calixto in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday, senior third baseman Nick Linne waltzed across home plate for the game-winning run.

The moment marked the Wildcats’ fourth one-run win in the last 12 days, as they defeated the Cougars 7-6 at Rocky Miller Park.

“The way the ball bounces has been a little bit different lately,” coach Paul Stevens said. “Now they are believing they are going to be able to get some of those breaks they need, and they’re creating their own breaks by working hard. The harder you work, the luckier you get.”

NU (12-25, 4-10 Big Ten) has now won six games out of seven, including three against Chicago State (13-25). The Cats erased a 5-2 deficit and tied the score 5-5 on freshman right fielder Matt Hopfner’s sacrifice fly in the eighth inning. Chicago State jumped ahead 6-5 in the ninth, but junior outfielder Luke Dauch got NU’s final rally started with a leadoff walk.

Dauch moved to second on sophomore second baseman Antonio Freschet’s sacrifice bunt, and Linne drove in Dauch with a single to left field. On Calixto’s attempt to gun down Dauch at the plate, Linne advanced to second base.

Mitchell, an outfielder who had appeared in just 13 of the Cats’ games this seasons, got the call with the winning run on second base. And he was ready.

“Pretty much every inning, we (the bench players) were running down the foul line,” Mitchell said. “Going inside and running, hitting, throwing. We’re just always prepared for that moment late in the game.”

Though Mitchell was the one who got mobbed on the field and received pats on the backside afterwards in the dugout, junior pitcher Reid Hunter was as much of a hero in Stevens’ eyes.

Hunter got the call in the sixth inning to relieve sophomore Jake Stolley, who had just loaded the bases with two outs. Hunter made quick work of Robert Swenson, setting him down on strikes, to end Chicago State’s rally.

“I knew that I’ve got to stay relaxed in that situation,” Hunter said. “Panicking is not going to help anything, so I just tried to stay as relaxed as possible.”

Hunter then tossed a pair of shutout innings before handing the ball to junior Brandon Magallones with one out in the ninth.

“I’m extremely proud of Mr. Mitchell, but there are a lot of guys along the way that helped us come back,” Stevens said. “Reid Hunter, make no mistake how important his three innings were.”

Magallones allowed one of Hunter’s base runners to score on a sacrifice fly, but that was all the damage he allowed. When Mitchell’s line drive hit the left-field grass, Magallones earned his second win of the season despite throwing only five pitches.

“Mags, he’s got to be taking Mitchell out to dinner,” Stevens said with a laugh after the game. “Jack Mitchell must be his favorite player right now.”

Even though luck found itself on the Cats’ side in the end, they still had their share of misfortunes Wednesday. NU appeared to be escaping the sixth inning without allowing a run, but junior catcher Scott Heelan was called for catcher’s interference on what would have been an inning-ending fly out with the bases loaded. The inning was extended, and the Cougars wound up posting three runs and taking their 5-2 lead.

Freschet got a poor read on a fly ball by freshman outfielder Joe Hoscheit in the seventh inning and the result was a 7-6-4 double play to end NU’s rally.

“Even with all that, we still found a way to keep battling,” Stevens said. “It doesn’t matter what happens to these guys right now. They believe they can get it done. And that’s the part of it that’s so exciting.”

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