Baseball: Michigan State brings Northwestern down to earth with 3-game sweep

Jesse Kramer, Reporter

Northwestern’s hot streak ended abruptly over the weekend, as the team was swept by Michigan State in a three-game series.

With only two Big Ten series remaining against Michigan and Ohio State, NU (12-28, 4-13 Big Ten) is now three games out of eighth place, the last qualifying spot for the Big Ten Tournament.

“I’m obviously not happy with the way things went down this weekend,” coach Paul Stevens said. “But I can’t worry about that right now. We’ve still got two series, and we’ve got to find a way to get hot. … I don’t think there’s a sense of urgency. There’s just a sense of understanding where you are and what needs to be done.”

The Cats hung close with the Spartans (24-17, 8-7) on Friday thanks to a solid six innings on the mound from sophomore Reed Mason and a pair of shutout frames from senior Nick Friar.

NU trailed 3-1 entering the ninth inning and scored on a sacrifice fly by sophomore pinch hitter Jack Mitchell. The Cats were in position to continue their late rally with men on first and second with one out, but junior third baseman Reid Hunter grounded into a game-ending double play.

NU’s bats struggled again Saturday, as the team fell 7-1. The Cats trailed just 2-0 after four innings, but a four-run fifth for the Spartans blew the game open.

Sunday’s game was over early as the Spartans grabbed an 8-0 lead after two innings and cruised to a 15-3 win.

Over 27 innings, Michigan State’s loaded pitching staff held NU to six runs. However, Stevens said he was not disappointed with the team’s performance at the plate.

“We swung the bats, hit balls hard at people,” Stevens said. “We had chances. We just didn’t find a way to get them in.”

The Cats have been plagued all season by injuries, and that trend continued at Michigan State with senior Jack Livingston and sophomore first baseman Zach Jones going down.

“We’re going to have to go back to the drawing board a little bit and try to plug in some things,” Stevens said.

Stevens said getting swept was a disappointment, but he does not think his players will have any mental setbacks as a result moving forward.

“I’m not worried about our mental approach,” Stevens said. “They’re giving me everything they have. I don’t draw any concerns about this mentally crushing us. I’m expecting every guy to be sitting there ready to play when they say ‘play ball’ next week.”

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