Baseball: Wildcats drop two of three to Michigan, continue difficult season


Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Junior second baseman Scott Heelan grabs a pop-up to end the sixth inning. Heelan was the Cats’ offensive star of the weekend — racking up six hits in three games but couldn’t quite reach Michigan’s game-winning hit on Sunday.

Alex Putterman, Sports Editor

A rough season isn’t getting any better for Northwestern.

The Wildcats (13-31, 5-15 Big Ten) dropped two of three to Michigan (22-25-1, 11-10) over the weekend at Rocky Miller Park, winning the first game 5-3 before dropping the last two 18-6 and 5-3.

Sunday’s loss was especially tough to swallow, as the Wolverines plated two runs in the ninth inning to break a 3-3 tie.

“We battled,” coach Paul Stevens said. “That’s all I can ask them to do. We hit the ball hard a lot. We just happened to have some plays that went against us.”

Two days before Sunday’s loss, the Cats started the weekend strong.

On Friday, senior pitcher Nick Friar allowed 3 runs over the first two innings but settled down thereafter. The Cats did all their damage in a 5-run third that included an RBI triple from junior designated hitter Luke Dauch and a 2-run home run from freshman left fielder Joe Hoscheit.

“I was just trying to hit the ball hard,” Hoscheit said. “I had been kind of off here and there, but I squared that one up. And that gave me some confidence throughout the weekend. … That felt really good to put the team on top.”

Friar, making his first career Big Ten start, lasted through the seventh, allowing five hits and four walks while striking out four Michigan batters. Senior Jack Quigley came on for the final two innings to close a 5-3 Cats’ victory.

Saturday didn’t play out quite as happily for NU.

The Wolverines homered on the game’s third batter and scored 9 runs in the first inning on their way to an 18-6 thrashing.

NU junior Brandon Magallones started the game and lasted five innings, allowing a total of 12 runs, 11 earned, in easily his worst game of the season.

Senior reliever Ethan Bramschreiber couldn’t settle Michigan’s bats either, ceding 6 more runs in 2 1/3 innings pitched.

In total, the Wolverines launched three home runs, and the Cats were blown out despite two hits from junior second baseman Scott Heelan, who had six hits on the weekend to raise his batting average to .312.

NU took a 3-1 first-inning lead Sunday but couldn’t add to it, as Michigan tied the game with runs in the fourth and fifth. The Cats coaxed seven innings out of sophomore starter Reed Mason, who pitched into and out of trouble several times. In the seventh, Hoscheit gunned down a Michigan runner at the plate to preserve the 3-3 deadlock.

But two innings later, the Wolverines broke through against Quigley. With the bases loaded and one out, Michigan’s Jacob Cronenworth slapped a ground ball past Heelan’s glove to drive home what would prove to be the winning runs.

It was a difficult play for Heelan, a catcher by trade, who was playing in on the grass in hopes of a force at home.

“At the end of the day, I’ll probably relive that a couple times,” Heelan said. “It was out of my reach, but it’s still always tough to swallow. Quigley and Mason both went out and threw their hearts out, so it’s always a shame when you can’t make a big play for them.”

With Cronenworth in to close for the Wolverines, the Cats went down in order to pick up the loss.

The weekend downgraded NU’s already unlikely postseason hopes to near impossible. In order to qualify for the Big Ten Tournament, the last-place Cats would have to sweep Ohio State in their last conference series of the year and hope for losses from other teams ahead of them in the standings.

“We have a lot to play for still,” Heelan said. “There’s a lot of pride when we’re able to play for each other, our coaches, our families. We’re going to finish the year strong and just enjoy it.”

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