Baseball: After up-and-down Spring Break, Wildcats take on Chicago State


Daily file photo by Brian Lee

Reed Mason winds up for a pitch. The junior pitcher’s relief appearance was instrumental in helping Northwestern scrape out an extra-inning victory over the weekend.

Tim Balk, Reporter


A rocky Spring Break for Northwestern ended on a high note, as the Wildcats (7-19, 2-1 Big Ten) won back-to-back games against conference rival Minnesota over the weekend.

The pair of wins ended a five-game losing steak and gave the Cats their first winning record in Big Ten play since March 2013.

NU kicked off Spring Break with a four-game series at UNLV on March 20, with the Cats falling 9-8 in the first game of the series in a dramatic 15-inning marathon. Junior first baseman Zach Jones recorded seven hits on the day and junior pitcher Jake Stolley pitched six and two-thirds scoreless innings in relief, but a walk-off single in the bottom of the 15th frame gave the Rebels a hard-earned victory.

The Cats bounced back the next afternoon with a 13-12 comeback win over UNLV. Jones stayed hot, logging three hits and three RBIs, and senior utility player Kyle Ruchim and sophomore outfielder Matt Hopfner each had four hits in the win.

The two teams battled again that night, with UNLV coming out on top 11-8. Ruchim was the bright spot for the Cats, homering and knocking a double in the loss.

UNLV won the final game of the series 7-2, and NU headed to California for a two-game series against Saint Mary’s.

The Cats had little success against the Gaels. Saint Mary’s turned a 6-1 deficit into a 9-6 victory on Tuesday, as a seven-run fifth inning put the Cats away for good. The next day, Saint Mary’s rolled to a 17-1 win over NU.

After returning to the Midwest, NU began its three-game series with Minnesota on Friday. Junior pitcher Matt Portland got the start for the Cats and struck out six in six innings of work, but also allowed eight runs, five of them earned, which proved too many in an 8-3 defeat.

The Cats played another extra inning contest Saturday, eventually gutting out a 2-1 win over the Golden Gophers in 13 innings.

The game was a pitchers’ duel from start to finish, with NU benefiting from a trio of strong outings from its staff. Sophomore Joe Schindler worked the first six innings for the Cats and surrendered just one run and one hit. Junior Reed Mason pitched six scoreless innings in relief, striking out nine and earning the win, and Stolley pitched the bottom of the 13th without allowing a run and earned his third save of the year.

The rubber match of the series on Sunday saw more offense, as the Cats rolled to a 19-7 victory. The 19 runs were the most in a single game by NU since 2006.

Ruchim had a double and a home run in the victory, driving in a career-high five runs, while junior outfielder Jack Mitchell — better known for his football heroics — had a pinch hit home run in the 9th. The Cats finished the day with 20 hits.

The Cats will aim to keep their bats simmering hot Tuesday when they play at Chicago State in their first game of the season in the state of Illinois. The Cougars, sitting at 7-18 on the season, should be easy prey, especially considering NU faced Chicago State three times last year and won each contest.

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