Baseball: Fighting Illini blow out Wildcats to complete weekend sweep

Tim Balk, Reporter


Northwestern (8-22, 2-4 Big Ten) ran into a buzzsaw this weekend, losing three straight to streaking No. 15 Illinois (24-6-1, 5-1).

The Wildcats simply couldn’t find an answer to the Fighting Illini’s prolific offense, with NU’s defense yielding a total of 31 runs during the series and the Cats’ offense struggling mightily to keep up.

NU’s best showing of the weekend came in the opening tilt Friday. The Cats and Fighting Illini battled for 13 innings, with Illinois ultimately pulling out a 3-1 win. Junior Matt Portland started for NU and pitched nine innings, striking out five and allowing just 1 run.

Junior Jake Stolley pitched the next four frames, but allowed 2 runs in the top of the 13th. NU went quietly afterwards, failing to answer in the bottom of the inning.

On Saturday, Illinois cruised to an 11-4 victory. NU took a 1-0 lead in the first but then watched as the Fighting Illini racked up runs between the second and fifth inning. A home run from sophomore outfielder Joe Hoscheit was one of the lone highlights of the day for the Cats.

The Fighting Illini’s hot bats reigned for the second straight game on Sunday.

Illinois romped from the opening frame, taking a 3-0 lead in the first inning on the back of infielder Reid Roper, who blasted a 3-run home run off of Cats senior Brandon Magallones.

Magallones started the game after earning his second win of the season against Minnesota on March 29. He only lasted two innings in this contest, allowing 8 runs, 7 earned. He left the game with no outs in the top of the third.

NU managed a run in each of the first two innings. Hoscheit drove in junior first baseman Zach Jones with a double in the first, and senior infielder Cody Stevens doubled in the second to drive in sophomore outfielder Matt Hopfner.

But the 2 runs would be all the Cats could muster on the afternoon.

Illinois added to its 8-2 lead with a 2-run fourth inning, a 4-run fifth and a 1-run sixth. The Fighting Illini used a 2-run ninth to take the contest by a final of 17-2. Three NU pitchers saw action in the drubbing, which came in front of a crowd of 913 in Champaign.

The Cats were technically the home team in the series, but played in Champaign while Rocky Miller Park undergoes construction. NU won’t play its first game of the season in Evanston until April 21.

NU will get the whole week off before taking on Michigan State on Friday in East Lansing, Michigan, where NU will attempt to regain the momentum it had going into the Illinois series.

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