Baseball: Big innings help, haunt Wildcats in series with Pacific

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Source: NU Athletics

Willie Bourbon stands in the box. The freshman infielder didn’t show his inexperience in Sunday’s game against Pacific, batting 4-for-5 and coming a home run short of a cycle.

Max Gelman, Sports Editor


Baseball


During Northwestern’s series split with Pacific last weekend, a common theme seemed to pervade all four games — the big inning.

In every game against Pacific (2-7), there was at least one inning where one of the teams scored 3 or more runs. Friday’s series opener saw a 3-run Wildcat (4-4) fifth; Saturday featured a 4-run Tiger third in the first game with the nightcap having a 4-run Pacific fourth; and on Sunday NU scored at least 3 in the second, third and seventh innings.

“Every big inning there was something, whether it was a passed ball, a hit by pitch, a walk,” coach Spencer Allen said. “When you look at the doubleheader, we were just average, and even a little bit below-average, in all three phases and that’s where those innings popped up.”

Allen also said although there were some poor performances in Saturday’s doubleheader when allowing big innings from its opponent, he was happy with the way NU was able to have its own high-scoring innings Friday and Sunday.

One of the weekend’s biggest performances came from the bat of freshman infielder Willie Bourbon, who went 4-for-5 on Sunday with 4 runs scored and 4 RBIs. Bourbon, who came a home run short of the cycle, said as the team has played more games, it has started seeing the ball better at the plate, especially last weekend.

“Guys started shortening up their swings,” Bourbon said. “As far as the other team, that’s one of the things I think is something we’ve got to work on. When we score a few runs, we want to put up a zero on the other half of the inning.”

Bourbon has started seven games for the Cats this season, in part due to the indefinite suspension of senior second baseman Antonio Freschet. Despite his relative inexperience at the collegiate level, Bourbon said the key to producing when starting over veteran players is a high level of confidence.

“It’s just going out there and playing the game you’ve been playing for a long time,” Bourbon said. “You go out there, and yeah the game’s a little bit faster, but you can’t let that eat you up, and I think that’s one of the things I was able to do pretty quickly, just adjust and get back to playing the game of baseball.”

Allen praised Bourbon’s performances against Pacific. The coach said Bourbon was one of the weekend’s biggest offensive catalysts in big situations and he has proven he can “handle all types of pitchers.”

Sophomore catcher Jack Claeys is another Cat taking advantage of increased playing time at the start of the season. After being blocked on the depth chart in 2015 by now-graduated Scott Heelan, Claeys has started six games and ranks third on the team with a .360 batting average.

Claeys agreed with Bourbon, and said after high-scoring innings it is important for teams to come out strong the next half-inning.

“The most important thing after there’s a big inning like that, on either side … is for the opposing team to put a zero up in the next half,” Claeys said. “For a pitcher to come out and get us right back in the dugout and back on offense, if we can do that, that’s how momentum starts to build.”

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Twitter: @MaxGelman

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