Baseball: Vanilla offense sputters as Northwestern gets swept by Penn State

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Leeks Lim/The Daily Northwestern

Jake Stolley delivers from the stretch. The senior started Sunday’s contest and struggled, giving up 4 runs in two innings, as the Wildcats allowed 11 runs total.

Max Gelman, Sports Editor


Baseball


Much to Northwestern’s dismay, Penn State brought the brooms to Evanston this weekend.

The Wildcats (9-27, 2-10 Big Ten) once again fell on Sunday despite beautiful weather as the Nittany Lions (22-14, 8-4) completed a series sweep. Sunday marked the second time NU was swept in conference in a three-game series — the other coming against Michigan — and the third time overall this season.

“We’ve got to do a better job when we’re in positive counts,” coach Spencer Allen said. “It’s funny, because at Nebraska that’s what we did well. … (Penn State) obviously did a great job with that this weekend.”

Throughout the series, the Cats couldn’t get the ball rolling on offense. On Friday, NU managed 4 hits and Saturday just 6 as the Cats scored 2 runs in each game.

In Sunday’s game though, NU hit the ball much better, stringing together 13 hits, all singles, 6 of which came in a 3-run first inning. For the rest of the game, however, the Cats couldn’t push a run across, scattering the other 7 hits among the last eight innings and not drawing a walk.

“We hit the ball hard and there were some spots where it just went right at them,” freshman second baseman Willie Bourbon said. “Some of their hits just found gaps, you know, and sometimes that happens. Sometimes we hit it right at them or sometimes we find holes too.”

Finding the holes wasn’t easy for NU, however, as Bourbon was the only Cat all weekend to get an extra-base hit — a double in Saturday’s 8-2 loss.

While the offense struggled to provide run support, the pitchers didn’t do much to help themselves out either. The Nittany Lions posted 19 runs on NU’s pitching staff combined between Saturday and Sunday — all earned.

The notable exception was Friday night, when senior Reed Mason went 7.1 innings in his longest outing of the season. Mason was charged with 3 runs on 8 hits and struck out four.

“Reed just commands his fastball,” associate head coach Josh Reynolds said Sunday. “He’s in control of the running game, just the whole baseball feel — he has that. … Nothing bothers him, they may get a hit and he’s like, ‘Whatever, I can pick the guy off or I can make a good pitch on the next one, get a ground-ball double play.’”

Additionally, Allen implemented a quirky lineup strategy Sunday in which Mason was originally listed to start at designated hitter. Mason has not batted in his collegiate career.

However, he was pinch-hit for in the first inning by senior Zach Jones as the Cats tried to continue their first-inning rally.

“Zach Jones, his knee was not feeling great so we just didn’t know at the time to turn in the lineup, we just didn’t know was he going to be able to go,” Allen said. “Really what it does is it just gives us an option if all of a sudden he’s going, ‘Ah, my knee’s not feeling good I can’t really run,’ we can throw whoever we want in there. (Mason’s) never going to hit for us though.”

NU will look to rebound against Chicago State on Tuesday. The Cats defeated the Cougars 11-5 on March 30.

Bourbon said NU just needs the ball to bounce its way to beat Chicago State again, something that didn’t really happen this weekend.

“We had 13 hits today, we had 10-plus hits, we’ve been hitting the ball pretty well, just sometimes it’s not coming our way,” Bourbon said.

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Twitter: @MaxGelman

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