Baseball: Northwestern secures first conference wins in Iowa series

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Baseball: Northwestern secures first conference wins in Iowa series

Alex Erro takes a swing. The freshman infielder had the go-ahead hit for the Wildcats in Sunday’s series-winning victory against Iowa.

Alex Erro takes a swing. The freshman infielder had the go-ahead hit for the Wildcats in Sunday’s series-winning victory against Iowa.

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Alex Erro takes a swing. The freshman infielder had the go-ahead hit for the Wildcats in Sunday’s series-winning victory against Iowa.

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Alex Erro takes a swing. The freshman infielder had the go-ahead hit for the Wildcats in Sunday’s series-winning victory against Iowa.

Talia Hendel, Reporter

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Northwestern’s series against Iowa didn’t get off to an auspicious start.

The Wildcats (10-20, 2-4 Big Ten) responded, however, putting Friday’s staggering 14-2 loss behind them to win the next two games and take the series against the Hawkeyes (19-11, 3-3 Big Ten).

Winning in this fashion strikingly resembled NU’s series against Air Force last weekend, in which the Cats pulled out a pair of wins to take the series despite falling 11-3 in the initial contest.

NU has struggled to find consistency within each individual series. However, the Cats say there is one common thread: a battle to the end.

“Just keep grinding,” freshman outfielder Leo Kaplan said of the team’s mentality. “We’ve worked hard all year … and we always say ‘deserve to win’ so we’re just trying to work hard enough to deserve to win.”

After falling behind 2-0 early in Saturday’s game, the Cats found their offensive groove, scoring five runs in the third inning and never relinquishing the lead to grab a 7-5 win and rebound from their series opener.

Despite the deep hole early in the series, Kaplan said his team was undeterred.

“The big losses … are obviously something you want to avoid, but they really lit a fire under us for the next two games and made us come out motivated to go win,” Kaplan said.

The Cats brought the momentum from Saturday’s win into the final game of the series, clawing back from behind once again and pulling out a 6-5 win. NU silenced the Hawkeyes’ offense entirely over the last 5 innings, largely due to an impressive performance by senior pitcher Pete Hofman.

Hofman, who entered the game in the seventh inning, faced 12 batters and only allowed two hits, neither of which translated into runs.

“From a pitching standpoint, I think we walked 12 the first game, and we really limited those free bases these past two games, so I think that made all the difference,” Hofman said.

As crucial as Hofman’s maintenance of the Cats’ lead was, it wouldn’t have made a difference without the offensive comeback. That began with four runs in the fourth inning, sparked by Kaplan’s 2-run double down the left field line.

The freshman went 2-for-4 with two hits and a pair of runs batted in.

“I feel like I have to take every at bat the same way. I just go up there, see the ball and hit the ball,” Kaplan said. “I can’t think of how big the situation is or what it means if I do this or if I do that. Just go up there, see the ball as long as I can and put a good swing on it.”

No matter the bumpy path, NU secured the game and series wins. Not only did they come against a solid opponent, but also they were the first Big Ten victories of the Cats’ season.

“It’s huge … We’ve been close; we just haven’t been able to get over the hump, and I think today we got over the hump,” coach Spencer Allen said. “We still have to go out and play good baseball, but there’s no doubt that it’s going to give us some confidence.”

Email: taliahendel2020@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @taliahendel

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