Baseball: Wildcats snag 2 big conference wins at Purdue to move up in Big Ten standings


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Alex Erro takes a swing. The freshman infielder helped lead the Wildcats to a series win against Purdue this weekend.

Joseph Wilkinson, Reporter


Northwestern picked up two massive conference wins against Purdue in an entertaining back-and-forth series spotlighted by two intense games this weekend that came down to the wire.

The Wildcats (19-27, 8-10 Big Ten) are now tied for the eighth and final spot in the Big Ten Tournament, though Michigan State owns the tiebreaker after its series win over NU last month.

“We’ve got two big series left,” coach Spencer Allen said. “We have to control what we can control. We just have to go out and play. That’s the beauty of it, and I think these guys believe it, that anyone can beat anyone on any given day.”

The Cats put together one complete performance on the weekend, dominating Friday’s 7-2 victory. On Saturday, the visitors struggled with the bats, only scoring one run in 12 innings in a 2-1 loss. The teams followed up that low-scoring affair with a crazy rubber match on Sunday, which was an eventual 8-7 win.

Senior outfielder Joe Hoscheit led NU at the plate again, reaching base nine times in 14 plate appearances. Freshman infielder Alex Erro provided the power, however, launching a 3-run home run Sunday and leading the team in RBIs in the series.

The series got off to a rousing start for the Cats on Friday, as they powered home four runs in the top of the first to open the game with a bang. The Boilermakers got two runs back in the third, but NU struck again in the eighth to put the game out of reach.

Seniors Cooper Wetherbee and Pete Hofman combined to shut down the Purdue bats. Wetherbee threw 6 innings of three-hit ball while allowing only the two runs, and Hofman locked it down with three scoreless innings to secure the victory.

“That was probably one of our cleanest, one of our best games,” Allen said. “Cooper was really good and set the tone for us and we just went from there.”

The game of the series was Saturday’s pitchers duel, which ended in a 12th-inning walk-off double for the hosts.

Freshman starter Hank Christie threw eight innings and allowed only 1 unearned run and six hits. Fellow freshman Sam Lawrence came in on relief and fired three scoreless innings, but gave up the winning run in the 12th.

“The defense played really well behind me,” Christie said. “It’s definitely huge when you have the confidence to just throw strikes and trust the defense behind you and get the job done.”

Sunday’s game was a serious change of pace, as the lead changed hands six times and runs were scored in each of the first six innings. Erro’s 3-run homer gave the Cats an early edge, but that was only the beginning of the wild day.

The back end of the NU bullpen locked it down, however, pitching 4 scoreless innings to end the game as Hofman picked up his second save of the weekend.

“Pete was our MVP,” Allen said. “The toughest outs to get are the last ones. He did it with guys on base, and his ability to bounce back was really impressive. … I’d give him our MVP on the weekend.”

Twitter: @joe_f_wilkinson