Baseball: Wildcats pull off epic comeback to upset Michigan in Big Ten Tournament


Daily file photo by Kate Salvidio

Ben Dickey steps to the plate. The sophomore outfielder had a key hit in the Wildcats’ ninth inning comeback against Michigan on Wednesday.

Joseph Wilkinson, Reporter


Last year, the Wildcats won 15 games and never came close to the Big Ten Tournament, but this year they took down a 40-win, top-25 Michigan team in the first round of the postseason, making a statement heard throughout the conference.

Northwestern (25-28, 13-11 Big Ten) was down 4-3 headed into the ninth, and Michigan (42-14, 16-8) closer Jackson Lamb hadn’t allowed an earned run all year, but a series of clutch at-bats and mistakes by Lamb left the bases loaded with no outs.

From there, sophomore outfielder Ben Dickey singled in a run, senior outfielder Grant Peikert pushed another run home on a fielder’s choice and freshman infielder Alex Erro scored Dickey on another single in the eventual 6-4 win.

“We said we weren’t done, we were having too much fun,” junior infielder Connor Lind said on Big Ten Network postgame. “This is a huge win for us, and we’re going to stay hot.”

Lind got the Cats out to an early lead in the second with just his third career home run, a solo shot to right field as part of a 2-for-4 day for the junior. Erro was the other slugger on the day for NU, launching a two-run shot in the fifth to put the Cats up 3-1.

Michigan starter Ryan Nutof allowed only Lind’s home run his first time through the order, but the Cats had success the second time around, and his workload eventually forced the No. 16 Wolverines to go to the bullpen.

“We were just putting together quality at-bats and making him throw more,” Erro said. “We got a chance to see all of his pitches the first time through the lineup, so we got a chance to see what he was throwing in what counts and what he was throwing for strikes. That was the biggest thing we did today.”

After Michigan came back to score in the third and add on two more in the fifth, the Wolverines held a 4-3 lead, which they maintained through the eighth. Freshman reliever Sam Lawrence then kept Michigan in check at the plate.

Lawrence allowed only two hits and struck out three in his 3 innings. After he hit the first batter in the bottom of the ninth, senior pitcher Pete Hofman came in and recorded three consecutive outs to earn the save.

“We kept the game came close, and that’s one of the things we’ve struggled with in the past,” Allen said. “That game would get blown out, and we’d never even have a chance to come back, so that’s where I’m even more proud.”

The Cats will next face No. 3 seed Minnesota after the Golden Gophers took down Indiana 5-4 on Wednesday.

Minnesota will present a formidable test, as it boasts nine Big Ten Tournament titles and this year’s squad has a .294 team batting average, 40 points higher than NU’s. That average, however, is weighed down by a tough start to the year, and the Cats are brimming with confidence after winning six straight games and eight of their last 10.

“We want to come here and we want to make some noise,” Erro said. “We want to gain some respect for our program, and I think we’re doing that by showing top-notch teams that we’re not here to mess around.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @joe_f_wilkinson