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Baseball: Incredible run continues with win over Minnesota, Wildcats into tournament semifinals

Joe+Hoscheit+readies+to+swing.+The+senior+outfielder+helped+lead+the+Wildcats+to+another+surprising+win+in+the+Big+Ten+Tournament+on+Friday.
Joe Hoscheit readies to swing. The senior outfielder helped lead the Wildcats to another surprising win in the Big Ten Tournament on Friday.

Joe Hoscheit readies to swing. The senior outfielder helped lead the Wildcats to another surprising win in the Big Ten Tournament on Friday.

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Joe Hoscheit readies to swing. The senior outfielder helped lead the Wildcats to another surprising win in the Big Ten Tournament on Friday.

Joseph Wilkinson, Reporter

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The most surprising turnaround on campus continued Friday, as the Wildcats took down Minnesota 11-7 for their second win in the Big Ten Tournament.

Northwestern’s first season with two postseason wins since 2002 comes one year after it went 15-39. Not only did the Cats set the program record for losses that year, the team also lost its first seven games of this season and sat at 6-18 at one point. Now, NU (26-28, 13-11 Big Ten) has won seven straight games, with four of them coming against three of the top four teams in the conference.

“We’ve been playing like this the past couple weeks of the season, and it’s tough considering our season last year,” senior outfielder Joe Hoscheit said. “But we’re just having so much fun, and trying to stay in the moment, pitch-by-pitch, inning-by-inning, and I think that’s really helped us.”

The most recent game was the highest scoring overall, and the fireworks started early when Micah Coffey put the Golden Gophers (34-20, 15-8) up 2-0 in the top of the first with a 2-run home run.

Immediately, the Cats responded in the bottom half of the inning. Junior infielder Connor Lind cleared the bases with a 3-run double to put the Cats back in front.

“I just knew I had to step up there, see a pitch up and do something with it,” Lind said. “Luckily it fell, and we scored three runs. I think that was huge for us moving forward in that game.”

NU scored two more in the next two innings to go up 5-2, and, with freshman starter Hank Christie settling down after allowing the home run, the Cats looked to have a rather simple path to victory.

Minnesota had other ideas, however, as Toby Hanson launched a solo shot to right field in the fourth. The Golden Gophers continued the rally with three more runs as Christie, junior reliever Rich Fordon and senior reliever Pete Hofman struggled but eventually limited the Minnesota lead to one.

Last year’s team might have rolled over, but this year’s squad once again demonstrated its newfound resiliency as junior catcher Jack Claeys led off the bottom of the inning with a double and scored on a squeeze bunt from senior outfielder Grant Peikert.

A ground ball from freshman catcher Nick Paciorek hit second base on its way up the middle, allowing Peikert to score from second on an infield single, putting the Cats up 7-6 and giving Paciorek a 2-for-2 day after he entered the game hitting only .132.

“I’m really proud of (the) guys handling the moment,” Allen said. “They just did a great job when Minnesota came back. I’m just so proud of these guys right here.”

It was far from over, however, as the Golden Gophers responded with a homer in the top of the seventh inning to tie the game at 7. But that would be the last time the higher seed got on the scoreboard.

Undeterred, the underdogs came back with 3 more runs in the bottom of the inning, with Claeys, Lind and Peikert coming through with crucial RBIs. When Hoscheit went yard in the eighth to put NU up 11-7, it was the cherry on top of a spectacular day.

“We’re just having so much fun,” Hoscheit told Big Ten Network after the game. “We’re hot right now. Things are going our way right now when they haven’t in the past, and it’s good to see that our hard work is finally paying off.”

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Twitter: @joe_f_wilkinson

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