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Baseball: Northwestern’s miracle run ends in blowout loss in Big Ten Championship

Caption%3A+Senior+pitcher+Cooper+Wetherbee+throws+a+pitch.+Wetherbee+struck+out+nine+batters+in+6.2+innings+of+NU%27s+Sunday+win+over+Maryland%2C+but+watched+his+college+career+end+in+the+Cats%27+loss+to+Iowa+later+in+the+day.
Caption: Senior pitcher Cooper Wetherbee throws a pitch. Wetherbee struck out nine batters in 6.2 innings of NU's Sunday win over Maryland, but watched his college career end in the Cats' loss to Iowa later in the day.

Caption: Senior pitcher Cooper Wetherbee throws a pitch. Wetherbee struck out nine batters in 6.2 innings of NU's Sunday win over Maryland, but watched his college career end in the Cats' loss to Iowa later in the day.

Daily file photo by Kate Salvidio

Daily file photo by Kate Salvidio

Caption: Senior pitcher Cooper Wetherbee throws a pitch. Wetherbee struck out nine batters in 6.2 innings of NU's Sunday win over Maryland, but watched his college career end in the Cats' loss to Iowa later in the day.

Joseph Wilkinson, Reporter

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A team that no one expected to do anything, a team that lost almost 40 games a season ago, a team that started the season 0-7, played for a Big Ten Championship on Sunday.

Northwestern (27-30, 13-11) came up short, losing 13-4 to Iowa to end its season in the Big Ten Tournament finale. Coach Spencer Allen, though, was anything but disappointed in the result.

“I just told the guys I’m so proud of them,” Allen said. “I don’t want to say they overachieved, because that would be cutting them short, but they reached their potential.”

The Wildcats began the day on a much higher note, taking down Maryland 6-5 to reach the championship game. Saturday, the Terrapins had topped NU 9-5 to force Sunday’s game, but senior Cooper Wetherbee shut down the Terrapins’ bats on the day, and the Cats hung on to win.

In his 2016 junior season, Wetherbee put up a ghastly 8.89 ERA in over 20 innings of work. This year, he was carving up a Maryland lineup that hit .277 on the year with 59 home runs. The Terrapins got only two runs of the senior in his 6.2 innings, as he struck out a career-high nine batters and tossed an immaculate fifth inning.

“Last year we had a bad season, and we take some small things from each of those failures,” Wetherbee said. “This year, we had an attitude of no moral victories in baseball. You go for it, you lay it all out on the field, and you see how it comes out.”

In their last day with NU, seniors Joe Hoscheit and Matt Hopfner combined to go 5-for-10 across the two games. Hoscheit joined junior Connor Lind, freshman Sam Lawrence and Wetherbee on the all-tournament team.

Against Maryland on Sunday, Hopfner went 3-for-4 while scoring a run and coming through with the game-winning RBI. He ended his career third in school history in hits with 240, passing two-time MLB all-star Mark Loretta on Sunday by picking up four hits.

“Obviously there’s some good names on that list, so I’m pretty proud of what I accomplished here in four years,” Hopfner said. “But I like to think it’s more of a testament to being healthy for four years. I think there’s a lot of guys, some of my closest friends, that could be right up there, but didn’t have the opportunity.”

After defeating Maryland, the Cats had a shot at the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1957, but it was not to be against the powerful Hawkeyes offense.

Iowa put up five runs in the bottom of the first and didn’t look back, eventually finishing with 13 runs on 14 hits, including two bombs from Big Ten Player of the Year Jake Adams.

While NU came up short in its ambitious tournament push, the season was unquestionably a success for the Cats. The underdogs defeated three of the top four teams in the conference in Michigan, Minnesota and Maryland while bouncing back from a 6-18 record in early April to finish with 27 wins, the most for the program since 2000.

“(Hopfner) and I are just really proud as seniors,” Wetherbee said, “not just to have sent this program to a new level in terms of expectations and where it’s going in the future, but to have also have had some tangible success that goes along with that.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @joe_f_wilkinson

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