The Daily Northwestern

Baseball: Wildcats follow impressive victory with short pitching starts, long innings

+Ben+Dickey+steps+to+the+plate.+The+junior+outfielder+and+the+Wildcats+turned+in+a+typically+inconsistent+weekend+against+No.+23+Texas.
 Ben Dickey steps to the plate. The junior outfielder and the Wildcats turned in a typically inconsistent weekend against No. 23 Texas.

Ben Dickey steps to the plate. The junior outfielder and the Wildcats turned in a typically inconsistent weekend against No. 23 Texas.

Daily file photo by Kate Salvidio

Daily file photo by Kate Salvidio

Ben Dickey steps to the plate. The junior outfielder and the Wildcats turned in a typically inconsistent weekend against No. 23 Texas.

Alan Perez, Assistant Campus Editor

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Baseball


Northwestern lacked consistency this weekend after a strong start deteriorated into blowout losses Saturday and Sunday, once again demonstrating the need for decent pitching from the team’s starters.

The Wildcats (3-7) dropped three of four games to No. 23 Texas (8-4), but freshman pitcher Quinn Lavelle clocked in yet another win with a strong Friday performance in the series opener. Lavelle allowed only one earned run during a 4.1-inning outing to lead NU to a 6-2 win.

Lavelle’s ability to control his off-speed pitches, coach Spencer Allen said, explains the win and his 3.21 ERA in 14 innings this season.

“He’s really given us three quality starts,” Allen said. “Quinn had the ability to command more than one pitch for a strike – that was the key. He had the ability to mix. (With) any good hitting team, if you don’t have the ability to mix, you’re going to be in trouble.”

Freshman outfielder David Dunn backed Lavelle’s defense by hitting a perfect 4-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored. Dunn’s second-inning single set up an early lead, and his run in the fifth gave the Cats insurance.

Junior infielder Jack Dunn crushed a home run to the Cats’ bullpen to follow in the sixth. His approach, he said, wasn’t any different than other at bats.

“I’m trying to drive the ball right back to the pitcher,” Dunn said. “If it happens, it happens, but my approach is never to hit home runs, just try to hit the ball hard and do some damage.”

Friday’s win would be the only one in the series, leaving the Cats scrambling for a chance despite a lack of strong pitching.

The Longhorns gained early leads in both games of Saturday’s doubleheader, defeating the Cats 10-7 and 16-3 respectively. Though NU competed offensively during game one, a poor start by freshman pitcher Ryan Bader and a lack of early runs hurt the Cats.

The same obstacles plagued the Cats on Sunday as short performances failed to contain the Longhorns’ bats. And though the elder Dunn reached base five times over the weekend, his walk resulted in NU’s only run in Sunday’s 12-1 loss.

The series wasn’t completely devastating, however, as No. 23 Texas was one of NU’s toughest challenges this season. Friday’s impressive outing showed that the Cats could compete with a team that is historically one of the nation’s best.

If the Cats are able to generate quality starts and confident, productive at bats, then Northwestern may once again have another chance at a deep run in the Big Ten Tournament.

Addressing short performances and long innings are key to solidifying NU’s performance, as even Lavelle lasted only 4.1 innings on Friday. Moving forward, Northwestern will hope for strong, consistent starts from its pitchers, Allen said.

“We have some guys at the back end that we feel good about,” Allen said. “But we just have to find some starters that can get us deeper into the game.”

Email: aperez@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @_perezalan_

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