Baseball: Wildcats shut out Notre Dame behind bullpenning strategy


(Daily file photo by Katie Pach)

Tommy Bordignon throws a pitch. The senior was one of seven Cats pitchers who combined to post a shutout in Wednesday’s win.

Peter Warren, Assistant Sports Editor


The last time Northwestern threw seven pitchers in a game was in a slugfest loss last April against Illinois.

On Wednesday, the Wildcats (9-17, 1-8 Big Ten) had seven different guys throw against Notre Dame, (14-19, 5-10 ACC) but the game was neither a high-scoring affair nor an NU loss.

Using a bullpenning-type strategy, the Cats pitchers shut out the opposing Fighting Irish as they won the game 2-0.

“It’s something we have done before in the past and it has actually worked out pretty well,” senior catcher Jack Claeys said. “I actually like catching games like that. It is pretty fun to catch all of the different guys.”

Six of the seven pitchers threw only one inning. The only pitcher who did not was sophomore Matt Gannon, who started the game and threw three innings. Combined, NU pitchers gave up only five hits and tallied 10 strikeouts. Not only did the pitchers throw what Claeys said was the best-pitched game of the season, they also came up big in key moments.

First, the Cats ran into some trouble in the fifth inning when Notre Dame had two runners on and one out. Freshman Anthony Alepra, pitching in the first game of his career, got the next two batters out to end the inning. He forced Jake Johnson to fly out and then closed the door on the rally by striking out No. 3 hitter Nick Podkul looking.

NU also got out of jam in the seventh. The Fighting Irish led off the inning with a Niko Kavadas walk and a Daniel Jung double to put runners on second and third. Senior Tommy Bordignon responded, however, by getting three straight groundouts — two back to him and one to junior Willie Bourbon at first — that held Kavadas at third base.

“The biggest moment of the game was when we had second and third, no outs and Tommy goes out and gets three straight outs,” sophomore left fielder Leo Kaplan said. “That is really huge. It really killed their offensive momentum.”

The Cats got on the board in the top of the first. Junior shortstop Jack Dunn singled to right field and then stole second. After sophomore second baseman Alex Erro advanced Dunn to third with a ground ball to the right side and Bourbon walked, Claeys roped a single to right field to give the Wildcats the lead.

In the next inning, NU scored another run in similar fashion. Kaplan led off the inning with a single and stole second on the next pitch. Senior designated hitter Connor Lind moved Kaplan to third with a ground ball and then freshman right fielder Casey O’Laughlin hit a sacrifice fly to double the visitors’ lead.

While the Cats were successful in bringing in runners early in the game, they struggled later. They stranded five combined runners in scoring position in the third, fourth and eighth innings.

“Casey O’Laughlin did a great job in that situation and Jack Claeys got a big hit for us to get our two RBIs,” coach Spencer Allen said. “But we need to be better in those spots.”

NU was very aggressive on the base paths, stealing six bases. Half of those stolen bases came from Kaplan, who stole second base twice and third base once.

In addition to their success swiping bases, the Cats were adroit at taking the extra base as well. Kaplan and Bourbon both took extra bases during the game, with Kaplan’s resulting in the second run.

“It shows that the guys are locked in and that’s good to see,” Allen said. “It was really good to see that they were continuing to play the game and take advantage of opportunities.”

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