Baseball: Northwestern splits back-to-back midweek games

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Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Alex Erro takes off for first base. The sophomore second baseman tallied seven hits in two games this week.

Ryan Wangman, Copy Chief


Baseball


Over the past few days, the weather in Evanston and Northwestern baseball have had something in common: a string of bright performances broken up emphatically with a boom. On Wednesday, the Wildcats’ five-game winning streak was washed away in a downpour of Western Michigan scoring.

In the second of NU’s two back-to-back midweek games, the Cats (14-25, 4-14 Big Ten) put up their second best offensive outing of the season as they plated 15 runs, but they astoundingly lost by a double-digit margin to the Broncos (19-19, 8-8 MAC). Outfielder Nate Grys led the 26-15 drubbing for Western Michigan, hitting a pair of dingers to go along with 7 RBIs on the afternoon.

The 41-run slugfest is only two points fewer than the combined 43 the schools scored when they faced each other in football in 2016. Four separate NU pitchers gave up at least 6 runs. The Broncos scored 15 runs in the fourth inning alone.

The Cats employed a bullpenning strategy in both of their midweek games, with 10 different pitchers on the mound over two days, which coach Spencer Allen said was a challenge because the rotation was a little thinner. He said having to stretch out pitchers into five games over the course of a week is tough.

“There were some good spots,” Allen said. “But any time you have a crazy inning like (the fourth), it’s just going to kind of blow things out of proportion a little bit. But you gotta learn from it and move on.”

But before the Cats traveled to Kalamazoo, they took care of business at home Tuesday with an inspired dose of revenge against Chicago State, who shocked the team with a walk-off victory earlier in the season. NU trailed by 4 runs in the fourth inning but later stormed back to win 9-7 with a late-game rally that has seemingly become a team signature as of late.

Sophomore outfielder Leo Kaplan was a major catalyst in that comeback, tying the game with a 3-run blast in the bottom of the seventh. Kaplan said his home run and Charlie Maxwell’s go-ahead single in the eighth inning were the big hits the team has missed in a lot of games this season.

“To be honest, I don’t really remember much of it,” Kaplan said. “When you hit a home run you just kind of hit the ball and then black out. I’m not actually even sure what the count was or what pitch it was.”

The Cats have undergone an offensive facelift over their past five outings, averaging 9 runs per game in that span. Junior shortstop Jack Dunn has an active hitting streak of 12 games, and sophomore second baseman Alex Erro had seven hits over the past two contests, tacking on 4 RBI and 3 runs scored.

Erro said the locker room is full of players who love to compete and who won’t “throw at-bats” away, so when faced with situations where the team is down, they try to score 1 run at a time to get back in the game. With that mentality, the Miami native said the team can soon load the bases, spark a rally and be right back in the game.

“That’s sort of the theme of college baseball,” Erro said. “I don’t really think anyone’s ever out of a game until you officially give up yourselves, and we’re definitely not a team to do that.”

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