Baseball: Wildcats swept by Purdue, eliminated from Big Ten Tournament contention


(Daily file photo by Alison Albelda)

Ben Dickey takes off for first base. Dickey recorded three hits in game one of this weekend’s series.

Peter Warren, Assistant Sports Editor


This weekend last year, Northwestern took two-of-three games from Purdue and vaulted itself into a tie for the eighth spot in the Big Ten standings.

Exactly 365 days later, the results and circumstances of a weekend series in West Lafayette, Indiana, were much different.

The Boilermakers (27-16, 13-4 Big Ten) swept the visiting Wildcats (14-28, 4-17), eliminating NU from Big Ten Tournament contention.

Coach Spencer Allen said his team lacked consistency throughout the series.

“We did not play well this weekend,” Allen said. “There were some glimpses, but (we) really got outplayed in all three phases of the game.”

Friday’s game was the only one to feature a Cats lead. NU first grabbed the advantage in the third inning, when senior catcher Jack Claeys hit a home run to put the Cats up 2-0. After then falling behind 5-2, NU put up a five-spot in the sixth inning, highlighted by a home run from freshman right fielder Casey O’Laughlin that catapulted the Cats to a 7-5 lead.

However, that lead would fall apart in the eighth inning as Purdue scored 3 runs on a single and sacrifice fly. Junior shortstop Jack Dunn, who has now reached base in 19 straight contests, was able to get into scoring position in the ninth, but NU could not capitalize and lost the game 8-7.

In Saturday’s game, Purdue jumped out to an early lead by scoring 5 runs in the third inning. The Cats were able to close the gap to 6-4 before the Boilermakers tacked on three runs in the seventh and eighth to put the game out of reach.

“They had really good at-bats with two outs,” junior center fielder Ben Dickey said. “They got the two-outs hits, and in those games, we did not get the two-outs hits. Sometimes it works out that way.”

For the first time since March 4, freshman left-hander Jack Pagliarini was not the Sunday starter for the Cats. Allen said Pagliarini was dealing with an injury and did not want his young pitcher throwing at less than 100 percent.

In place of Pagliarini, fellow freshman southpaw Ryan Bader was handed the ball to start the final game of the series. Bader was bounced in the second inning after giving up 7 runs.

“Ryan … gave us a shot,” Allen said. “I really would have liked to see his outing if we would have made the outs we needed to make.

Despite the lopsided score in game three, NU had chances to put runs on the board. The Cats loaded the bases in the first, fourth and seventh innings but could only get one runner to cross home plate.

Dickey and senior designated hitter Connor Lind both had good weekends at the plate after struggling with their bats for most of the season. Lind reached base five times, hit a home run and drove in 3 runs while Dickey collected four hits plus three walks and a hit-by-pitch.

“The start of the year wasn’t great for me, and the middle of the year, but I am starting to put good at-bats together,” Lind said. “Taking those good at-bats and moving forward with those is something that I have been trying to do.”

Sitting in 12th place in the conference, NU is only one game up on last-place Penn State. The most recent time the Cats finished in last place in the Big Ten was 2012.

Allen said it doesn’t matter how he feels about missing the Big Ten Tournament because it is the reality of the situation.

“We have to look at how to get this program back on and it obviously starts with me,” Allen said. “Each game, each series, each weekend allows you to evaluate (where) you are at with your program and obviously we need to make some adjustments.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @thepeterwarren