Baseball: Northwestern splits series against Penn State in 2021 season opener


Daily file photo by Brian Meng

Shawn Goosenberg takes a lead off first base. Northwestern took two games of its four-game series against Penn State this weekend.

Sophia Scanlan, Daily Senior Staffer


Northwestern could have had a better start to its abridged 2021 season, but it also could have had a worse one.

The Wildcats (2-2) split their opening series with the Nittany Lions (2-2) this weekend at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, taking two of four. Penn State prevailed on Friday, outscoring NU 6-3, but the Cats bounced back on Saturday, capturing both games of a doubleheader. The Nittany Lions won again on Sunday in a 13-10 slugfest.

Saturday’s morning game featured solid outings from redshirt junior pitcher Tyler Uberstine and sophomore pitcher Coby Moe, who kept Penn State off the board and propelled NU to a 2-0 victory. Shawn Goosenberg, who led the team with a .444 batting average last season, finally got on the board with his first hit of the season.

But things didn’t look as promising at the start of the second game on Saturday.

Junior pitcher Mike Doherty got into some trouble in the bottom of the first, allowing a double, a bunt-single and a walk to the first three batters he faced. Then, with the bases loaded, an umpire called a balk on him, so a run scored.

“I definitely could tell I didn’t have my best stuff in the first inning,” Doherty said, adding that if he were a younger player he might have been a bit more rattled, but he tried to forget about it and move on.

Doherty did settle down when he came back to the mound in the second inning, pitching four scoreless innings and striking out three.

The Cats offense ramped up as the game went on, and back-to-back hits in the seventh inning from redshirt junior center fielder David Dunn and freshman second baseman Vincent Bianchina gave NU the lead. The Cats ultimately finished on top, beating the Nittany Lions 5-2.

On Sunday, both Penn State and NU bats came alive with each team tallying 17 hits. The Nittany Lions got the win, but the lead kept shifting throughout the game. It started in the very first inning, as the Cats took an early lead, but that went away when Nittany Lions got a chance on offense.

Bianchina said that sometimes when this back-and-forth kind of game happens, the momentum can change a lot.

“When they would go ahead, we would stay confident and trust our lineup that we were going to come back,” he said. “But at the end of the game, that just didn’t happen.”

Bianchina had an impressive weekend overall in his college debut, picking up six hits and four RBIs.

Coach Spencer Allen said he was pleased with Bianchina’s performance over the weekend as well as that of several other new players, like freshman right fielder Ethan O’Donnell, who blasted a two-run home run in Sunday’s game.

“It’s not easy: first college at-bats, facing really good arms,” Allen said. “They were not overwhelmed and really competed well all weekend, so (I) was proud of them for sure.”

Moving into next weekend’s series against Michigan State, Bianchina said that NU has a few things it wants to improve.

In particular, he said the Cats want to fix some baserunning mistakes and defensive errors.

“Offensively, we’re going to continue trying to do damage earlier in the games,” Bianchina said. “It’s the first weekend. We all have a little bit of jitters, so we’ll make sure to clear that up and we’ll be ready for next weekend.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @sophia_scanlan

Related Stories:

Baseball: Northwestern releases 44-game schedule 11 days ahead of first game

Baseball: Wildcats reflect on playing in summer leagues during COVID-19

Baseball: NU looks ahead to 2021 after shortened season