Baseball: Northwestern drops three of four but holds off No. 25 Michigan in finale


Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

Junior catcher Michael Trautwein readies on the basepath. The Cats’ offense kept up its power stroke over the weekend, but won just one of four contests.

John Riker, Senior Staffer


With Northwestern up 4-1 in the top of the ninth against No. 25 Michigan on Sunday, graduate closer Sam Lawrence allowed the inning’s first three batters to reach base, threatening what had become a comfortable lead.

Coach Spencer Allen elected to keep Lawrence in, and the lefty delivered. Lawrence induced a pair of fly outs and picked up a strikeout to seal the win.

“The 25th, 26th and 27th outs are the toughest and (Lawrence is) our guy,” Allen said. “Ever since his freshman year he’s been in those situations, so he stays composed and continues to make those pitches.” 

Competing against the Wolverines (13-5) and Maryland (8-10) in a pair of two-game series in College Park, the Wildcats (10-8) took on two of its most difficult tests of the season. NU suffered its first series loss, but maintained its winning record. 

NU upsetting Michigan — the Big Ten’s top ranked team —  on Sunday provided some consolation in a weekend that saw the Cats drop three straight and surrendering leads in each of those contests, Allen said.

“We actually played pretty good baseball and we were pretty consistent,” Allen said. “We were probably just a play or two away or a hit or two away from really having a good weekend.”

The Cats’ offense, which entered the weekend leading in the Big Ten in home runs and batting average, broke open immediately on Friday against the Terrapins. NU loaded the bases in the first inning and scored off a walk and an error. 

Reigning Big Ten Player of the Week junior shortstop Shawn Goosenberg tacked onto the lead in the second inning, blasting a solo shot to extend the Cats’ lead to 3-0.  

“We have a lot of confident hitters at the plate,” Goosenberg said. “When you see other guys having success in the lineup, it gives (us) even more confidence because we all hit with each other every day.”

NU managed just three hits over the rest of the game, and Maryland’s runs in the fourth, seventh and eighth innings allowed the Terrapins to edge the Cats 4-3. 

Both games in Saturday’s doubleheader followed similar scripts, though rallies by Maryland and the Wolverines turned into blowouts against the Cats. 

In Saturday’s game against Maryland, the Cats hit three home runs to take a lead in the sixth, but then allowed the Terrapins to score five runs across their last three frames to win 8-4. A pair of sixth inning home runs by freshman outfielder Ethan O’Donnell and junior first baseman Anthony Calarco in the next matchup gave NU a 2-1 advantage over Michigan, only for the Wolverines to mash a go-ahead three-run home run in the seventh for a 5-2 victory.

“There was no panic out of us,” Goosenberg said. “We think we’ve got a good bullpen that can get outs for us. The first couple of games, we just didn’t make those winning plays at the end.”

Senior pitcher Quinn Lavelle controlled the weekend’s finale against the Wolverines, allowing just one run in his fourth win of the season. NU’s offense gave Lavelle a cushion early with three runs through the first four innings before Lawrence finished off the Wolverines to earn the save.

NU will return from the east coast to host Rutgers from April 9 through 11. The series will mark the first time the Cats play in Rocky and Berenice Miller Park since May 18, 2019.

“The thing the guys have seen is that the margin for error is pretty small,” Allen said. “Every team that we play is going to have a good pitcher on Friday night and some pretty good closers. We have to make winning plays when they present themselves.”

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Twitter: @john__riker

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