Baseball: Northwestern putting pieces together after slow start, wins 10 of last 12 contests


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Northwestern players and coaches huddle in the outfield. The Cats have crossed the plate 13 times in each of their last 2 contests.

Lawrence Price, Assistant Audio Editor


Through its first three series of the season, Northwestern was on a downward spiral.

The Cats came out on top in only two of those 12 contests, starting off the 2022 campaign on a five game losing streak. This included bottom of the barrel conference rankings in both batting average and earned run average.

However, NU (12-12, 2-1 Big Ten) has found its footing since, beginning with a two-game series sweep during its first home field matchup against Saint Thomas. The Cats kept their foot on the gas from then on — winning their first Big Ten series of the year against Indiana this weekend and defeating UIC (7-15, 1-2 MVC) on Tuesday 13-3. Since their 11-run loss to Cincinnati, NU has won 10 of its last 12 games.

“When you win games like that, like how we’ve been playing, it’s all three phases are playing right,” coach Josh Reynolds said. “Team effort played good defense, offensive lineup just carried us and kept scoring runs and pitching did what they needed to do to give us a chance to finish those games off.”

Over the last 12 contests, the Cats have caught fire in the batter’s box, scoring at least eight runs in nine of the games — still winning two of the three matchups when crossing the plate less than eight times. Currently, NU holds the fifth best batting average in the Big Ten.

After being named Big Ten Player of the Week for his performances against SIU and Butler [cq] on March 25 through 27, sophomore center fielder Ethan O’Donnell continued his offensive reign with nine hits over the weekend against Indiana. Even with his hot streak, O’Donnell said he credits the team’s success to the bottom of the lineup’s consistent production, especially to graduate transfer catcher JC Santini.

“I personally had a lot of success and I got to give a lot of the credit towards him,” O’Donnell said. “He’s at the bottom of the lineup, working good, long at-bats, getting on base, giving me a chance.”

Santini ripped a grand slam, his second home run of the season in Sunday’s contest versus Indiana to put NU up 4-0 in the second inning. By the end of the weekend, the catcher picked up four walks as well.

The offensive dominance didn’t just bring confidence to the batters. Even though the Cats flex the ninth best ERA in the conference, their ability to score a large number of runs consistently gives the bullpen a relief.

With this cushion, on top of NU’s dominant arms like freshman standout Sean Sullivan (2.19 ERA) and graduate transfer Michael Farinelli (3.54 ERA), the Wildcats have been a tough team to out.

“Pitching has done their part on the inside as well,” Reynolds said. “It may not be seven innings worth, but two or three here, an inning, it all matters.”

Welcoming Penn State with their second Big Ten series of the season next weekend, the Cats have put their slow start behind them and kept their eyes on the prize.

“Not the start that we wanted or expected to get out to,, we kind of play with a sense of urgency, not panicking, but shifting the mindset from wanting to win to expecting to win,” O’Donnell said. “It’s an exciting thing to see, as more and more guys are starting to buy into it.

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