Baseball: Late-game heroics carry Northwestern to two walk-off victories in consecutive days


Mika Ellison/The Daily Northwestern

A batter prepares to swing against Roosevelt. Northwestern defeated Roosevelt Tuesday and took the series over Penn State over the weekend.

Lucas Kim, Assistant Sports Editor


When junior Stephen Hrustich entered the game as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the fourth inning, Northwestern was trailing Penn State 2-1 in the final game of its three-game series on Saturday.

He had a chance to take the lead with runners in scoring position but was unable to capitalize, instead coming up with a fly out to left field.

That changed in the ninth inning. With the score even at 2-2 and runners on first and second with two outs, Penn State’s C.J. Pittaro hit a liner to left field, prompting left fielder Hrustich to swiftly gather and hurl the ball home to catch the runner from second. Out.

An inning later, following a diving play and groundout by shortstop Tony Livermore, the Nittany Lions found themselves in another winning position with runners on second and third.

This time, right fielder Andrew Pinkston stepped up for the Cats, catching a fly ball and heaving it to home plate where the runner from third was approaching home plate. Out.

This left Hrustich, who was 0-3 on the day, at the plate in the bottom of the tenth with two runners on base yet again.

But this time, the Lilburn, Ga. native used all of his 6-foot-1, 230-pound frame to hit the ball toward the left field fence of Miller Park. Out. Of the park.

There was a 20 mile an hour wind coming in from left field, Hrustich said, and Coach Dusty Napoleon told him to focus on putting a ball on the ground near the middle of the field.

“First pitch, I saw it up and tried to just stay on top of it and not get right under it,” Hrustich said. “I ended up catching it out front enough to where I hit it pretty well and it got out of the field.”

Hrustich’s homer lifted NU to a 5-2 win, marking its second straight Big Ten series win –– winning two out of three games against Penn State –– and second straight day with a walk-off victory.

Just a day earlier, the Cats found themselves in a similar situation during the first leg of its doubleheader against the Nittany Lions.

Sophomore Jay Beshears stepped up to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. With runners at the corner and a victory in sight, Beshears snuck a grounder past third and short to score Ethan O’Donnell and win it for NU 5-4.

Senior Anthony Calarco led the Cats with three runs batted in, including a game-tying, two-run home run in the third inning and another game-tying RBI double in the seventh. Right-hander Coby Moe held it down for NU with eight strikeouts in four scoreless innings of relief.

With a 4-1 loss sandwiched between both walk-off victories, the Cats currently have a 15-13 record (4-2 Big Ten), following a 14-4 victory against Roosevelt Tuesday.

NU showed off offensively against the non-conference Lakers, with seven different players logging RBIs in the win. The victory came in only seven innings as the game ended due to the ten-run rule, which causes a game to end once a team is ahead by at least 10 runs after seven innings.

After starting the season 2-10, the Cats have now won 13 out of their last 16 games and are tied for third in the Big Ten standings.

“One thing we said from the beginning of the year was, ‘Why not us?’ We haven’t had the success in the past like we wanted, but it’s a new year, we have new coaches,” said Hrustich. “We have the talent, we have the coaching to finish out the year really strongly and make a run at the Big Ten tournament and shock some people. So, why not us?”

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