Baseball: Northwestern snaps five-game losing streak, secures second win of the season beating NIU 15-11


Daily file photo by Mika Ellison

Junior right-hander David Utagawa raises his leg to come to the plate. The junior pitched two innings in the winning contest Tuesday.

Lawrence Price, Sports Editor

Northwestern’s dumpster fire of a season has finally found some water to lessen the blaze.

The Cats (2-17, 0-0 Big Ten) were able to snap a five-game losing streak Tuesday, beating Northern Illinois (5-18, 2-7 MAC) in an offensive duel 15-11 and securing new coach Jim Foster his second win.

NU’s afternoon contest began early for the offense. Sophomore catcher Alex Calarco was the first to put the Cats on the board, fending off an inside pitch and sending a hard hit ground ball between NIU’s shortstop and third baseman, driving in graduate right fielder Griffin Arnone.

But, NU wasn’t done smashing just yet. With two home runs over the Rocky and Berenice Miller Park left field wall, a double and single, the Cats batted around during its second trip to the plate. By the time of the third out, the score was 8-0 NU — NU’s biggest lead in a game this season.

Though the bottom second was arguably the Cats’ best brand of hitting in one inning all season, the top third turned out to be one of the best for NIU as well.

Following a double and perfectly placed bunt back-to-back, the Huskies crossed the plate for the first time in the contest, making the score 8-1. Four batters later, NIU found another hole in the Cats’ defense with a single to right field and scored another run. By that point, the Huskies found its momentum with five out of six hitters getting on base and only one out.

As a result, NU pulled starter junior right hander Ben Grable to allow right-handed senior Jack Sauser a chance to get them out of a jam. However, the move quickly turned matters worse, as Sauser’s first opponent NIU’s Colin Summerhill won the matchup, mashing a grand slam over the left field wall and cutting the Cats’ lead to two.

The pop of both teams’ bats simmered as the game continued similarly to the first three innings — NU scored two runs between the fourth and seventh, while the Huskies crossed the plate once each inning. Entering the last two chances at the plate for both teams, the contest was knotted up at 10.

NIU continued its scoring streak into the top of the eighth by a sliver, as junior shortstop Tony Livermore’s throw to sophomore first baseman Bennett Markinson was off target. The run gave NIU its first lead of the contest, putting the Cats on the verge of its six straight loss.

Then, NU’s bats came back alive, with help from NIU’s pitchers, of course. Calarco and first-year third baseman Trent Liolios’ back-to-back singles, followed by a Markinson walk, set the Cats up for the best possible outcome — bases loaded with zero outs.

From there, it wasn’t the next swing that gave NU the lead, it was wild pitches. NIU pitcher Nick Bonk’s inability to find the strike zone resulted in three straight wild pitches, and two runs for the Cats.

The Huskies took the ball from Bonk after Liolios scored, leading to his exit, and the entrance of right hander Caleb Pittman. NU’s bats continued to connect with the ball, though, behind senior outfielder Luke Tanner’s third double of the day and an Arnone second single.

By the time the damage was done, NU sat comfortably with a four run lead at 15-11, leading to senior right-hander Coby Moe coming in to close the door. After the first two runners got on base, Moe found his groove and shut down the next three batters, picking up his first save of the season.

The Cats hope to continue and contain the positive ahead of its first Big Ten series of the season versus Purdue.

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