Baseball: Northwestern suffers fourth straight Big Ten sweep but shows improvement


Daily file photo by Ziye Wang

Senior outfielder Luke Tanner gets up after diving back to first. Tanner picked up two hits over the weekend against Indiana.

Lawrence Price, Sports Editor

Northwestern’s Big Ten losing streak continues.

After falling to the conference’s then second-best record team in Michigan State last weekend, the Wildcats (8-34, 3-15 Big Ten) were unable to shake the season’s woes, dropping all three contests to the conference’s now second-best team Indiana (34-14, 12-6 Big Ten). The Cats haven’t won a Big Ten game in 12 outings.

However, unlike past battles, NU’s weekend strides were noteworthy. Here are some of the bright spots of the Cats’ play versus IU.

Graduate student right-hander Michael Farinelli pitches a gem in game one

After taking a series off against Michigan State last weekend, Farinelli showed promise in his light one inning of work against UIC on Tuesday, giving up zero hits and striking out one.

However, this optimism quickly drained out against Indiana in the Friday opener, as the right-hander allowed two singles and a three-run homerun to Carter Mathison in the first inning — all with two outs.

Farinelli quickly bounced back, though, silencing the Hoosiers lineup for the next six innings. The college veteran perfectly painted the corners of the strike zone, consistently creating ground ball opportunities for NU’s infielders and collecting five strikeouts. Farinelli was pulled in the eighth after giving up another RBI to Mathison, but after seven and two-thirds innings of work, Friday’s start was hands down his best effort of the season.

“It really starts with the pitching,” coach Jim Foster said. “The stuff is there, they just got to learn how to use it and work their way through the lineup.”

Although NU’s offense couldn’t back up what was arguably Cats’ best pitching performance of the year, Farinelli’s performance against a top conference lineup like Indiana speaks volumes. With two series left, the right-hander may only get two or three more chances on the mound to do damage, but on Friday he proved to be a positive light in a pitching unit with the Big Ten’s worst ERA.

Cats take the Hoosiers to extra-innings in game two

In a series between the team with the conference’s third-best record and the Big Ten’s worst record squad, the odds weren’t in NU’s favor.

Yet, halfway through Saturday’s contest, the Cats’ proved to be a hard rock to move, leading 2-0 until the eighth inning. Behind freshman left-hander Sam Garewal’s bounce back performance striking out seven, and allowing four hits and zero runs over six and one-third innings of work, graduate catcher Cooper Foard and senior outfielder Luke Tanner’s handed NU an early lead.

“You’re going to have to play hard to beat us because we’re not going to quit,” senior infielder/outfielder Stephen Hrustich said. “Just got to keep putting our best effort forward and hopefully things start to fall our way.”

Although junior right-hander Ben Grable’s extended outing proved costly and caused NU’s 5-2 loss, the Cats took the Hoosiers to 12 frames — the highest-inning contest for Indiana this season.

Offensive production shows up in game three

Before Sunday’s contest and during the last five games of NU’s Big Ten losing streak, the Cats crossed the plate just 10 times, including twice in the past two games.

However, the cream script jerseys may have been the spark the Cats needed to get the bats off their shoulders, as the team scored nine in the series’ Sunday matinee. NU’s run total in the series’ final matchup represented its highest in a conference game this season.

“They’re starting to have a plan at the plate, you know, they’re starting to hit the pitches that they want to hit,” coach Foster said. “They’re working hard and they care, you know, they want to get better, so that’s the main thing.”

The Hoosiers turned up the heat as well, putting 11 across the plate to beat NU 11-9. But, the Cats’ unexpected production suggests that the team is finally finding themselves, specifically against Big Ten foes.

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