Baseball: Price: Northwestern’s series loss to Iowa embodies disappointing 2023 season


Katie Chen/The Daily Northwestern

Freshman left-hander Sam Garewal looks in for the pitch call from his catcher. The southpaw has gradually inserted himself into the starting rotation and will become a key piece next season.

Lawrence Price, Sports Editor

After floating on cloud nine following Tuesday’s walk-off win at Wrigley Field, Northwestern crashed back down to earth this weekend.

Seeking to end the season on a high note, the Wildcats’ (10-40, 4-20) discouraging 15-3 loss to the Hawkeyes in game one was quickly overshadowed by a reassuring 6-4 victory in game two. However, the rubber match’s comical result of a 10-0 Iowa victory summed up the Cats’ treacherous season so far — expecting a successful season was a stretch.

Prior to this season, NU’s program changed its coach and lost most of its production and future talent to either the transfer portal or graduation, including multiple All-Big Ten honorees. The program was turning into the Big Ten’s version of a pit stop made during a road trip — a place freshman could use as a launching pad to more successful programs or a chance for graduate students to live out their dreams as Big Ten athletes.

Every program needs a foundation or form of consistency, and NU hasn’t built one in years.

A similar tale was told in 2021 when the Cats lost most of their key contributors to the MLB draft or graduation. That year was topped off by personnel change in which long-time coach Spencer Allen stepped down. NU hit the reset button that offseason, and it clearly had to be pressed again in 2022.

For every great program, it can take years and a village to see progress achieved. Although coach Jim Foster’s winning resume provides hope, as English playwright John Heywood once said, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

The only two positives from NU’s weekend series against Iowa was that the team broke its 16-game conference losing streak. Now that the season is over, coach Foster will have a chance to evaluate and put together his first recruiting class. Each of NU’s worst nightmares that have haunted them all season came true Friday and Sunday — a lack of success at the plate and on the mound.

Of course, the Cats’ lineup faced two of its toughest matchups on those two bad days, facing top arms in Marcus Morgan and Brody Brecht who both hold a top-six ERA in the conference. However, it doesn’t end with that duo, as the Hawkeyes are carried by a pitching staff with the lowest overall ERA in the Big Ten.

But NU can still be cut a little slack. Facing such a strong out-of-conference schedule to begin the season, the Wildcats needed time to mesh but never had a chance to do so, hence the 0-12 start to the campaign. By the back half of the conference schedule, when one would hope all the suffering would pay off, NU was met with top Big Ten teams miles ahead of the Cats.

Hopefully, this upcoming offseason won’t become a repeat of 2022. Also, don’t expect the Cats to climb up the Big Ten standings next season out of nowhere — it doesn’t work like that. If there’s one thing NU men’s basketball’s historic season proved, it’s that experience and development take time, and for this baseball program, we can write the same tale.

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