Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Baseball: Northwestern falls to Tulane on opening weekend

Anna Watson/The Daily Northwestern
Northwestern baseball players high-five at Tulane.

NEW ORLEANS — Just days after New Orleans’s biggest party of the year, Northwestern traveled down to the Big Easy to kick off the city’s second-biggest party: college baseball season. After a promising Friday night opener, the visitors lost their final two games, dropping the series to Tulane. 

“We played really well on Friday night. We played a complete game,” coach Ben Greenspan said, “We pitched well, I thought we threw strikes but we competed in the strike zone … the story of Saturday and Sunday for me is just the free bases that we gave them with walks.”

In Greenspan’s first game at the Wildcats’ helm, NU got off to a hot start. 

After sophomore infielder Owen McElfatrick’s single — and a pitch that hit senior infielder Tony Livermore — sophomore infielder Trent Liolios singled down the left field line, allowing McElfatrick and Livermore to score first-inning runs. 

In the next inning, freshman outfielder Jackson Freeman doubled to left field on the 0-1 pitch. Senior infielder Vincent Bianchina then brought Freeman home with a single to left field. 

The ‘Cats remained dormant offensively until the eighth inning, when the Green Wave’s pitching troubles allowed NU to get on the board once more.

After Bianchina was walked, junior catcher Bennett Markinson scored to make it 4-0. A fielder’s choice on the next at bat and a Livermore fly out allowed two more runs to score. The team’s offensive onslaught continued into the top of the ninth inning, as graduate student outfielder Tyler Ganus’ double to right center field yielded three scoring runs.

Offense, however, was not the biggest story of Friday night. Strong pitching performances by senior left-handed pitcher Nolan Morr and freshman right-handed pitcher Garrett Shearer propelled the ‘Cats to victory in the first game. Morr pitched six innings of shutout baseball for the Wildcats, tallying five strikeouts and only allowing four hits. 

“He competed and he threw strikes in the zone with multiple pitches,” Greenspan said of Morr. “He was able to pitch in against them really well, which I think opened up his changeup. … I thought he made pressure pitches when he needed to, but I was really proud of the way he competed.” 

Following Morr’s impressive starting performance, Shearer continued to dominate, pitching three innings and maintaining the shutout. Shearer added another five strikeouts to NU’s total and allowed one hit. 

But after the best start the ‘Cats could ask for, they faced Tulane’s Chandler Welch on a gray and windy day in New Orleans. As soon as Welch started his day off on the mound, NU found trouble. 

The ‘Cats were shut out until the sixth inning — Welch’s first inning off of the mound — and only got their first hit in the fifth. Welch pitched five innings for the Green Wave and threw 10 strikeouts. 

“I think the cutter to the left handed hitters gave us (fits),” Greenspan said. “When he’s on, he’s really tough.” 

Even with Welch off the mound, NU scored just two runs to Tulane’s six, leaving the series’ spoils up for grabs in a winner-take-all Sunday showdown.

Both teams went into Sunday’s game hungry to start their seasons off strong with a series victory. Just as they did Friday, the ‘Cats jumped out to an early lead. 

Livermore and Markinson both hit singles to bring in runs in the first inning. Additionally, a Liolios ground out allowed Livermore to reach home. NU added to their lead in the top of the third inning thanks to a Markinson single to right field that brought McElfatrick home. 

NU’s starting pitcher, senior right-handed pitcher Luke Benneche, pitched a strong three innings, allowing three hits and two runs. However, things started to get shaky in the fourth inning, when Benneche hit Green Wave catcher Colin Tuft with a pitch, who went on to score. The ‘Cats then looked to freshman right-handed pitcher Cole Mascott on the mound, who only allowed one extra Tulane run to score. 

As NU appeared to slow down both offensively and defensively, Tulane started to speed up. This trend culminated in the bottom of the eighth inning, where the Green Wave scored seven runs, making the score 12-7 heading into the ninth inning.  

While pitching seemed to be NU’s saving grace Friday, it quickly became the squad’s downfall Sunday. Five of the runners that scored in the bottom of the eighth inning were either walked or hit by a pitch. One of the two who earned their way on base was Tulane infielder Connor Rasmussen, who hit a grand slam to right field. 

The ‘Cats tried to claw their way back in the top of the ninth inning, but it was ultimately not enough. 

Even though NU lost the series, here are three things to be optimistic about after the team’s New Orleans trip.

1. After Friday night, Northwestern seems to have an ace

Morr was a bright spot for Wildcat fans and coaches alike. Six innings of shutout baseball were not to be expected after a season where he posted a 12.81 ERA. 

Playing in the Cape Cod league this past summer, Morr took significant strides. His 1.50 ERA from summer ball seems to have given his coaches some confidence in the Friday night starter. 

Though this is only the first series of the year, Morr will be someone to look out for as the season progresses. 

2. The Wildcats have an offensive “spark plug” in left fielder Tyler Ganus

Ganus, who transferred from Oregon to NU this season, led off for the ‘Cats in all three games this weekend. 

He batted .455 this weekend, going 4-of-11 from the plate and drawing two walks. Greenspan said Ganus’ impressive performance was a demonstration of his immense talent. 

“Ganus was a spark plug all weekend for us at the top,” Greenspan said. “I think he was on base it felt like every other at bat….He exemplifies energy, toughness, competitiveness.” 

3. The Greenspan era gets off to a solid start

The ‘Cats were unable to take the series, but they did open the season with a victory. 

Though it’s a small step on a long journey, NU took 13 games just to nab one win last year. Additionally, this is the program’s first season opening win since 2016. 

Postgame, Greenspan emphasized the fact that this year’s team is different –– and the stats certainly prove that.

“I was pleased with the way we competed and played defense all weekend,” Greenspan said. “We need to cut our strikeouts down and we need to figure out some stuff on the mound but we’re in a position to win those games.”

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