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The Daily Northwestern

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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 capitalizes on mid-game scoring opportunities

Shun Graves/The Daily Northwestern
Sophomore infielder Trent Liolios walks against Illinois State Tuesday.

In its early season stretch, Northwestern has developed a pattern of strong starts and finishes — but mid-game offensive lulls have undermined its overall success. 

In their opening series against Tulane and No. 12 Duke, the Wildcats scored 31 total runs — 28 of which were tallied in the first two or last two innings. 

The team has gone scoreless between the third and seventh innings on four occasions thus far, and failed to produce more than two runs during intermediate stretches of its first six games. 

During a last-minute Tuesday matchup against in-state opponent Illinois State, NU finally witnessed a change in its mid-game misfortune. 

For the fifth time this season, the ‘Cats established an early lead, scoring one run in the second inning off an RBI single by senior infielder Tony Livermore.

After three consecutive scoreless innings for both teams, sophomore pitcher Amar Tsengeg gave up a solo homerun to tie the game at one apiece. 

In their previous six games, the trend has been clear for the ‘Cats: Bats cooling off while their opponents capitalize on a lack of momentum.

But after junior catcher Bennett Markinson went yard on the first pitch to lead off the bottom of the sixth, it signaled a shift away from another scoring slump for NU.

Following the homer, coach Ben Greenspan’s squad was selective at the plate and seized small opportunities to put runners in scoring position.

Freshman outfielder Jackson Freeman, junior outfielder Drewbie Pinkston and Livermore all worked walks on disciplined at bats to load the bases, paving the way for three more NU runs to cross the plate.

Freshman outfielder Griffin Arnone singled to right field, allowing Freeman to score and leaving the bases loaded with just one out. 

Junior utility player Preston Knott stepped in to pinch hit for graduate student outfielder Tyler Ganus, a seasoned slugger with one of the team’s highest batting averages. Knott had just one hit in four at bats before today’s appearance.

While the ‘Cats couldn’t string hits together for more runs, they capitalized on visiting defensive mistakes to increase their lead.

Knott singled to first base on a hard-hit ball that was mishandled, allowing all of NU’s runners to safely advance. 

With the bases still loaded, Livermore scored on a passed ball to give NU its final run of a productive sixth inning. 

Although Markinson’s homer fueled the NU rally — and just one other clean hit kept it alive — the team’s quick reaction following the Redbirds’ tying run in the top of the inning showcased their ability to thrive under pressure.

“There are a lot of highs and lows in-season, especially early. I think we just kind of stayed with the belief that we know how good we are as an offense and what we’re able to do,” said Markinson. 

In addition to mid-game offensive improvements, strong defensive and pitching displays bolstered NU’s ability to maintain its lead. 

The Redbirds failed to advance any runners that reached base, despite tallying nine hits in the game.

Before Tuesday’s contest, the ‘Cats had allowed 27 runs between third and seventh innings, only scoring three themselves. This game marked the first time this season they outscored their opponents during that stretch.

NU’s potential for success in its rebuild year will hinge on offensive consistency across all nine innings. 

The team will look to carry momentum from Tuesday’s improvements into the weekend as they head to Daytona Beach for a series against Bethune-Cookman.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @AudreyPachuta

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