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 swept by Nebraska in opening Big Ten series, but shows sign of offensive potential

Henry Frieman/The Daily Northwestern
Freshman outfielder Jackson Freeman prepares for a pitch. Freeman collected five RBIs in Northwestern’s game against Nebraska Sunday.

They’re hot then they’re cold: Northwestern has taken a steep dive after its sweep of Texas A&M Corpus Christi less than two weeks ago. More recently, Coach Ben Greenspan’s squad went on a three-game losing streak — and just added three more losses.

The Wildcats (10-15, 0-3 Big Ten) began their Big Ten campaign against a red-hot Nebraska squad over the weekend. NU played three days worth of up-and-down baseball with bursts of energy from a few rising hitters that were ultimately overcome by their struggle to keep a lid on the Cornhuskers’ (20-5, 3-0 Big Ten) offense.

Despite early leads in games one and two of the series, the ’Cats fell by scores of 5-2 and 9-5, respectively.

Sophomore infielder Owen McElfatrick launched two homers this weekend, one of which he hit in his first at-bat on Friday. The Florida native is now tied with junior catcher Bennett Markinson for NU’s leading hitter with both players sporting batting averages of .350. 

McElfatrick also achieved a season-high six putouts in game one, though Nebraska pitcher Brett Sears sealed the ’Cats’ fate after throwing seven innings allowing only two runs.

Game two was the least flattering of the series. A forgettable seven Cornhusker runs in the second inning devastated graduate pitcher Kyle Potthoff. Though NU kept its opponent scoreless for the next five innings, other than one run in the top of the fourth, Greenspan’s squad failed to come back from the early deficit.

Sunday’s action told a different story. Competitive performances at-bat led the ’Cats to a high-stakes 10-inning battle.

Freshman outfielder Jackson Freeman hit the first two home runs of his Big Ten career, leaving the series with a total of seven RBIs. The California native has had an all-around productive season at the plate, batting an average of .302 with 26 hits and reaching base in 24 of his 25 games played.

McElfatrick hit his second home run of the series to take a 7-6 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, and senior infielder Vince Bianchina provided necessary defensive pressure with a huge putout in the ninth that kept the score tied at seven for extra innings.

The offensive momentum had fans on the edge of their seats, but the excitement was too little, too late. Nebraska secured a one-run lead in the top of the tenth, and NU’s moment under pressure was quickly ended by a couple of putouts and a strikeout. 

The ’Cats ended the series with a narrow 8-7 loss.Though slow and steady may not have won this race, progress is still progress. 

Greenspan has already helped NU match its 2023 win total, and Freeman has made a clear impression on NU’s offense as a freshman. McElfatrick is now at four home runs for the season, already matching his total achieved last year. 

The ’Cats will return to Rocky and Berenice Miller Park Wednesday for mid-week competition against Western Michigan before continuing conference play next weekend against Penn State.

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