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: Pitching woes hurt Northwestern in series loss to Penn State

Daily file photo by Henry Frieman
Junior utility player Preston Knott rounds third base. Knott collected two home runs in Northwestern’s game against Penn State Saturday.

For the second weekend in a row, Northwestern fell victim to a Big Ten sweep.

The Wildcats (10-18, 0-6 Big Ten) traveled to University Park to take on Penn State (16-12, 4-5 Big Ten) a week after falling to Nebraska in three straight games.

While NU managed some semblance of offensive productivity over the first two games of the series, its pitching staff was unable to slow down the Nittany Lion offense. The ’Cats tallied a solid 12 runs off of 23 hits, while the defense allowed a staggering 35 runs off of 42 hits.

The visitors struck first in Game One. Senior infielder Vince Bianchina drew a walk in the leadoff spot, and sophomore infielder Trent Liolios batted him in with a single to left field, giving NU a one-run lead in the top of the first inning.

Senior pitcher Nolan Morr started on the mound for the ’Cats, but was unable to stop the hosts’ offense. Penn State’s J.T. Marr and Adam Cecere blasted back-to-back solo home runs to score two in the bottom half of the inning.

The offense did not stop there for the Nittany Lions, as they were able to work a four-run second inning, forcing an early exit for Morr. Junior catcher Bennett Markinson’s single and a throwing error gifted NU two runs an inning later, cutting the deficit to four.

After Penn State added a run in the fifth inning, the ’Cats responded in the top of the sixth with a run of their own, but it was not enough, as the Nittany Lions took an 8-4 victory.

The beginning of Game Two saw production from an unlikely suspect: junior utility player Preston Knott. Knott, who only tallied one hit last weekend against Nebraska, knocked his second home run of the season to right field to open the scoring in the top of the first inning.

Graduate student pitcher Kyle Potthoff looked to have a strong outing on the mound for NU after allowing nine earned runs in five innings against Nebraska last Saturday. The right-hander’s first three innings were solid, allowing one run courtesy of a Cecere double, and the visitors’ offense took advantage of the strong pitching performance. 

After graduate student outfielder Griffin Arnone’s double in the second inning to put a man in scoring position, Knott fired his second home run of the game to make it 3-1. Freshman outfielder Jackson Freeman’s solo home run in the third inning increased the ’Cats’ lead to three.

Penn State finally got its offense going in the fourth inning. Grant Norris hit a two-run home run to center field to kickstart the Nittany Lion bats. After Potthoff allowed a walk, a single and a hit-by-pitch to load the bases, Bobby Marsh singled up the middle of the field to bring two runs in, forcing an early exit for the graduate student.

The momentum of Penn State’s strong fourth inning carried into the next two, as the hosts added four more runs. NU’s offense remained stagnant until the eighth inning, when a hit by Bianchina and an RBI groundout by sophomore catcher Lorenzo Rios cut the Penn State lead to two. The Nittany Lions, however, were able to match them in the bottom of the frame, taking Game Two with a score of 12-7.

Looking to avoid being swept in consecutive weekend series, the ’Cats went in a different direction on the mound, starting the hard-throwing right-hander Garrett Shearer. The freshman allowed a scoreless first inning, but a string of hits in the second inning allowed the Nittany Lions to plate three.

Knott’s hot weekend continued in the final game of the series, as an RBI double allowed NU to respond in the top of the third inning. The ’Cats were not in striking distance for long; Penn State scored three quick runs in the bottom of the fourth by way of a Bryce Molinaro home run, a Kyle Hannon triple and a fielding error. Senior pitcher Luke Benneche replaced Shearer, finally ending the inning.

The Nittany Lions kept on rolling, scoring a total of nine runs during the fifth and sixth innings and winning the game with a score of 15-1 in the seventh inning due to the ten-run rule.

Even though NU has had a rocky start to Big Ten play, its offense holds promise — especially Knott, who had six hits on the weekend. The ’Cats, though, will need to find some consistency in both their starting rotation and their bullpen to get back on track. 

NU will get a chance to bounce back on Tuesday at Rocky and Berenice Miller Park against UIC.

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