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’s season concludes with series loss to Minnesota

Freshman+outfielder+Jackson+Freeman+swings+at+a+pitch+during+a+game+earlier+this+season.+Freeman+had+five+RBIs+on+the+weekend%2C+homering+twice.
Daily file photo by Henry Frieman
Freshman outfielder Jackson Freeman swings at a pitch during a game earlier this season. Freeman had five RBIs on the weekend, homering twice.

Northwestern’s record of 18-34 and 4-20 in-conference, when presented in a vacuum, leaves much to be desired.

But putting it into Wildcat terms — after coach Ben Greenspan inherited a program blemished by an indefinite suspension and a culture of bullying, while 21 of 35 players on the 2023 roster either jumped ship or graduated — the results appear far less disheartening.

NU nabbed eight more victories than last season, matching last year’s conference record after stealing a walk-off win against Minnesota in chaotic fashion Thursday. The ’Cats dropped the series’ final two games to the Golden Gophers (25-23, 11-13 Big Ten) on Friday and Saturday, ending their season.

Weather delayed Thursday’s matchup just seven pitches into graduate student Jack Dyke’s outing. Once the lightning ceased, the Gophers struck first, putting a run on the board via an RBI single. They tacked on another after second baseman Brady Counsell’s single.

NU countered with a pair of home runs to take the lead. A blast by senior third baseman Vince Bianchina in the second inning cut the deficit in half before sophomore first baseman Trent Liolios poked a two-run home run over the left-field fence in the fourth inning.

In true back-and-forth fashion, Minnesota’s catcher Sam Hunt hit a two-run home run to put the Gophers up 4-3 in the sixth inning. Then, freshman outfielder Jackson Freeman hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to put the ’Cats back in front, 5-4.

Freshman pitcher Garrett Shearer, on for the save situation, allowed two Gopher runs in the top of the ninth inning, sending NU to the plate in the bottom of the ninth for their last licks down 6-5. 

With runners on first and third, senior shortstop Tony Livermore laid down a bunt, which  Minnesota first baseman Weber Neels fielded. Neels, rather than throwing to home plate to attempt to keep the Gophers in front, tried to gun Livermore at first base. He missed the mark and rifled the ball into right field. The tying run scored. Bianchina, who was on first, wheeled around third and ran toward home, arms outstretched, as his teammates peeled out of the dugout to celebrate the walk-off 7-6 win.

Friday’s contest yielded less-than-ideal results for the ’Cats. 

Though Freeman started the game off with a boom, homering to left field for his 11th shot of the season –– the most by an NU freshman since at least 1981 –– senior pitcher Matt McClure allowed six runs in the second inning, establishing firm Gopher control over the ballgame. McClure did not allow any other runs, striking out three batters and giving up five hits.

The game continued with a 6-2 Minnesota lead before the Gophers added another six runs in the seventh inning. The maroon-and-gold team added another insurance run in the top of the ninth before the ’Cats added a run through a bases-loaded walk. But it was too little, too late for NU, which lost 13-3.

Saturday’s series finale began with a Senior Day celebration before graduate student pitcher Kyle Potthoff took the mound in the rubber match. The Gophers plated three runs in the first two innings to establish an early lead.

Freeman’s RBI single got the ’Cats on the board before graduate student outfielder Griffin Arnone drove in another run off a sacrifice fly. 

The two senior pitchers that took the mound in relief of Potthoff Saturday –– Luke Benneche and Nolan Morr –– allowed only one earned run on five hits. The departing seniors will leave gaping holes in the NU rotation, as Benneche, Morr, McClure and Potthoff all started games for the ’Cats this season.

A double by Brady Jurgella added an insurance run for Minnesota in the eighth inning, and NU could not muster a comeback in the later moments of the contest, closing out its season with a 4-2 loss.

As Greenspan embarks on his second offseason at the helm, he will continue to spur the rebuild of a program that has not had a winning season since 2000.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @HenryFrieman

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