Feb. 15, 2014
USC 2, Northwestern 1 (15)
Dedeaux Field Los Angeles, Calif. Attendance: 520
Box Score | Box Score
LOS ANGELES -- Pitching was the prevalent theme for the second day in a row Saturday at Dedeaux Field in Los Angeles, and for the second day in a row extra innings were required as the USC Trojans topped Northwestern, 2-1, in 15 innings. In the first two games of the season, the two teams have combined to play 26 innings of highly-competitive baseball.
Both teams scored their first run of the game in the fourth inning, but the starting pitchers and bullpens for both Northwestern and USC did tremendous work as they settled down and posted zeros until the Trojans broke through in the bottom of the 15th inning. Dante Flores drew a four-pitch from NU reliever Ethan Bramschreiber and the second baseman eventually scored the winning run from third base on Joe Corrigan's RBI sacrifice fly.
NU had a few chances to end the game throughout the extra sessions. The Wildcats had runners at first and second base in the 11th inning with two outs, but Nigel Nootbaar registered one of his eight strikeouts to shut the door. Northwestern's best chance for a late run perhaps came in the top of the 14th. Scott Heelan legged out an infield single to lead off the frame. He moved to second on a wild pitch by James Guillen, but the 'Cats could not bring him home.
Over four and a half hours earlier, the Wildcats had a good scoring opportunity in the top of the first inning, but could not cash in. Senior Kyle Ruchim extended his hitting streak to 14 games (dating back to last season) with an infield single to lead off the game. Heelan then wrapped a single into left field that pushed Ruchim to third base, but the backstop was cut down after making a wide turn for the first out. NU first baseman Zach Jones was retired without driving in the run before freshman Joe Hoschiet lined out Jake Hernandez at first base to end the brief threat.
USC's offense displayed a good deal of patience in making NU starting pitcher Matt Portland throw nearly 30 pitches in the bottom of the second. The southpaw stranded a pair of runners in scoring position to end the stanza, however, escaping unscathed. Portland was much more efficient in working a quick third inning. Portland fanned Garrett Stubbs to start the inning and Timmy Robinson to end it, with a lazy pop out to Ruchim in short center field in between. The game remained scoreless after three innings.
The scoreboard would not remain empty for long with a couple of freshman teaming up to scratch out the first run of the day for Northwestern. Hoscheit walked with one away and took second on Nick Linne's infield single. NU's designated hitter came around to score when his classmate Matt Hopfner worked a full count with two outs and laced a base hit into right field that gave the Wildcats a 1-0 lead. NU looked to add on, but USC center fielder Timmy Robinson made a great diving catch on a ball hit by Cody Stevens to end the inning.
The Trojans got the run back in the bottom of the fourth. Dante Flores led off with a single and eventually made it to third base after a single and a wild pitch. USC's second baseman then came in to score on an RBI groundout by Vahn Bozoian to even the ledger at a run apiece. Portland buckled down and struck out Jake Hernandez to end the inning and limit the scoring.
Portland's defense, specifically Linne, Stevens and Jones, turned in a slick 5-4-3 double play to end the fifth inning and his offense looked to bolster him in the top of the sixth. Hoscheit and Linne both registered sharp singles, but the Wildcats couldn't score to regain the lead.
USC appeared to get its offensive motor running again in the home half of the sixth. Robinson reached on an infield single and then Flores was hit by a breaking pitch in the back. That was all for Portland who was lifted in favor of senior Nick Friar.
The Westport, Mass., native came up big for the 'Cats in a sticky situation. His appearance started with a strikeout of the Trojans' cleanup hitter and ended with a punch-out of Jeremy Martinez. In the middle, Friar worked with Ruchim to pick Robinson off as he tried to swipe third base.
Friar shut USC down once again in the bottom of the seventh. The right-hander struck out a third consecutive Trojan to open the frame before allowing a base hit to Hernandez. The first baseman was lifted for a pinch runner, but Heelan threw the speedy Aguirre out by a few steps for the second out. Frankie Rios grounded out to Ruchim at short to end that stanza without a run.
In the eighth inning, relievers Dan Tyson and Jack Livingston teamed up to keep the Trojans at bay. Stubbs hit a lead-off single off Tyson and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Robinson was hit by a pitch, but Livingston induced a shallow fly ball to right field for the second out. Linne made a dazzling defensive play at the hot corner and made a long throw across the diamond to cut down Kevin Swick to end the inning with two men left on base.
Livingston faced adversity with men on base in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings, but each time the big right-hander worked out of trouble with ease. The Kalamazoo, Mich., native tossed 4.2 scoreless innings in relief. He allowed just one hit and recorded three strikeouts.
Heelan, who caught the entire game for NU, led the club with three hits. Hoscheit, Schieber, Linne and Hopfner each notched two hits for the Wildcats Saturday. Martinez was the only Trojan with multi-hit efforts. Guillen recorded the victory for USC, his second in as many days. Bramschreiber was saddled with the loss in his second appearance of the season.
Saturday's game was the longest for Northwestern since it went toe-to-toe with Nebraska for 16 innings on March 29, 2013. The Huskers won that game, 10-9. This was the first time that the Wildcats went to extra innings in back-to-back games since April 10 and April 13, 2001 when they played 11 innings against Valparaiso and 10 innings against Indiana. It's the first time under head coach Paul Stevens that NU has played consecutive extra-inning games on back-to-back days.
The Wildcats and Trojans will conclude what has turned into a marathon three-game series with a matinee on Sunday afternoon at Dedeaux Field. Sophomore southpaw Reed Mason will toe the rubber for the first time this season for Northwestern and he'll be opposed by USC lefty Kyle Twomey. The first pitch is slated for 3 p.m. CT.
Be the first to know what's going on with the 'Cats -- Follow @NU_Sports on Twitter, become a fan of Northwestern Athletics on Facebook, subscribe to the NU Sports Express e-newsletter and sign up to receive promotional text alerts for the latest news, schedule updates and video and to interact with NU. For more information on following specific Northwestern teams online, visit our Social Media page!