Feb. 22, 2014
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Northwestern burst into the win column in style Saturday by posting a pair of victories at the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla. The Wildcats knocked off The Summit League favorites Nebraska-Omaha, 8-5, before rushing past Mississippi Valley State, 12-4, in the night cap.
Freshman Matt Hopfner picked up four hits in the two games for the 'Cats. The Edina, Minn., native is leading Northwestern with a .500 batting average through six games this season. Junior Reid Hunter had a very productive nightcap with three hits, including a pair of doubles, and a sacrifice fly.
On the mound, NU got strong starting pitching from a pair of underclassmen. Sophomore Matt Portland picked up his first win in his second start in game one after tossing six strong innings. In game two, Joe Schindler made his first career start. The Eugene, Ore., native went seven innings and struck out a career-high nine hitters.
Northwestern will conclude its stint in the Sunshine State on Sunday, Feb. 23 against Ball State. Please note that the game time has been moved up 30 minutes and the first pitch will now take place at 9 a.m. CT. Sophomore Reed Mason is slated to start for the 'Cats against fellow lefty Clay Manering of BSU.
Here's a look back at Saturday's action:
Northwestern 8, Nebraska-Omaha 5
The Wildcats overcame a four-run deficit to knock off Nebraska-Omaha in the first game of the day at North Charlotte Regional Park in Port Charlotte, Fla.
The Mavericks posted four runs, including two that were unearned, in the top of the third inning to put the 'Cats in the chase position early on.
In the home half of the fourth inning, Northwestern's bats came to life. The bases were loaded with one out for NU's designated hitter, Jack Livingston. The senior continued to wield a hot bat for the Wildcats and he blasted a base hit to center field that drove Scott Heelan and Zach Jones home. Livingston cut the deficit in half with his third hit of the Snowbird Classic; he also made second on the play, while Joe Hoscheit went from first to third base.
Hopfner followed Livingston with a double into the corner in left field that plated both Hoscheit and Livingston and tied the game at 4-4 after four innings of play.
Portland mowed down the Mavericks in order and set the stage for another offensive outburst. Cody Stevens started the bottom of the fifth by drawing a base on balls and two batters later, Heelan did the same. Jones followed Heelan by ripping a double inside the first-base bag, allowing Stevens to score easily, and giving Northwestern its first lead of the ballgame, 5-4. Hoscheit then poked a single into left field that put the 'Cats ahead by an even bigger margin.
The Wildcats were not done yet in the bottom of the sixth. Hopfner reached on an error to start the inning. After moving up 90 feet to second base, the freshman scored when Stevens lined a single into left.
Nebraska-Omaha grabbed one run back in the top of the seventh off of Nick Friar, who came on in relief of Portland. The senior surrendered a RBI double with two outs, but settled down to retire the next batter on a fly ball to right field to end the brief threat.
NU picked up a final insurance run off of UNO's bullpen in the bottom of the eighth inning. Sophomore Josh Perlmutter clubbed a pinch-hit double and scored from second base when Hopfner stepped to the dish and pushed a single the opposite way to right field. Friar sent down the Maverick in order in the top of the ninth to secure the first save of his career.
Northwestern 12, Mississippi Valley State 4
The bottom-third of Northwestern's lineup ignited a 12-run performance in the bottom of the third inning. Nick Linne and Hunter picked up one-out singles and both runners scored when Walker Moses launched a double over the head of the left fielder to get the 'Cats on the scoreboard.
Schindler set down the Delta Devils in order in the top of the fourth inning and the offense went right back to work. Northwestern plated a total of four runs in the frame to take a comfortable 6-0 lead.
Livingston started the inning with a walk and he moved to third base on well-executed hit-and-run with Hopfner. The designated hitter scored when Jake Straub singled up the middle and Hopfner came home on Linne's second hit in as many innings. Hunter delivered the biggest blow of the stanza with a RBI double deep to center field. After four innings, the Wildcats led the Delta Devils, 6-0.
Mississippi Valley State got three runs back in the fifth inning off Schindler, but NU scored again in bottom of the fifth. Hoscheit reached on an error and scored on an RBI groundout by Straub. Northwestern scored again when Hunter launched his second two-bagger in as many at-bats. The second baseman scored when Moses reached on an error and Moses came home when Stevens lined a base hit up the middle.
The Wildcats weren't done quite yet. After Schindler recorded his seventh, eighth and ninth strikeouts of the ballgame in the top of the seventh, his offense supported him with two more tallies. Straub singled for the second time to start off the inning before Linne walked. Both runners moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch and Straub scored on a sacrifice fly from Hunter. Stevens scored the final run of the game for Northwestern when Jones doubled to right-center field.
Senior southpaw Dan Tyson threw two scoreless innings of relief to finish the ballgame. The left-hander struck out Parker Thurman to end the game and seal Northwestern's second victory of the day.
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