March 15, 2014
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Northwestern put up a three-spot in the first inning, but could not take down the Bucknell Bison Saturday, falling 6-5 in the RussMatt Invitational finale at Chain of Lakes Stadium.
For the second game in a row, the Wildcats went to work in the top of the first inning. Matt Hopfner, who entered the game hitting .446, sent the first pitch of the ball game into right field before the next hitter, Scott Heelan, laced a single into left field. Two batters later, Hopfner scored from second base when his classmate Joe Hoscheit singled. Heelan notched the second run on a RBI groundout by Jack Mitchell and Hoscheit scored the third run of the day when he scored as designated Luke Dauch legged out an infield single with two away.
Bucknell dented the scoreboard for the first time in the bottom of the second. After the Wildcats went down in order in the top of the frame, NU starter Jack Livingston fanned Justin Meier to start the home half. A single, a walk and an error helped the Bison score their first run. Bucknell loaded the bases with two outs, but Livingston struck out Spencer Stokes to end the threat and preserve his team's two-run cushion.
The Bison pulled within one run in the bottom of the third. Joe Ogren was hit by a pitch, and then he stole second. A pair of groundouts to Nick Linne at second base got the run home, but Bucknell could not add on. After three, NU led, 3-2.
Northwestern reignited its offense briefly in the top of the fourth. Jake Schieber blasted a double to left-center field and the sophomore scored when the next man, Linne, singled to the opposite field to push the lead back to two for the 'Cats.
NU surrendered the lead for the first time Saturday when Bucknell struck for three runs in the bottom of the fourth. The Bison started the frame with back-to-back singles before the first run scored on a throwing error. Livingston was lifted after that play in favor of Brandon Magallones. The junior got three straight ground balls to Cody Stevens at shortstop, but two unearned runs came home in the process to give the Orange and Blue a 5-4 lead, its first of the ballgame.
Neither team scored in the fifth, but Mitchell, Dauch and Schieber teamed up to even the ledger in the top of the sixth. Mitchell muscled a double to left-center and he made it to third on a picturesque sacrifice bunt by Dauch. Schieber sent a fly ball to right field that was deep enough to allow Mitchell to tag and score to even the contest; Anthony Gingerelli, made a strong throw, but Mitchell avoided the tag to plate NU's fifth run of the afternoon. After five and a half innings of play the score was tied at five runs apiece.
Magallones was lifted after three scoreless innings of relief. The Manhattan, Ill., native surrendered just one hit and struck out three Bison during his second relief outing at the RussMatt Invitational. Ethan Bramschreiber spelled Magallones with an efficient 1-2-3 inning of his own in the bottom of the seventh.
The Bison took the lead for good in the bottom of the eighth off reliever Jack Quigley. Rob Krentzman singled and scored the go-ahead run when the next batter, Gingerelli, singled to right field and the ball was mishandled by Hopfner. The 'Cats limited Bucknell to the lone unearned tally, but found themselves chasing a run heading into the top of the ninth.
NU pinch hitter Reid Hunter picked up a two-out single, but BU's Tucker Rekucki came on in relief of Bryson Hough and nailed down his third save. Hough notched his second victory of the season for Bucknell. Quigley was saddled with his third loss of the season.
Northwestern now shifts its attention to Big Ten play, which begins next weekend. The Wildcats will host the Minnesota Golden Gophers to open the conference slate, March 21-23. The series is scheduled to be played at Rocky Miller Park, however, unplayable field conditions may lead the teams to play at an alternate site. Please check NUsports.com for updates throughout the week.
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