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    Defensive Miscues Doom Wildcats at Eastern Michigan

    March 26, 2014

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    Eastern Michigan Eagles Eastern Michigan 9, Northwestern 8
    Oestrike Stadium • Ypsilanti, Mich.

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    YPSILANTI, Mich. -- Northwestern scored four runs in the final three innings, but it was not enough as the Wildcats fell to Eastern Michigan in its first midweek games of the season, 9-8. NU led by as many as three runs, but it could not overcome a trio of errors in the loss.

    Northwestern jumped on Eastern Michigan starting pitcher Sam Delaplane in the top of the first inning. Scott Heelan muscled a one-out double through the chilly Michigan air before freshman Matt Hopfner launched a RBI double to the corner in right field. Hopfner scored on a sacrifice fly by clean-up man Zach Jones and the Wildcats were staked to a two-run lead after a half inning of play.

    The Eagles cut the deficit in half during their first opportunity in the bottom of the frame. Lee Longo drove in the run for EMU with a two-out base hit off of NU starter Dan Tyson that scored John Rubino, who singled to start the first.

    Designated hitter Jack Livingston got the run right back for the 'Cats with authority when he led off the top of the second inning. The Kalamazoo, Mich., native blasted his first home run of the season over the wall in right field. It was Livingston's second career homer and his first since the 2011 campaign.

    Eastern Michigan struck for another run in the bottom of the third inning. Tyson issued a leadoff walk to Austin Wilson and the center fielder went from first to third on a base hit to right field by Sam Ott. Wilson scored on a fielder's choice from Longo, but Northwestern's senior southpaw stranded two on base when he got a looping line drive to Cody Stevens at shortstop to end the threat.

    Tyson was throwing well on the bump, retiring seven in a row between the third and fifth innings. The San Diego, Calif., native had a particularly strong fourth frame when he struck out the side, getting the final two hitters with the bat on their shoulder.

    The Eagles coaxed back-to-back walks with two outs in the bottom of the fifth and then an error on the Wildcats allowed the first of those free passes to score and even the ledger at three runs apiece after five innings of play.

    After Delaplane was lifted after two innings, EMU reliever Sterling Sharp began to hold the Wildcats off the scoreboard at Oestrike Stadium. The right-hander walked the first batter he faced and hit the next, but then retired eight in a row until Jake Straub drew a walk to lead off the sixth inning. The backstop advanced to second on a balk by Sharp and made third on a groundout by Hopfner. Straub scored to get the lead back for the Wildcats on a groundout to second base by Jones.

    Defensive miscues cost the 'Cats a crooked number in the bottom of the inning. Sophomore Jake Stolley relieved Tyson to begin the sixth and he walked the first Eagle he faced. After another Northwestern error, the third of the afternoon, EMU used an infield single and a groundout to first base to plate a pair and give the home team its first advantage of the ballgame. The Eagles added one more unearned tally when Longo drove in his third run with a single to right field off another reliever, Livingston.

    NU scratched out one run in the top of the seventh to cut its deficit in half. Livingston was hit by a pitch from Layne Gusler to start the stanza. Later, pinch runner RJ Watters motored around from second base when Stevens flipped a single into left field to pull the Wildcats within one, 6-5.

    Eastern Michigan pulled ahead by four runs with the help of three more tallies in the bottom of the seventh. The Eagles hit a RBI triple and a two-run double off reliever Nick Friar to account for the damage.

    Straub led off the eighth with a double down the left-field line and he tagged up and made third when Hopfner flied out to deep right field. Jones then collected his third RBI with his second groundout to the right side of the infield. Joe Hoscheit doubled to deep left field to keep the inning alive, but after a pitching change, Watters struck out to end the threat.

    The Wildcats loaded the bases in the top of the ninth with the help of a single by Antonio Freschet and back-to-back walks to Luke Dauch and Straub. Eastern Michigan brought in its seventh pitcher of the day to face Hopfner. Charlie Land struck Hopfner out, but a wild pitch allowed one run to score and a throwing error allowed a second run to come home and pull NU within a run. Jones tried to keep the rally going, but Land made a nice play on a slow roller and fired to first just ahead of the runner to end the ballgame.

    The Wildcats resume conference play on Friday, March 28 when they begin a three-game series at Penn State. Northwestern has not paid a visit to University Park, Pa. since 2010 when the 'Cats took two-of-three from the Nittany Lions, April 9-11. Friday's first pitch is slated for 4:30 p.m. CT.


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