April 11, 2014
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern scored 11 unanswered runs from the seventh inning on, Friday afternoon, to claw all the way back from a 10-run deficit and topple the Iowa Hawkeyes at Rocky Miller Park in thrilling fashion, 14-13. The game featured a combined 27 runs on 36 hits, both high marks in Big Ten games this season.
Thanks in large part to an offense that produced a combined nine runs in the seventh and eighth innings, and a pair of scoreless innings from senior relievers Nick Friar and Jack Quigley, the Wildcats entered the bottom of the ninth down by just a single tally, 13-12.
Freshman Matt Hopfner stepped to the dish hitless on the day, but the outfielder picked an outstanding time to get the first as he flipped a single the other way into right field to lead off the frame. Hopfner was lifted for pinch runner RJ Watters and two batters later shortstop Cody Stevens battled his way through a tough at-bat against Iowa closer Nick Hibbing. The Northwestern redshirt junior eventually won the fight as he poked a single, his third of the game, through the right side of Iowa's infield. The balls scooted into the outfield, but when Iowa right fielder Taylor Zeutenhorst tried to field the roller, but it went under his glove and kept on rolling. The speedy Watters was able to fly all the way around from second base and score the game-tying run with a head-first slide. Stevens, the go-ahead run, motored all the way to third base on the play.
NU pinch hitter Jake Straub was hit by a Hibbing offering and Luke Dauch reached base safely for the sixth time in as many plate appearances when he drew a base on balls to pack the sacks for Zach Jones. On the second pitch of the at-bat Jones lined a base hit into center field that allowed Stevens to score, sending Rocky Miller Park into a frenzy as the Wildcats walked off victoriously.
Until that point, Iowa held the upper hand throughout much of the series opener. The Hawkeyes methodically built a 10-run lead at 13-3 in the middle of the seventh inning. As Northwestern's half began, it did not look promising for the home team. Stevens was hit by a pitch before a fly out to second base and a fielder's choice suddenly gave the Hawkeyes two outs ahead of Jones. The sophomore, who had been hitless in three previous at-bats, sent a single into centerfield to extend his conference hitting streak to nine games. Scott Heelan was then hit by a pitch to load the bases before NU's Jack Livingston quickly unloaded them. The designated hitter blasted a double to right-center field that was mishandled by Iowa's outfield, allowing all three runs to score and putting the senior slugger on third base. The next hitter, freshman Joe Hoscheit, then launched his second career home run over the left field fence to cut the home team's deficit from 10 runs to five after a gritty inning.
Friar escaped an eventful top of the eighth to keep his team right within striking distance. The Hawkeyes loaded the bases with just one out, but the senior from Westport, Mass. got Eric Toole to pop out to second base and Jake Mangler to ground out to Stevens to leave 'em loaded squash the threat.
Northwestern's offense got right back to work in the bottom of the eighth. Stevens started the wheels in motion with a one-out infield single and Jake Schieber kept the line moving with a base hit to left. Stevens made it to third on a wild pitch and then scored when Dauch ripped a pitch into left field for his third hit of the afternoon. Everyone wanted to get in on the act at that point. Jones picked up his second single in a row to drive in Schieber from second base before Heelan doubled down to left field, bringing home Dauch. Livingston plated the fourth and final run of the inning on a RBI ground out.
Iowa's Dan Potempa reached on an error to start the ninth inning against Friar and the Wildcats then summoned closer Jack Quigley from the bullpen. The side-arming right-hander got three quick outs, including a strikeout to set the stage for the thrilling bottom of the ninth.
Northwestern actually led much earlier in the day. For the 12th time this season, the Wildcats were able to score in the first inning. Dauch, who is batting .700 (7-for-10) in his last two games, hit a lead-off double to the gap in left-center field to get the offense going. Two batters later, Dauch was able to take third on a wild pitch by Iowa's Calvin Mathews, and then score when Livingston singled to right field to give NU a 1-0 lead after an inning.
Iowa answered right away as it was able to tie the game with one swing in the top of the second inning. Zeutenhorst hit a towering fly ball to left field that narrowly cleared the fence for his fifth home run of the year. The next two Hawkeyes also reached safely, but Northwestern starting pitcher Reed Mason buckled down and got three outs before the visitors could strike again.
Chicago's Big Ten Team broke the tie with another run in the bottom of the third inning. Dauch drew a four-pitch walk from Mathews to open the frame and the junior eventually put himself in scoring position by stealing second base. Heelan then picked up his 15th RBI of the season with a base hit into left field that allowed Dauch to score for the second time and give the Wildcats a 2-1 lead.
The advantage was short-lived for the home team. Iowa used six hits, including three that went for extra bases, to push across four runs and take its first lead of the afternoon, 5-3. Kris Goodman drove in a run, Eric Toole brought home a pair and scored the fourth and final run on a wild pitch from Mason. Iowa added two more runs in the top of the fifth, one on a solo home run from Goodman, and the second on a wild pitch.
Dauch helped the 'Cats cut the deficit in the bottom of the frame. The speedy center fielder flexed his muscle and muscled his first home run of the season over the wall in right field to pull his team within four runs at 7-3. Iowa eventually built its lead up 10 runs before the cardiac 'Cats kicked the comeback into high gear.
The top five hitters in head coach Paul Stevens' lineup combined to produce 11 of the team's 16 hits, batting .478 as a group on the day. Led by Dauch, the quintet also scored 10 of the squad's 14 runs.
Several Northwestern hitters achieved career highs or equaled previous bests in the memorable triumph. Dauch scored five times and was on first base when Jones delivered the game-winning drive. Entering play Friday, no other player in the Big Ten had scored more than four times in any game this season and no more than three times in conference play. Livingston delivered a career-high four RBI, while Stevens matched his previous best with three hits.
Quigley got the win Friday, his first of the season. Hibbing was saddled with his second loss. Mathews struck out six in 6.0 IP and allowed just three runs, but the Iowa sophomore did not factor in the decision.
The three-game series will conclude with a doubleheader Saturday at Rocky Miller Park. With heavy rain in the forecast for Sunday, April 13, that finale has been moved up a day. Saturday's doubleheader will begin at 11:00 a.m. with game two to follow approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first.
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