April 13, 2012
Site: Minneapolis, Minn. (Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome)
Score: Minnesota 2, Northwestern 1
Records: NU (10-20, 3-7 Big Ten), Minnesota (18-17, 4-3 Big Ten)
Next NU Event: Saturday, April 14 -- at Minnesota (Minneapolis, Minn), 2:05 p.m.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Northwestern got a run in the top of the first inning, but Minnesota got two in the bottom half and that proved to be it for the scoring as the Wildcats dropped their series-opener 2-1 at the Metrodome Friday evening.
NU struck first against Minnesota right-hander TJ Oakes who entered the contest with a sparkling 1.46 ERA. Inserted into the leadoff spot, Zach Morton started things with a single before he advanced to third on a chopper over the right side by Jack Havey. Kyle Ruchim would bring Morton home with a fielder's choice grounder to short to give the 'Cats the early advantage.
The lead was short-lived, though, as the Golden Gophers were able to cash in against Francis Brooke in the bottom half of the frame. A double and a single tied the game before another hit gave Minnesota runners on the corners. A successful double steal gave the hosts the lead. A fourth straight batter reached on a walk, but following a sacrifice bunt that put two into scoring position, Brooke recorded back-to-back strikeouts to limit the damage to two runs.
NU nearly knotted the score in the top of the second as Nick Linne was at second with two down and Morton singled to left field. However, Andy Henkemeyer fired a strike to catcher Matt Halloran to nab Linne at the plate to end the frame.
Both starting pitchers settled into a groove following the eventful first two innings. The only time either team got two runners on base the rest of the way was the bottom of the third when Minnesota got a pair of singles, but Brooke got consecutive strikeouts to keep the deficit at one.
Northwestern's best chance to even the score came in the top of the seventh when Linne led off the frame with a rocket single to center. He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and to third on a groundout, but Oakes got a strikeout to hold the Wildcats at bay.
NU had one final chance in the ninth inning as Jack Livingston led off the frame with a double to the gap in left-center to get the tying run in scoring position. A bunt by Geoff Rowan moved pinch runner Jack Quigley to third base with one out and Minnesota brought on Kevin Kray to relieve Oakes. The redshirt sophomore got a pair of strikeouts to nail down his sixth save of the season.
Brooke (1-4) was the tough-luck loser, surrendering just two runs over 6 2/3 innings of work while striking out six. He scattered seven hits and walked one. Oakes (6-2) picked up the victory, going 8 1/3 innings with eight hits allowed to go along with seven strikeouts.
The teams continue their series Saturday with first pitch set for 2:05 p.m.
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