April 18, 2014
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Northwestern picked up a pair of clutch two-out hits late Friday night and got two magnificent pitching performances on the mound to help take the series opener from the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 2-1, in 12 innings at Hawks Field.
Jake Straub delivered a big RBI single in the seventh inning to tie the game and Cody Stevens laced a base hit up the middle with two outs in the top of the 12th to help the Wildcats beat Nebraska for the first time ever at Hawks Field. It was also Northwestern's first victory in extra innings this season.
Northwestern has now won a season-high three games in a row and five of its last seven going back to the 12-5 win over Valparaiso on April 8.
The Wildcats threatened to score first in the top of the first inning. Leadoff batter Luke Dauch reached on an error and later found himself standing on third base after Scott Heelan flipped a base hit the other way into right field. Dauch tried to score on a groundout to first base but Nebraska's Blake Headley fired home to cut down NU's center fielder to end the inning.
Nebraska starting pitcher Christian DeLeon retired six in a row until Dauch reached with a single to left-center field with two outs in the top of the third. The Bloomfield Hills, Mich., native stole second base easily, but he was stranded there when Zach Jones grounded out sharply to shortstop to end the frame.
Nebraska finally broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the fifth inning. Steven Reveles singled to right field to open the frame and he eventually scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jake Placzek. Though Matt Hopfner was unable to throw Reveles out at the plate, catcher Jake Straub fired to third to nail the trail runner, Headley, to end the inning. After five inning, the 'Cats trailed, 1-0.
Northwestern got its first base runners since the third inning in the top of the sixth. Senior Nick Linne reached on an infield single, and later, Jones collected his first hit of the night with a single to left field with one out. DeLeon got a much-needed ground ball, however, and his infield was able to turn a double play to end the brief threat.
Chicago's Big Ten Team finally broke through against DeLeon in the bottom of the seventh. Jack Livingston singled to right-center field to kick off the stanza and the designated hitter advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Hopfner. RJ Watters was summoned to pinch run for Livingston and the redshirt freshman moved up to third base on a ground out from Joe Hoscheit. Straub then produced the equalizer when he looped a single into right field that brought Watters home and tied the game at a run apiece.
The Wildcats continued the rally when both Stevens and Linne walked to load the bases, but DeLeon got his second strikeout of the game to leave the bases loaded as the teams moved to the seventh-inning stretch.
In the bottom of the seventh, Mason got a bit of help from his defense to retire the Huskers in order. Heelan made a tremendous play at second base, moving to his right and diving to stop a hard-hit ball by Austin Darby. The redshirt junior quickly gathered himself and fired to Jones for the first out. Jones and Mason teamed up on a nice play for the second out and Mason handled a high chopper back to the mound to get through the frame with the score tied, 1-1.
Mason mastered the Huskers after the sacrifice fly in the fifth. Following that play, which ended the inning, the southpaw retired 12 consecutive Nebraska hitters until Tanner Lubach snapped the streak with a single to right field with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Lubach stole second, but an awkward slide forced him out of action in favor of pinch runner Christian Cox. After Austin Darby walked in a nine-pitch at-bat, Mason made way for Jack Quigley, who was charged with getting the third out. The senior got the job done by getting Reveles to ground out to Heelan to send the game into extra innings.
Mason lasted 8.2 IP and allowed just one unearned run Friday. The sophomore scattered five hits and fanned three Huskers on the night.
Relief pitchers Zach Hirsh and Quigley each posted zeros in the 10th inning. Northwestern looked to strike for a run in the top of the 11th when Jones blasted a rope off Hirsh and slid into first base safely with his second hit of the ballgame. Heelan fired off a rocket to the right side of second base, but Nebraska's Pat Kelly made a diving stab and then began a 4-6-3 double play to get two quick outs. Pinch hitter Reid Hunter also grounded out to Kelly and the 'Cats could not break the tie.
Hopfner started the game-winning rally as the first batter if the 12th inning. After singling to left field, the right fielder made it to second on a sacrifice bunt by Hoscheit. Straub grounded out to third before Stevens calmly stepped to the dish and ripped a single up the middle that allowed Hopfner to motor around from second base and score the game-winning run.
Quigley picked up his second win in relief Friday. The team captain allowed just one hit in 3.1 scoreless innings on the bump.
For the second weekend in a row, Northwestern will play twice on Saturday in an effort to beat the ominous weather forecast for Sunday. The Wildcats and Huskers will face a quick turnaround with the first pitch for game one slated for 12:05 p.m. Junior Brandon Magallones is scheduled to start the game for Northwestern and he'll be opposed by Nebraska's Chance Sinclair.
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