April 19, 2014
LINCOLN, Neb.-- Northwestern wrapped up a tightly-contested series at Hawks Field in Lincoln, Neb. early Saturday by splitting a doubleheader and winning the Big Ten series against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. All three games in the series were decided by a single run and the Wildcats won the first two ballgames, 2-1 in 12 innings, on Friday night and 3-2 in the first game of a doubleheader Saturday. The Huskers won the nightcap, 10-9.
A full recap of Saturday's first game is available at the top of the page.
In game two, Nebraska struck early with two unearned runs in the bottom of the first inning against Northwestern starting pitcher Matt Hopfner. Blake Headley drove in a pair for the Huskers with a single to center field to start the scoring in the nightcap.
Facing an early deficit, the Wildcats offense went to work against Nebraska's Aaron Bummer in the top of the third inning. Catcher Jake Straub started the inning by muscling a double over the head of left fielder Ty Kildow. Straub found himself on third base when the line really got moving for the Purple and White. Center fielder Walker Moses cut the deficit in half with a single up the middle, his second in as many at-bats. Moses stole second base and scored when Zach Jones fired a single to center field to tie the game at 2-2.
Northwestern wasn't done scoring in the third, however. Scott Heelan flipped a single the other way to right field that allowed Jones to go from first-to-third, setting the stage for Hopfner. The Edina, Minn., native helped his own cause with an infield single that allowed Jones to score the go-ahead run and keep the inning alive. Jack Livingston, who doubled and drove in a run in the first game, ripped his 10th double of the season down the line in right field, allowing two more runs to score, giving the 'Cats their biggest lead of the series, 5-2.
The offensive outpouring continued in the top of the fourth. Straub reached on an error and Cody Stevens singled before Nick Linne advanced both runners with a sacrifice bunt. Moses was intentionally walked to load the bases before Jones drove in his second run of the game with an infield single. Both Moses and Jones scored on Heelan's base knock to left field that gave the Wildcats an 8-2 advantage and chased Bummer from the ballgame.
Nebraska got back in the ballgame against Hopfner and Livingston, who came on in relief, in the bottom of the fourth. The Huskers loaded the bases against Hopfner with no outs, prompting NU head coach Paul Stevens to move Livingston to the mound from his spot at first base, and sending Hopfner to right field and Jones to first base. The first batter Livingston faced, Kildow, hit a one-hop smash at Jones, but the sophomore was unable to record an out on the play and a run scored.
Livingston got the next hitter, Taylor Fish to hit into a 3-6-1 double play. Another run scored, but the 'Cats got two quick outs on the play. Leadoff man Ryan Boldt then stepped up and hit his first career home run to right field, pulling Nebraska to within two runs. The big right-hander got the next hitter to fly out to Stevens at short to end the inning and preserve a two-run lead for the visitors.
The home team was able to regain its lead in the bottom of the fifth on the strength of four free passes, a hit batsmen and just one hit. Northwestern used four different pitcher in the inning as all nine Huskers came to the plate, the same way Northwestern sent nine men to the dish in the third inning. Christian Cox had the only RBI in the inning, a high chopper to the edge of the infield at third base.
The 'Cats got back on the board against Colton Howell in the top of the seventh. Heelan picked up his third hit of the game to lead off the Nebraska reliever. Pinch hitter Reid Hunter walked with one out and Joe Hoscheit singled to load the bases ahead of Straub. The Huskers went to the bullpen and NU's backstop greeted Austin Christensen with a fielder's choice that drove in the game-tying run in the form of Heelan.
Dan Tyson came on in relief of Nick Friar to begin the bottom of the seventh and the senior got three easy outs to keep the Huskers from breaking the tie. Heelan made a pair of strong defensive plays in the inning, including one in which he fielded a slow roller and flipped it using his glove to Jones to nab the runner in time. Stevens also made a strong throw to record the final out of the frame from his post at shortstop.
Tyson ran into trouble in the eighth, however. Following an intentional walk to Pat Kelly, the southpaw faced a bases loaded jam with Headley at the plate. The first baseman delivered in a big way with a sacrifice fly to Moses that was deep enough to allow Boldt, who walked earlier, to score what proved to be the game-winning run.
Josh Roeder pitched the ninth inning for Nebraska. Hopfner welcomed him with a single to center field and pinch hitter Antonio Freschet sacrificed the right fielder to second base ahead of Hoscheit. After a lengthy at-bat, Hoscheit grounded out to the right side, but it was enough to send Hopfner to third base. Roeder buckled down and won a lengthy battle against Straub and finished off the Wildcats to get his eighth save.
Northwestern will return to Rocky Miller Park for a pair of midweek games beginning on Tuesday, April 22 against Wheaton College. On Wednesday, April 23, the 'Cats will host Chicago State in Evanston. NU swept a doubleheader against the Cougars, 6-1 and 4-2, on April 16.
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