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    Northwestern's Comeback Bid Falls Short in 15-12 Loss to Illinois

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Paul Snieder homered, drove in three runs and scored three Saturday afternoon for the Wildcats.
    Paul Snieder homered, drove in three runs and scored three Saturday afternoon for the Wildcats.

    May 2, 2009

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    EVANSTON, Ill. - Northwestern slugged a season-high five home runs, but a frantic late-game rally came up just short in a 15-12 loss to No. 28 Illinois Saturday afternoon at Rocky Miller Park. Tony Vercelli went deep twice and drove in a career-high six runs for the Wildcats.

    The five homers by Northwestern are the most in a game since it his six at Illinois April 14, 2006.

    NU (12-29, 3-12 Big Ten) trailed 12-1 entering the bottom of the fourth and was down 15-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh, but rallied to get the tying run to the plate with no one out in the ninth.

    Facing the 12-run deficit, the 'Cats teed off on the Illinois bullpen to get back into the contest. With two out and one on in the seventh, Chris Lashmet drew a free pass and Paul Snieder singled to load the bases. That set the stage for Vercelli, who launched a grand slam to left-center to make it 15-7. The dinger was Vercelli's team-leading 10th of the season and gave him his third multi-home run game of the season. Pinch hitter Geoff Rowan followed with a solo shot of his own, the first of his collegiate career, to inch Northwestern to within seven.

    The rally continued in the eighth as Lashmet came to the plate with two on and one away and he connected for a three-run shot as the Wildcats cut the deficit to four runs at 15-11. Snieder made it back-to-back jacks for the second consecutive inning as he hit his fourth of the season.

    Pinch hitter Kenneth Avila and Hamilton Wise started the ninth with consecutive singles, bringing the tying run to the plate with no one out. But Will Strack entered the game in relief and got a double-play ball and another groundout to help the Illini escape.

    Northwestern sophomore left-hander Eric Jokisch struggled as Illinois scored three times in each of the first two innings and six more in the fourth to jump out to a commanding lead. Meanwhile, Illini starter Ben Reeser, who was staked to the big lead, surrendered three runs (two earned) before exiting after four innings.

    Reeser's departure seemed to be just what the Wildcats ordered as they refused to go down quietly despite trailing by as many as 12.

    Freshmen Snieder and Wise paced NU with three hits apiece. Pete Capetta had four hits and four RBI to lead Illinois. Northwestern slugged out 15 hits in the contest to 20 for the Illini.

    Mike Stankiewicz was credited with the win for the visitors despite allowing five runs in 2 2/3 innings pitched. Jokisch was saddled with the loss after lasting just 3 1/3 innings. Strack recorded the final three outs to earn his second save of the season.

    The teams conclude their three-game series on Sunday with first pitch set for 1 p.m. at Rocky Miller Park.