May 4, 2008
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Matt Havey stranded a pair of runners in scoring position to end the game as Northwestern took the opening game of Sunday's doubleheader with Illinois 4-3 at Illinois Field. Jake Goebbert doubled and homered to pace the Wildcats at the plate.
The victory for NU (17-21, 11-11) evens the series after the Fighting Illini (26-18, 12-10) won Saturday's opener 14-4.
Northwestern gave Eric Jokisch a pair of runs to work with in the top of the third inning. Chad Noble drew a leadoff walk and the Wildcats had two runners aboard with no one out when Tommy Finn reached on an error. Jake Owens extended his hitting streak to 15 games when he followed by ripping an RBI single to center to plate Noble. Finn advanced to third on the hit and would later score on a groundout to put NU ahead 2-0.
The Wildcats had plenty of opportunities to have an even larger lead as they put the leadoff man aboard in three of the first four innings, but Aaron Martin coaxed NU into a trio of double play groundouts to help squelch the threats.
Illinois cut its deficit in half in the bottom of the fourth as a leadoff walk came back to haunt Jokisch. Kyle Hudson drew the free pass, stole his league-leading 34th base of the season, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a single by Aaron Johnson.
Northwestern got the run right back in the ensuing half-inning to go up 3-1. Finn started things with a hustle double with one out and moved to third before Owens brought him home with a sacrifice fly to center. After Aaron Newman drew a walk, Goebbert ripped a double to the gap in right-center.
The two-base hit was the 22nd of the season for Goebbert, marking a NU season record that had stood since Kent McGuire set the standard in 1977. It also extended Goebbert's hit streak to 17 straight contests. However, the 'Cats stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent them from extending their lead.
Jokisch scattered just four hits through the first five innings against the Big Ten's top hitting team, but ran into trouble in the sixth against the top of the order. Joe Bonadonna led off with a single, moved to second on a failed pickoff attempt and to third on a walk to Kyle Hudson. A hit by Brandon Wikoff got the Fighting Illini to within 3-2 and put runners on the corners with no one out.
Matt Havey came on in relief and pulled off a magical escape that would make Harry Houdini blush. The senior righty struck out Johnson for the first out before getting Daniel Webb to fly out to short left field, not deep enough to allow Hudson to tag. After intentionally walking Ryan Hastings to load the bases, Havey completed the escape act by getting pinch hitter Mike Giller to pop out to shortstop.
Goebbert tacked on what proved to be a huge insurance run in the bottom of the sixth as he launched a Mike Sterk offering deep over the fence for his eighth homer of the year to put Northwestern back up two.
Havey returned to the mound in the seventh and retired two straight batters after allowing a single to open the inning. However, a walk to Hudson put the tying run on base and Wikoff went the other way for a double that stayed just inside the left field line to plate a run and put two in scoring position. Johnson then came to the plate already with two hits on the day, but Havey won the battle, getting him to fly out to right to preserve the white-knuckle victory.
Goebbert and Mike Kalina had two hits apiece for Northwestern, while Jokisch picked up the win to improve to 6-2 on the season.
The second game of the doubleheader is slated to begin at approximately 3:45 p.m.