May 7, 2006
EVANSTON, Ill. -
Needing a Sunday win to keep pace with Michigan atop the Big Ten standings, Northwestern's baseball team delivered in the clutch. NU topped Minnesota 9-8, holding off a late-inning rally by the Gophers. Senior Julio Siberio pitched the first five innings for the win, while junior Andrew Smith pitched the final four for the save. The win gives NU a 16-8 conference record and a first-place tie in league standings. NU has been in the lead for all six weeks of the Big Ten season.
The Wildcat offense kicked off the game with four runs in the bottom of the first inning. The big blow came on Dan Brauer's (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton-Warrenville South) three-run home run into the teeth of a stiff wind. It was Brauer's first collegiate home run and gave NU a 4-0 lead. NU's first run crossed the plate when Aaron Newman (Palatine, Ill./Palatine) led off the inning with a swinging bunt single to the left side of the mound and went to second when the throw got away. He scored on a Caleb Fields (Oak Park, Ill./Fenwick) sharp single to center. Prior to Fields' hit, first baseman Pat McMahon (Mundelein, Ill./Carmel) was issued the first of three walks on the day.
NU went ahead 5-0 in the bottom of the third inning, taking advantage of Minnesota's second error of the game. After Antonio Mule (Lodi, N.J./Lodi) singled to start the inning, a Fields groundball to shortstop was thrown away by the Gopher second baseman on an attempted double play. Fields went to second on the errant throw and two pitches later stole third. The ball got away from the Minnesota catcher trying to catch Fields at third, allowing him to trot home.
Siberio shut down the Minnesota offense for the first three innings before the Gophers plated a run in the top of the fourth inning. A leadoff hit batsman came around to score on a single.
NU answered the Gopher run with a single run of its own in the bottom half of the inning. McMahon doubled home Tommy Finn (Valparaiso, Ind./Andrean) after he singled to lead off the inning. Finn stole second to put himself in scoring position.
The Gophers went right back at it with two more runs in the top of the fifth. A sacrifice fly followed a Wildcat error and a single for the first run. Following a fly out, the second single of the inning put runner on first and third with one out. The third single of the inning scored the second run.
Like first-place teams do, NU answered with a pair of runs to protect its five-run lead. Left fielder Anthony Wycklendt (Glendale, Wis./Nicolet) launched his fifth home run of the season over the left field wall off reliever Jon Gaub. He was Minnesota's third pitcher of the game. Wycklendt's two-run bomb scored Brauer who was walked to start the inning.
The Gophers scored a single run in the top of the sixth off reliever Andrew Smith (Fort Mitchell, Ky./Beechwood). A two-out single went to second on a balk and scored on an Andy Hunter single to left field. Hunter was 4-for-5 in the game with a pair of RBI.
NU went quietly in the sixth inning, but scored a run in the seventh after Brauer doubled to left field and came around to score on a wild pitch. He went to third on a come backer to the Gopher pitcher.
Minnesota put the pressure on in the top of the eighth inning, scoring four runs on three hits and taking advantage of a Wildcat error. A base-clearing double by Bryan Jost made the score 9-8.
But Smith buckled down after giving up a leadoff single in the ninth. After a sacrifice bunt put the tying run on second base, a fly out to centerfield and a groundball to third ended the game.
Siberio picked up his third win of the season and Smith tallied his second career save.
Offensively, Brauer was 2-for-2 with a pair of walks and three RBI. Wycklendt recorded two RBI, while Jake Owens (Stevens Point, Wis./Pacelli) and Fields each drove in one.
The Wildcats are next in action when they travel to Chicago rival Illinois-Chicago Tuesday night. Game time is set for 7 p.m.