May 9, 2014
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern extended its winning streak to three games Friday after knocking off the SIU Edwardsville Cougars, 8-6, in the first game of a three-game set at Rocky Miller Park.
The Wildcats fell in a three-run hole after only a half inning of play, but they managed to plate at least one run in six of eight innings throughout the afternoon to come from behind to secure an important win over the instate rival.
SIUE grabbed its quick three-run lead when first baseman Alec Saikal hit a two-run home run to start the scoring. Chase Green also hit an RBI double that brought home an unearned run.
Northwestern was able to cut into the deficit in the bottom of the frame. Matt Hopfner reached on an infield single and after another single by Scott Heelan, Jack Mitchell delivered a base hit to left field that gave the Wildcats their first run of the afternoon. The Cougars were able to turn an inning-ending double play though to limit the home team to the lone tally.
After NU starting pitcher Brandon Magallones faced the minimum in the top of the second, the 'Cats continued their comeback in the bottom half. Reid Hunter started the inning with a base hit up the middle, and after he was sacrificed to second base by Walker Moses, the junior advanced to third on a single that was blooped into left field by Jake Straub. Then Nick Linne, who was making his first start at shortstop Friday, grounded out to his counterpart to bring Hunter home and cut the deficit to a single run.
Chicago's Big Ten Team finally secured its first lead in the bottom of the third inning. Hopfner started the third with his second single in as many at-bats and he later moved to second on a passed ball by SIUE catcher Brian Sipe. Heelan then drove in his team-high 29th run of the season with a single through the left side to tie the game at three runs apiece. SIUE's Jarrett Bednar got two outs while holding Heelan on first base, but the right-hander hit Hunter and Moses in succession to load the bases for Straub. NU's backstop delivered the go-ahead run when he smashed a single to the left side bringing Heelan home and giving the 'Cats a 4-3 edge.
Northwestern was held scoreless for the first time in the fourth inning, but it was able to plate a run without recording a hit in the bottom of the fifth. Moses was hit by a pitch for a second straight time with one out and he stole second base, his sixth theft of the season. The right fielder made third on a wild pitch by Bednar and eventually scored on a passed ball, the second of the game for the Cougars. After five innings at Rocky Miller Park, NU led, 5-3.
The Cougars collected another unearned run off of Magallones in the top of the sixth inning. Green reached on an error to open the stanza and he later scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of pinch hitter Austin Verschoore.
The visitors appeared poised to tie the game or perhaps take back the lead in the top of the seventh. Magallones served up a single, a wild pitch and a walk to begin the inning. The Manhattan, Ill., native was lifted in favor of senior Jack Quigley, who intentionally walked Skyler Geissinger to load the bases and set up a force play at any base. Quigley got Green to ground the ball sharply to Linne at shortstop and he tossed it firmly to Heelan at second base, who relayed it on to Hopfner to complete the inning-ending double play that left two Cougars aboard.
NU tacked on the first of three late insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh against a new pitcher, Brett Thomas. Mitchell greeted the right-hander with a hard single into center field and then the two-sport talent stole second base. After moving up 90 feet on Joe Hoscheit's base hit to left, Mitchell scored on a ground out to increase his team's lead to two runs.
SIUE appeared primed for another rally in the next half inning when Keaton Wright led off with a triple to deep center field. The next hitter flied out to shallow center field and a strong throw from Mitchell coaxed Wright into holding his ground. New catcher Zach Little then hit a line drive to Linne that he snared and fired to Hunter at the third base bag to double off Wright and end the top of the eighth.
Straub opened up the home half by doubling off the wall in left field for his third two-bagger of the season. Dauch singled to move the catcher up to third and he scored when Hopfner delivered a sacrifice fly to right field. Dauch, NU's designated hitter, would also score later in the inning when Heelan reached on an error that was charged to Geissinger, ballooning Northwestern's lead to four runs at 8-4.
Moses made a spectacular diving catch to record the first out in the top of the ninth, but SIUE would not go down without a fight. Denton Reed tripled for his third hit of the afternoon and he scored soon after on a passed ball. Quigley got Saikal to foul out to Hopfner near Northwestern's dugout, but Devin Caldwell uncorked this team's second home run of the day, one that pulled the Cougars to within two. Geissinger was the next man to the plate, but he flied out to his counterpart, Linne, in shallow left field to end the ballgame.
Magallones picked up his third win of the season Friday. The junior scattered seven hits over 6.1 innings, allowing four runs, though only two were earned. Quigley pitched 2.2 innings in relief of Magallones, enough to earn his seventh save of the year.
As a team, Northwestern collected 14 hits Friday, marking the 22nd time this season that head coach Paul Stevens' bunch has accumulated 10-or-more hits. Hopfner and Straub paced the 'Cats with three hits apiece, while three others picked up a pair each. The top four hitters in NU's lineup (Dauch, Hopfner, Heelan and Mitchell) combined to bat .529 (9-for-17) with three RBI and four runs scored in the victory.
After putting up eight runs in a win at UIC on Wednesday, May 7, the 'Cats have scored eight runs or more in consecutive games for the third time this season. Northwestern pushed across a combined 26 runs in wins over Valparaiso and Iowa on April 8 and April 11 and a combined 20 runs in victories over Nebraska-Omaha and Mississippi Valley State on Feb. 22.
The nonconference series between the Wildcats and Cougars resumes on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. NU left-handed pitcher Reed Mason is slated to start for the home team, while right-hander Evan Martens will take the ball for SIUE.
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