May 17, 2012
Site: Evanston, Ill. (Rocky Miller Park)
Score: Saint Louis 6, Northwestern 4
Records: NU (17-35), Saint Louis (39-15)
Next NU Event: Friday, May 18 -- vs. Saint Louis (Rocky Miller Park), 3 p.m.
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern raced out to an early three-run lead, but errors eventually cost the Wildcats as they dropped the opening game of their three-game series with Saint Louis 6-4 Thursday afternoon at Rocky Miller Park.
Four NU miscues in the contest led to five unearned runs for the Billikens as the guests earned their 39th victory of the season.
Things looked great early on for the 'Cats as they jumped on SLU starting pitcher Clay Smith. The right-hander came into the contest with a 2.37 ERA, but Northwestern tallied three times in the opening inning. Back-to-back singles by Zach Morton and Paul Snieder put two on with no one out before Kyle Ruchim continued his big week with an RBI single to left to put the Wildcats in front. A throwing error on the play moved two into scoring position for Colby Everett who delivered a two-run single up the middle, giving NU a 3-0 lead.
Senior Francis Brooke
, working the final start of his collegiate career, worked around two baserunners in the first and one more in the second before two Northwestern errors cost the 'Cats the lead in the third. A throwing error and two singles loaded the bases with no one out before a third straight hit by Alex Kelly made it 3-1. A double play grounder brought home a second run before Grant Nelson tied the game with the Billikens' fourth hit of the frame.
NU quickly reclaimed the lead in the home half of the third as Morton again started an inning with a hit and he later scored from second on a hit by Jack Havey to put the 'Cats back in front, 4-3.
Smith was knocked around for four runs and seven hits over four innings before Damian Rivera came in on relief and settled things down. The sophomore left-hander worked three hitless innings, retiring all nine batters he faced.
Errors came into play again in the seventh inning as the Billikens took their first lead of the day. With one down, a routine flyball was misplayed for a two-base error. Following a walk, a throwing error tied the game before Jerry Mancuso put Saint Louis in front with a single through the left side.
The guests got a big insurance run in the eighth as Steve Fernandez led off the inning with a hit and pinch runner Danny Brennan eventually scored from third on a clutch two-out single by Marco DiRoma.
Saint Louis closer Travis Parker came on to work the eighth having not allowed an earned run in his 25 appearances and 34 2/3 innings pitched entering the contest. NU got singles from Snieder and Ruchim in the eighth, but both men were left stranded. Geoff Rowan drew a one-out walk in the ninth, bringing the tying run to the plate, but the Wildcats were unable to rally.
Brooke (2-7) went the distance with just one of the six runs he allowed being earned. Rivera (4-5) picked up the victory in relief. The Wildcats finished with nine hits in the contest, though just two came over the final six innings of play. Ruchim led Northwestern with three hits, following up on a four-hit day against Notre Dame on Tuesday.
The teams resume their three-game series at 3 p.m. Friday.
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