May 17, 2014
COLUMBUS, Ohio-- Northwestern won the first two games of its series at Ohio State, but was unable to complete the three-game sweep when the Buckeyes won the regular season finale Saturday, 5-2.
The game began under a heavy drizzle and Ohio State was able to take an early lead in the bottom of the first inning. Nick Sergakis drew a leadoff walk and he scored from second base two batters later when Troy Kuhn singled into left field. The Buckeyes put two more runners in scoring position with just one out, but Northwestern's Nick Friarreeled off back-to-back strikeouts to end the soggy first inning.
Joe Hoscheit continued a memorable weekend for the Wildcats when he singled to right-center field to lead off the top of the second inning. The left fielder stole second base with two outs and advanced to third on a throwing error by OSU catcher Aaron Gretz. Senior Jake Straubhad an opportunity to drive in the equalizer, but he grounded out sharply to second base to end the inning.
The Buckeyes tacked on another run to their lead in the third inning. The Wildcats went down in order for the first time in the top of the frame and Ohio State capitalized in the bottom half. Kuhn became the third leadoff hitter to reach base in as many innings when he singled up the middle. Friar picked up two quick outs before Troy Montgomery put a down a bunt, the throw to first was offline and Kuhn came all the way around to score and give the home team its largest lead of the series, 2-0.
Craig Nenning reached on Northwestern's second error of the game to open the bottom of the fourth and the Buckeyes made the visitors pay. One of Ohio State's three seniors, Tim Wetzel, hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth to help his team double its lead. Friar gave up two more singles, but his third pickoff of the season (Sergakis) and two fly balls helped the senior squash the mounting rally.
Meanwhile Ohio State's Greg Greve seemed to have Northwestern's lineup handcuffed. Following Hoscheit's base hit that kicked off the second inning, the senior retired 14 Wildcats in a row until another freshman, Matt Hopfner, doubled down the line in left field with two outs in the top of the sixth inning. Hopfner's second hit of the afternoon secured his 21st multi-hit effort of the season to lead the team.
Scott Heelan followed Hopfner's at-bat with a walk to set the stage for Jack Mitchell. Northwestern's center fielder put a charge into a pitch by Greve, but Wetzel made a tremendous leaping catch at the wall with his back to the infield to rob the sophomore of what looked to be his second home run of the series.
Friar held the Buckeyes scoreless in the fifth and sixth innings, but Ronnie Dawson added to the home team's lead in the bottom of the seventh. The freshman hit his second home run of the series, one that stayed inside the ballpark, to give Ohio State a 5-0 lead. Friar got two outs in the seventh and turned it over to classmate Ethan Bramschreiberto get the final out of the frame.
Mitchell may have been robbed by Wetzel in the sixth inning, but in his next at-bat in the eighth, he wouldn't be denied as he ended Greve's shutout with one swing. Hopfner and Heelan singled ahead of the San Diego, Calif., native and he delivered a two-run double to the gap in left-center field that allowed both teammates to score and pull NU within three runs at 5-2.
Dan Tyson, the third senior pitcher to toe the rubber Saturday, got the first out in the bottom of the eighth before personally handing the ball to the fourth, Jack Quigley. Straub, who was also playing in his final game in a Northwestern uniform, threw out Montgomery trying to steal for the second out. Quigley struck out Nenning for the third and final out.
Hopfner finished the game with a team-high three hits in the season finale; it was the sixth time in his inaugural season he achieved that mark to lead the Wildcats. He also led the Wildcats in hits, with 66, and batting average with a mark of .335. He batted .417 with three doubles against Ohio State.
Northwestern won the first two games against the Buckeyes to win its first series in Columbus since 1989. The 'Cats finished the 2014 season with 19 wins, including seven in Big Ten play. In its last 22 games since April 16, NU won 13 times.
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