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    Northwestern Drops Extra-Inning Clash in Season Finale

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Scott Heelan tallied a career-high four hits in Saturday's season finale.
    Scott Heelan tallied a career-high four hits in Saturday's season finale.

    May 18, 2013

     at Wichita State
     Box Score  WSU 4, NU 3 (10)
     Records  NU 22-26 (9-15 B1G), WSU 34-25 (15-6 MVC)

    WICHITA, Kan. -- Fifth-year senior Zach Morton tossed seven shutout innings on the mound and added three hits at the dish, but it was not enough as Northwestern dropped its season finale Saturday to Wichita State, 4-3, in 10 innings.

    Making his final appearance in a Northwestern uniform, Morton danced around a troublesome situation in the first inning Saturday. Wichita State led off the inning with a pair of infield singles before advancing the runners on a wild pitch and stolen base. Morton spun back-to-back strikeouts before issuing a base on balls to load the bases. The Evanston, Ill., native notched his third punch-out of the frame to strand three Shockers on base.

    The Wildcats knitted together a brief two-out rally against WSU starting pitcher Garrett Brummett. Northwestern second baseman Kyle Ruchim extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a bloop single into shallow right field. Tanner Dearman appeared to have a beat on the play, but he lost track of it in the high afternoon sky and Ruchim reached safely. Morton added his second single in as many at-bats, but the inning ended on a line drive to center field.

    Ruchim's 12-game hitting streak is his second such 12-game stretch this season. The Buffalo Grove, Ill., native hit safely in 34 of the 42 games he played in 2013.

    Morton continued to make the most of his final collegiate contest. The right-hander kept the Shockers off balance early as he racked up six strikeouts through his four innings of work to match a season high. Ironically the last time Morton fanned six hitters came against another Missouri Valley Conference foe, Missouri State, on March 8.

    The Wildcats also played some slick defense behind their man on the mound. Shortstop Trevor Stevens, Ruchim and first baseman Jack Havey teamed up to turn double plays in the third, fifth and sixth innings following base hits to keep the Shockers off the scoreboard. Through six innings, Morton recorded six outs via strikeout and the rest on the ground.

    For the second day in a row, neither team had pushed across a run as the game headed to the bottom of the seventh inning. Following a one-out infield single, the Wildcats turned their fourth double play of the game, though this one was a bit unconventional. Pinch hitter Sean Moore then flew out to Zach Jones in right field. Jones, who made a sliding catch on the play, fired in to Stevens who relayed the ball on to Havey at first to double off Erik Harbutz to end the inning.

    The four double plays turned by Northwestern Saturday marked a season high. The 'Cats had turned three twin-killings two other times, on March 22 against Iowa and May 12 at Indiana.

    Northwestern's battery decided to take matters into its own hands to generate some offense in the top of the eighth. Morton hit a one-out single to left field and took second on a similar effort by Havey. NU catcher Scott Heelan flipped the first pitch he saw in front of the right fielder to bring his pitcher home for the first run of the ballgame.

    The hit parade continued when left fielder Jack Livingston roped a single to right off new pitcher Foster Vielock that allowed Havey to come around from second to score. Jones followed that about with an infield hit to the hole on the right side that brought Heelan home and ballooned Northwestern's lead to 3-0.

    Morton was lifted from the mound in favor of Ethan Bramschreiber to begin the bottom of the eighth inning. The Glendora, Calif., native hit the first batter he saw, WSU's Micah Green. Green came around to score when the next hitter, Dearman, singled to left field. Livingston made a strong throw to the plate, but Green just beat the peg and Dearman took second on the play.

    Dearman's effort proved costly when an infield chopper and a throwing error charged to the Wildcats allowed him to score and cut the deficit to a run.

    Reed Mason emerged from the bullpen to face Tyler Baker and attempt to put out the fire. The southpaw caught Baker looking for the first out and got the dangerous Casey Gillaspie to fly out to shallow right field for the second. After a two-out single, Mason got a sharp grounder to second that Ruchim fielded and threw on to Havey for the final out. After eight innings, Northwestern led Wichita State, 3-2.

    The visitors could not push across an insurance run in the top of the ninth and that would prove to be costly. Wichita State produced the game-tying run on a sacrifice fly to left field by Green. Dearman, after reaching on a fielder's choice and stealing both second and third, would be stranded 90 feet from home when Livingston got pinch hitter Joe Haddox swinging at strike three to finish the ninth.

    Northwestern was unable to score against WSU's closer, Brandon Peterson, in the 10th inning. That scenario also proved to be costly when Shocker Daniel Kihle drove in the game-winning run against Livingston with a base hit into center field.

    The Wildcats played their eighth extra-inning game of the season Saturday, their most since 1993. NU finished with a mark of 5-3 in extra-inning games.

    Heelan tallied four hits for the first time in his career Saturday. Morton turned in his fifth three-hit performance of the season in the batter's box and his 14th multi-hit game overall. Not to be outdone, with a single in the top of the ninth, Ruchim tallied three hits for the team-high sixth time this season. The junior led the Wildcats with 18 multi-hit games in 2013.


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