The Baseball Guy: A Little Luck Gives The ‘Cats a Series Win

Brandon Liebhaber (@B_Liebhaber) explains how Northwestern baseball has been able to rattle off a few wins over the last week.

The Northwestern baseball team entered last week on a seven game losing streak, but the Wildcats turned things around by winning three of their four contests. The first was an exciting 11-inning affair against Milwaukee that ended with a walk-off squeeze bunt from shortstop Kyle Ruchim. The ‘Cats took that momentum into their weekend series against Michigan.

Even after that victory, Northwestern was in search of their first conference win since April 1 against Nebraska. Game 1 of the series got postponed due to rain, but that might have been just what NU needed. Just as the team from Bull Durham needed a rain out to end their epic slide, the ‘Cats benefited from missing Friday’s contest. They won both games of Saturday’s doubleheader to get back on track.

Northwestern won its second consecutive 11-inning game Saturday afternoon. Luke Farrell pitched well in relief, but couldn’t hold onto to NU’s one-run lead in the ninth. He gave up a pair of walks and an RBI single to let the Wolverines back in the game. Offense is definitely not this team’s forte, but the Wildcats were able to back up Farrell with three runs in the eleventh. In true NU fashion, they scored three on one hit, a hit batter, a walk, three stolen bases, a sacrifice bunt, and a Michigan error.

Bolstered by the 6-5 victory in Game 1, the ‘Cats scored eight more in the late game. But don’t think that this team’s offensive troubles are a thing of the past. In Saturday’s two games, Northwestern scored a combined 14 runs on 14 hits (only three of which were for extra bases). Six Michigan errors allowed the ‘Cats to score seven unearned runs on the day. Paul Snieder did crank his team-leading fifth homer of the year in the second game and Jack Havey added a pair of hits. Northwestern won 8-5 even though freshman stud Brandon Magallones had a rather pedestrian outing (5 earned runs on 10 hits).

Oddly enough, it was Saturday’s 5-4 loss that should give NU fans the most hope for the rest of the 2012 campaign. Northwestern got three home runs on the day; two from Kyle Ruchim and another from Jack Havey (to tie Snieder for the team lead). For a team that came into the weekend with just 10 total home runs, three in one game is a big deal. Ruchim had just one bomb on the year coming into the game, but this kind of power should not be a surprise. Last year, both of Ruchim’s homers came in the same game. In that game, Ruchim—also the team’s closer—also struck out the side to give NU the win against Purdue. On Sunday, however, Ruchim hit the leadoff batter, and he would come into score on a walk-off single by Michigan’s John DiLaura.

Northwestern has a pair of nonconference games this week before welcoming in-state rival Illinois to Rocky Miller Park over the weekend. If the four homers against Michigan are a sign of things to come, Northwestern will have the opportunity to make some noise in Big Ten play.

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