On a day that was very much symbolic of a new era for Northwestern baseball, it was only fitting that a trio of underclassmen propelled the ‘Cats to victory.
Freshman Willie Bourbon went 4-for-4 with a home run and two RBI, sophomore Jack Claeys hit a go-ahead grand slam in the third inning and freshman Danny Katz pitched 5 innings of two-run baseball to lead Northwestern to an 11-5 win in the inaugural game at newly renovated Rocky & Berenice Miller Park Wednesday afternoon.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Wildcats, as a pair of first inning errors yielded two Chicago State runs before Northwestern (7-18) sent its first batter to the plate. The Cougars (6-17) tacked on a third run in their half of the third inning and led 3-0 after two and a half frames.
But Northwestern responded in a big way in the bottom of the third. A Zach Jones RBI single got the ‘Cats on the board and after a walk and a hit batter, Claeys came up with the bases loaded and deposited a go-ahead grand slam over the left center field fence. Northwestern went on to score one more run in a six-run third inning thanks to Bourbon’s first career home run.
The ‘Cats would add four runs of unearned insurance in the fifth inning, highlighted by a Bourbon RBI double and a two-run single off the bat of Zach Jones. The ‘Cats never looked back and cruised to an 11-5 midweek win.
Danny Katz, perhaps the unsung hero of this game, picked up his first collegiate win, pitching five dominant innings and retiring 15 of the 19 batters he faced.
Northwestern will look to carry midweek momentum into a weekend series with reigning Big Ten champion Michigan. The Wolverines, ranked #20 in the country, are 17-5 on the season and will bring a seven-game winning streak into Evanston.
All three games of Rocky & Berenice Miller Park’s official grand opening weekend can be heard on the airwaves of WNUR Sports. Friday and Sundays’ games can be heard exclusively online, and Saturday’s game can be heard either online or on 89.3 FM Evanston-Chicago.