By Ben Bokun
Despite four hits for catcher Jack Claeys and a solid start for pitcher Hank Christie, Northwestern found themselves in trouble midway through Saturday afternoon’s game at Miller Park.
The Wildcats fell 5-4 to the Illinois Fighting Illini in 11 innings in Evanston on a frigid day that caused a weather delay that lasted over an hour. The ‘Cats scored three quick runs early in the game, but they were not able to hold on as the Illini exploded with three runs of their own in the sixth inning.
Claeys went 4-4 with a home run and four runs scored in one of the best games of his career at Northwestern. Christie allowed four runs on four hits, but he cruised through the first five innings of the game before giving the ball up to reliever Richard Fordon in the sixth. Fordon did not allow a run in 3.2 innings pitched.
Alex Erro and Charlie Maxwell both added multi-hit games to the team stat sheet, but the Wildcats couldn’t get enough production going on offense to support their pitching staff.
Even though Northwestern’s lineup combined for 10 hits, the ‘Cats left eight men on base and struggled to get hits with runners in scoring position.
When the Wildcats gave up the lead in the sixth inning, Claeys smacked a solo home run in the bottom frame to tie up the ballgame at 4-4. That score stayed the same until the eleventh inning when Illinois scored the game-winning run on a double from star hitter Doran Turchin.
Northwestern couldn’t get a hit in the bottom of the eleventh, ending a marathon of a ballgame.
The ‘Cats will battle the Fighting Illini again on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. in the series finale. Tune in here, starting with the pregame show at 12:45.