By Noah Coffman
A tough weekend for the Wildcats only got tougher in the Sunday finale, as they wasted another phenomenal start from Jack Pagliarini and multiple late-inning chances before a Jack Yalowitz 2 run homer in the 10th propelled the Fighting Illini to their third straight victory.
It started off as a pitcher’s duel. Illinois opened the scoring in the top of the third, with sophomore shortstop Ben Troike reaching on a double off the glove of Charlie Maxwell, before coming around to score on a passed ball and a wild pitch. But Northwestern’s freshman hurler settled down after that, working his way out of three separate jams before exiting the game after the 6th. Pagliarini finished with one of his best lines of the season, allowing just 5 hits and one unearned run while walking 4 and striking out 7.
But Pagliarini was matched stride-for-stride by his counterpart Ty Weber, who exited after 6.2 innings of one run ball, with the only blemish on his record coming from an Alex Erro solo bomb in the bottom of the fourth. Despite Weber only recording one strikeout, Northwestern reached base just 6 other times during his outing, with 3 total hits and 4 walks.
After a scoreless 7th, Illinois threatened with two outs in the 8th, but Tommy Bordignon, who had relieved Ryan Bader after 1.2 scoreless innings from the freshman, got a key strikeout to end the inning despite two wild pitches in the at bat. In the bottom of the 8th, Northwestern responded against reliever Sean Leland. After a leadoff double into center field by Leo Kaplan, Illinois failed to make plays on consecutive bunts by Connor Lind (pinch-hitting) and Jack Dunn, allowing the go-ahead run to score. But after Leland walked Alex Erro to load the bases with nobody out, Ryan Thompson entered for the Illini and took care of business, striking out Bourbon, Claeys, and Maxwell to retire the side.
Illinois responded in the 9th. Bordignon, who remained in the game, allowed a leadoff single to catcher Jeff Korte. One sacrifice bunt and one wild pitch later, despite a diving catch by Kyle Burnett Jr after Danny Katz entered the game, pinch runner David Craan came across with the tying run. The Wildcats blew another opportunity in the bottom of the inning, with Burnett Jr’s popped-up bunt leading to a double play after Ben Dickey’s leadoff single. Then, in the top of the 10th, Yalowitz’s bomb off Danny Katz all but sealed it. Ryan Thompson, who got the win thanks to a strong bounce-back 3-inning performance after struggling on Friday, set down Northwestern with relative ease, and that was all she wrote for the Wildcats.
Leo Kaplan and Alex Erro were the offensive standouts for Northwestern, as the former was the only Wildcat with a multi-hit game and the latter homered, walked twice, and was hit once. For Illinois, Jack Yalowitz delivered the big hit, while Bren Spillane came through with three base knocks of his own.
After the disappointing three-game sweep, which featured two extra inning contests and a combined run differential of 4, the Wildcats will be back in action, weather permitting, Tuesday against Chicago State.