By Eric Rynston-Lobel
Being swept in a doubleheader is never fun. Being outscored in a doubleheader 23-6 on a rainy day following a seven-hour bus ride is even worse.
For Northwestern Baseball, that was the reality this Friday, as the Wildcats lost both games against Kent State, 11-5 and 12-1.
Sophomore southpaw Quinn Lavelle started game one for the Cats. Coming into the day, he had allowed no more than three runs in a start all season. By the end of the second inning Friday, he had already allowed eight.
For head coach Spencer Allen, having his starter in game one of a doubleheader only pitch two innings was certainly the last issue he wanted to have to worry about, especially with a player as consistent as Lavelle.
Ultimately, Allen used three relievers, including junior lefty Matt Gannon, who had a strong first inning of relief before struggling in his second. Junior Nick Cauley allowed two runs in an inning and a third while sophomore lefty Ryan Bader turned in the best pitching performance for Northwestern on the day, tossing two and a third shutout innings.
Offensively in game one, Northwestern never showed any quit. After falling behind 8-0 after two innings, the Cats struck back with two runs in the third and one in the fourth to cut the deficit to a more manageable five. That run in the fourth came courtesy of Ben Dickey’s first career home run in Northwestern purple. He enjoyed a solid day, picking up three hits in eight at bats. However, the hitters’ struggles with runners in scoring position and the bullpen’s inability to hold Kent State off the scoreboard consistently proved to be the difference.
In game two, the Golden Flashes’ starter John Matthews stymied the Cats’ offense, tossing six shutout innings. Matthews came into the game with an ERA north of nine, but he looked like an ace against a Northwestern offense that had ample opportunities with runners in scoring position but was unable to get the big hit when needed. Matthews’ strong start followed up the impressive performance from his left-handed teammate Connor Wollersheim, who also threw six innings and struck out seven.
The most interesting moment in the second game came when Allen brought junior Hank Christie in to relieve Sam Lawrence in the third inning with the bases loaded and nobody out with Kent State up 2-0.
Christie proceeded to allow all three runs to score on a wild pitch and two sacrifice flies. Allen turned to Christie, the scheduled starter for the final game of the series on Saturday, to escape the jam because the teams decided before the second game that Saturday’s contest would be cancelled due to the anticipated low temperatures.
With that cancellation, any hope the ‘Cats had of stealing a win from the Golden Flashes evaporated. Instead, they will head back to Evanston sitting at 5-11 but with plenty of experience to build off with Big Ten play opening up next weekend against Purdue.