Wildcats winless in tough road series against Nebraska

By Brendan Preisman

Northwestern (5-25, 3-6 B1G), looked to build on the momentum from a series win over Illinois in their road trip to Nebraska, where they took on the Cornhuskers (21-11-1, 7-2 B1G). 

The Huskers had been rolling all year at the plate, with a batting average of .310 putting them at second in the conference. They were able to take full advantage of a Northwestern pitching staff with a season ERA of 9.13, and the Husker bats stayed hot all weekend. 

The Wildcats were swept, giving up at least eight runs in all three games and never scoring more than five runs in a single game. Nebraska outscored Northwestern 37-10 over the course of the series.

Game One

The start to the series had an auspicious beginning for the ‘Cats. After two scoreless innings on both sides, Cooper Foard, one of the many heroes of the Illinois series, opened the scoring with a 473-foot blast over the left-center fence at Hawks Field. 

The fourth inning was even better for the Wildcats. After inducing three straight walks against Emmett Olson, the Huskers’ main ace, Northwestern was able to put two more runs on the scoreboard thanks to a single from Alex Roessner. That single also marked Alex Calarco’s 17th run of the year, cementing his spot as third on the team in runs. 

Unfortunately, that would be the last scoring for the boys in purple. Corbin Hawkins, Nebraska’s ERA leader, came in for Olson and pitched 3.1 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out a pair of Wildcats.

Hawkins’ entry also coincided with an offensive explosion on the part of the Cornhuskers. After Max Anderson broke Matt McClure’s no-hitter early in the fourth inning, he was brought home on a sacrifice fly by seven hitter Charlie Fischer.

McClure was removed in the next inning for Sam Garewal, who got shelled worse than a seashore. The first three batters reached base on a double, dropped third strike and triple, and despite getting a pop-out, with the game knotted at three, it seemed like things couldn’t get worse.

Garewal immediately gave up a home run to Anderson that knocked in two more runs, and after an error and wild pitch, gave up a single to pinch-hitter Efry Cervantes to make it a six-run fifth inning.

That was about it for the game. Brice Matthews added to his XBH-laden day (he had the triple in the fifth) with a home run in the sixth, and Anderson was brought home by a sacrifice grounder off the bat of Garrett Anglim in the seventh. That run made the score 8-3, Nebraska, where it sat at the game’s conclusion.

Game Two

The second game of the series saw a much more Nebraska-friendly start. Michael Farinelli was on the bump for the ‘Cats, and he seemed to be on the way to his second win of the year after a scoreless first.

Instead, he earned his sixth loss. After getting the first out of the second inning, Farinelli gave up a single to Gabe Swansen, a double to Ben Columbus, but then earned a flyout. The danger seemed to be over.

Unfortunately, Kenny Loggins must have started playing, because Farinelli quickly found himself in the danger zone. A single to Cole Evans, a double to Matthews, a single to Casey Burnham, a single to Anderson, a hit by pitch to Anglim, a triple to Fischer, and a home run to Swansen (up for the second time in the inning) made the score 9-0, with the Huskers scoring all nine runs with two outs. 

The eighth inning offered some hope for Northwestern. A single by Evan Minarovic and some great pinch-running by Michael Elko, along with a walk by Luke Tanner and single by Marty Kaplan, got the bases loaded. Owen McElfatrick got Elko home on a sacrifice fly to center, and Tanner scored on a wild pitch, but that was all for the Northwestern scoring. 

The key for the Cornhuskers in their 9-2 victory was pitching. Starter Jackson Brockett went six innings and allowed just three hits en route to his second win of the year, and Jalen Worthley closed the game with 1.1 no-hit innings, his second no-hit appearance of the year.

Game Three

However, the key to the third game was once again the Husker hitting. The weather had dropped into the 40s, but the bats for Nebraska were still hot. This time Luke Benneche was the unlucky recipient of the shellacking, lasting just four innings and earning his fourth loss of the year.

The Cornhuskers got to work early, scoring three runs in the first frame thanks to doubles from Anderson and Swansen, with a single and a hit-by-pitch mixed in. The extra base hits continued in the second, with a double from Evans and a center-field bomb from Matthews adding two more runs.

Nebraska actually scored in each of the first seven innings. The third inning was just a groundout RBI from Josh Caron, but the fourth and fifth saw Matthews get another home run and Fischer joining the home run club. Caron added another RBI of his own in the fifth with a single into left.

The sixth inning saw Northwestern join the fun, with Stephen Hrustich hitting his third home run of the year to deep left field. However, Nebraska responded with a three-run home run off the bat of Anderson, who was 3-of-3 on the day. The seventh inning saw an RBI single from Griffin Everitt, and then the capper: another three-run blast to deep center, this one from Swansen. Andrew Pinkston’s home run in the eighth and Tanner’s three-run double in the ninth only served to make the score slightly more palatable.

The 18-5 beatdown saw the Huskers hit seven home runs, the first time the team had hit six or more in a game since 2001. The series also saw Nebraska score 30 or more runs in a three game conference series for the seventh time in program history, with their total of 35 standing as the second most in program history. 

After the tough sweep in which the pitching was brutalized (not to mention the 24 runs given up to UIC last week), the Wildcats will look to bounce back with a tough week against some more hot-hitting teams. On Tuesday the Wildcats take on NIU in Dekalb, then welcome the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (20-16, 4-5 B1G), a team that’s won five of their last six, to Rocky and Berenice Miller Park.