Offense can only carry a baseball team so far. Despite scoring 37 runs over four games this past week, Northwestern baseball (16-16, 5-4 B1G) went 2-2 and dropped into a three-way tie for sixth in the Big Ten race.
With positive momentum after a sweep of Ohio State two weekends ago, the Wildcats defeated Milwaukee (19-13), 6-1, last Tuesday. Freshman southpaw Parker Hanks set a season high with six strikeouts in five innings of shutout baseball. Hanks has probably been Northwestern’s best starter this season, going 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA (CHECK) in his starts.
On the offensive side, sophomore Casey O’Laughlin helped Northwestern strike first with a two-RBI single in the first inning. With the way the ‘Cats were pitching, a three-run seventh - highlighted by a two-RBI double off the bat of Jack Dunn - essentially sealed the game. Dunn has been one of the best players in the conference this season, batting .383 with 28 RBIs.
However, when the Maryland Terrapins (18-17, 5-4 B1G) came to Evanston this past weekend, Hanks’ success on the mound was not replicated by any Northwestern pitcher. On Friday, the Terrapins jumped out to a 4-0 lead. The wheels came off for NU starter Quinn Lavelle in the fourth inning, when he allowed five more runs to give Maryland a 9-1 lead. Lavelle did not walk a batter, but did not consistently hit his spots and certainly did not have his best stuff.
Northwestern fought back valiantly, upping Maryland with six runs of their own in the fourth inning to cut the deficit to 9-6. The offensive outburst was led by many off the usual suspects: Dunn, Alex Erro (3-5, 2 RBIs), and Shawn Goosenberg. Goosenberg, the freshman second baseman, has racked up 32 hits this year, prompting coach Spencer Allen to reward him by batting him third.
Maryland starter Hunter Parsons battled through his tough inning, surviving seven innings without allowing any more runs. That set up the back end of the Terrapins’ bullpen to close the deal. Northwestern mustered one more run, but ultimately lost 13-8.
The first game of Saturday’s doubleheader felt like an inverse of the first, with Northwestern winning 13-7. The ‘Cats jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first two innings as NU starter Mike Doherty prevented the Terrapins from scoring. Willie Bourbon started the scoring with a two-run bomb in the first inning. Dunn, Erro, Goosenberg, and O’Laughlin each had multiple hits and multiple RBIs.
Like they did all weekend, however, Maryland kept scoring. They brought two across in the fifth, and added three more in the sixth when Spencer Allen brought in Nick Paciorek with the bases loaded and one out. The sophomore struck out the next two batters to end the threat. Paciorek has 27 strikeouts and a 2.81 ERA on the year.
Maryland tied the game in the eighth via a two-run home run from Terrapin first baseman Maxwell Costes, and the game appeared to be unraveling for Northwestern. However, the Wildcats exploded for six runs in the eighth, highlighted by this bomb from Alex Erro:
The series finale was the closest game of the week, but Northwestern would wind up on the losing end of a 12-10 affair. The Wildcats got on the board first thanks to a Bourbon ground-rule RBI double, but the Terrapins took control by scoring five runs in the fourth inning, featuring a two-run dinger from Justin Vought. After three scoreless innings, Northwestern starter Tommy D’Alise faced five batters in the ugly frame, and all five came around to score. The ‘Cats again showed their resilience in the bottom of the inning, as catcher Michael Trautwein knocked a two-RBI double and left fielder Leo Kaplan brought him home with a sac fly to cut the deficit to one.
After a scoreless fifth, a total of nine runs were scored in the sixth inning, including five for Northwestern. The highlight was a two-RBI triple from Erro that tied the game at 9-9. However, Maryland’s Benjamin Cowles hit a go-ahead home run in the next half inning, and the Wildcats were unable to complete a second comeback as John Murphy shut them down in the ninth.
Northwestern plays Notre Dame on Tuesday in South Bend before heading to Ann Arbor for a weekend series at Michigan. Northwestern can leapfrog the Wolverines in the Big Ten standings with a series win.