Northwestern baseball (3-4) faced a tough task this weekend going up against a strong Duke team (6-1) for a three-game series in Durham. The Blue Devils – ranked in the top 25 teams in the country by Baseball America and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Association – took the series, but the Wildcats managed to squeak out a win on Sunday.
A scheduled matchup on Friday was postponed due to inclement weather, and instead the two academic powerhouses played a doubleheader on Saturday.
L 5-4 (10 innings)
Game 1 in Durham was extremely competitive. Ace Hank Christie turned in six innings of one-run baseball, surrendering his only run in the third inning on a home run from freshman Rudy Maxwell. Christie notched 10 strikeouts (a career high), and appears to be the workhorse starter that is so important for any successful collegiate baseball season.
Northwestern pulled ahead in the fifth inning with a three-run outburst led by the Dunn brothers. Younger brother David led the inning off with a double, and as is often the case, the scoring kicked off due to a defensive miscue. A pickoff attempt from Blue Devils reliever Matt Dockman got by the first basemen, and Dunn scored to tie the game at 1-1. A couple batters later, senior shortstop Jack Dunn matched his brother and doubled home Casey O’Laughlin (2-3) to give the ‘Cats the lead. On the next at-bat, right fielder Ben Dickey singled home Jack on a base hit to left. Both Dunns finished the game 2-4 with a double and a run.
Designated hitter Anthony Calarco extended the Northwestern lead to 4-1 in the top of the eighth, but the real damage was done in the bottom of the inning. Off reliever Anthony Alepra, Duke catcher Michael Rothenberg blasted a game-tying, three-run homer to right field. It is the second straight weekend that a quality start from Christie has been wasted by the bullpen.
After a scoreless ninth, Maxwell was the hero in the bottom of the tenth with a walk-off double off closer Nick Paciorek. Paciorek recorded four strikeouts in the loss. It was a disappointing loss for Northwestern, given the opportunity to win against a more talented team.
The nightcap on Saturday was an offensive explosion for both teams, but mostly Duke. Northwestern jumped out to a 5-0 through 2.5 innings highlighted by a second-inning three-run dinger to right off the bat of O’Laughlin. Starter Sam Lawrence was cruising, and all was well.
However, Duke had other plans. Lawrence fell apart in the bottom of the third, facing six batters without recording an out. All six batters went on to score, and the Blue Devils were not done. With a barrage of singles off Danny Katz (who also failed to record an out) and Ryan Bader, Duke ended up plating six more runs and ending the inning up 12-5.
Northwestern climbed back into the game with three runs over the next three innings. Jack Dunn singled home David Dunn in the fourth; Jack, ranked as one of the top 25 prospects in the Big Ten by D1Baseball.com, went 3-3 with an RBI, run, and walk in the loss. Though Northwestern didn’t score the rest of the game, the eight-run output was the second highest of the season for a team that came into the weekend second in the Big Ten in hits.
In a merciless bottom of the seventh, Duke increased their lead to 23-8 in an 11-run explosion. Michael Doherty allowed all 11 runs, although seven were unearned as NU committed two errors.
Northwestern third baseman Charlie Maxwell went 2-4 with 2 walks, 1 run, and 1 RBI in the loss.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Northwestern avoided the sweep behind a quality start from sophomore Quinn Lavelle. Lavelle scattered six hits but successfully worked out of many jams, and the southpaw walked just one batter.
Northwestern pulled ahead on an RBI single from freshman Michael Trautwein. Trautwein is ranked No. 17 on D1Baseball.com’s Big Ten “Impact Freshmen” list. The Wildcats extended their lead in the fourth as Trautwein singled and came around to score on a passed ball.
After Duke took a 3-2 lead, the ‘Cats stormed ahead in the top of the eighth. Leo Kaplan hit a game-tying pinch-hit RBI triple, followed by a Jack Dunn RBI single and an RBI walk by Charlie Maxwell.
Paciorek earned the save in the ninth inning, allowing one hit and striking out two.
Northwestern returns to action next weekend in a three-game set against Georgia Tech (3-3) in Atlanta.