One of the hardest things to do in life is restart something. Whether it’s an exercise program or some kind of homework schedule, it can be incredibly difficult to get yourself back in the groove after extended time off.
No sentiment rings truer for Northwestern baseball (14-19 B1G), who after losing five straight games in mid-April, had two weeks’ worth of games canceled due to health concerns within the program, and lost their first two games back to Nebraska (29-11 B1G), before canceling another game for health concerns. Returning home to Miller Park for the first time in over a month, the ’Cats were hoping their three-game series against Iowa (23-18 B1G) would help stop the skid and put themselves back in the win column.
Mission accomplished. The ’Cats took two of three games from the Hawkeyes to win their first game in over a month, and first series in nearly two. While they dropped the first game 6-1, the team was able to win the two final two games in nail biting fashion; the second 5-4, and the third 8-6 on a walk-off home run by junior shortstop Shawn Goosenberg, his third of the year.
In addition to the walk-off, Goosenberg clobbered another home run, and whacked five hits, while scoring five runs and batting in three during the series. Also starring for Northwestern was junior catcher Michael Trautwein, who notched six hits, scored three runs and batted in five, while also whacking two home runs himself, and junior first baseman David Dunn, who notched four hits and three runs batted in.
Iowa was led in their effort by first-year first baseman Peyton Williams, who whacked five hits, batted in two runs and scored three, and senior center fielder Ben Norman, who notched four hits and batted in three runs, while scoring one.
The first game of the series, played on May 21, was not the opener the ’Cats wanted, as they were completely dominated out of the gate. While Northwestern junior pitcher Mike Doherty was solid through three innings, and allowed only a run to score on a triple in the fourth, he came apart in the fifth inning, allowing a two-run home run to sophomore catcher Austin Martin in the fifth inning to break the game open 3-0.
The Hawkeyes, continuing to dominate in the batters’ box, scored another run in the seventh inning on a solo shot by junior first baseman Izaya Fullard, and scored two more runs in the eighth.
On the other side of the ball, Iowa junior pitcher Trenton Wallace absolutely shined, allowing just three hits and striking out eight batters over six innings of work, and was relieved by senior pitcher Trace Hoffman, who allowed just one run to score on a solo shot from graduate left fielder Leo Kaplan. Failing to match the Iowa offense, the ’Cats dropped the first game 6-1.
The second game, played on May 22, saw the Northwestern bats finally wake up, and they woke up early. The team scored three runs in the first inning to take an early 3-0 lead on a bases-loaded double by David Dunn.
Iowa, however, refused to go down without a fight, and scored two runs in the fourth off critical errors from the ’Cats. The first run of the game was batted in by Sosa, who whacked the run in off of Northwestern second baseman Vincent Bianchina’s glove, and the second run came off a sacrifice fly following the play. The Hawkeyes continued to push, and tied up the game in the seventh on a single by Williams.
The ’Cats, desperate for their first win in 35 days, started to chip away in the eighth inning, and notched two critical runs off small-ball singles: one from sophomore designated hitter Stephen Hrustich that scored Goosenberg for the tie-breaking run, and another from Trautwein that scored Hrustich to put the ’Cats up two. With a two-run lead, Northwestern graduate pitcher Sam Lawrence got into some trouble in the ninth, allowing a run to score off a fielders’ choice, but was able to lock down and win the game for Northwestern, 5-4.
In the rubber match, played on May 23, Northwestern’s power-hitting offense finally broke through with five home runs. Two of them were achieved in the first inning, when Goosenberg opened the scoring with a solo shot to put the ’Cats up 1-0, and Trautwein followed with a two-run shot of his own, putting Northwestern up 3-0 early. Kaplan notched another in the second inning with a solo shot of his own.
Like the other games, however, Iowa was not content to stand pat, and quickly marched back with three runs of their own in the fourth inning, all scored off quick hits to punch through into the outfield. The cap came for the Hawkeyes off a double from Ben Norman, a line drive that sailed just over the glove of Northwestern first-year right fielder Ethan O’Donnell.
The game then became a seesaw battle, as Trautwein smacked another dinger in the bottom of the fifth to put the ’Cats up 6-3, only to be matched by more defensive errors in the sixth. A run scored off a balk — a failure to deliver a pitch on a windup — by Northwestern sophomore pitcher Coby Moe, and the Hawkeyes brought it within one on another two-out double. The following inning, Iowa tied the game on another small-ball mishap, when Austin Martin smacked the ball off Moe’s leg to bring in the tying run.
The score remained knotted at six until the ninth inning, when Goosenberg– for the third time this season — whacked a ball over the fence to win the game for the ’Cats, and their first series in nearly two months.
While the series win is certainly a step in the right direction, it’s very unlikely to have an impact on the Wildcats’ postseason chances, as teams with losing records rarely make the NCAA tournament. With that said, Northwestern's final regular season series will occur next week in Columbus, Ohio, where they’ll take on the Ohio State Buckeyes (20-19 B1G) for nothing but bragging rights and momentum.
Of course, nothing’s wrong with either of those.