The Wildcats put up a fight, but it was not nearly enough to overcome Notre Dame’s offensive barrage. About a month after falling to Notre Dame (23-26) in South Bend, Northwestern (23-25, 10-11 B1G) fell again, 12-4, at Rocky Miller Park in Evanston. The loss comes between Northwestern’s two most important series of the regular season as they fighting for a spot in the 8-team Big Ten Tournament.
The ‘Cats dug themselves a big hole early. Starter Parker Hanks did not have it, giving up 4 runs in his one inning of work. The first three batters reached to load the bases before a sac fly brought in the first run. The big blow was a two-RBI triple from Eric Gilgenbach, who came around to score as well.
In the second inning, Nick Cauley replaced Hanks, but gave up back-to-back homeruns to Nico Kavadas and Jack Zyska (2-4, 3 runs).
Meanwhile, the Wildcats could not get anything going against Irish starter Andrew Belcik. Northwestern mustered just one hit across the first three frames.
It appeared as though the rest of the game may unwind uneventfully, but Northwestern refused to fold. In the bottom of the fourth, the ‘Cats climbed back into the game by scoring four. Michael Trautwein started things off by manufacturing a run: he singled, stole second, and promptly scored on a Leo Kaplan single that the left fielder misplayed. The onslaught continued with hits from Charlie Maxwell (2-3, 1 run) and Alex Erro, the latter of which scored Kaplan after the left fielder failed in his dive attempt.
A few batters later (not to mention two pitching changes and an RBI walk), Northwestern’s luck continued as the third baseman misplayed a chopper off the bat of David Dunn, allowing Erro to score and cut the deficit to two. Trautwein - the man who started the rally - returned to the plate with the potential to tie the game with a hit, but he flied out to left to end the threat.
However, the rest of the game was all Notre Dame. The Irish immediately took back the momentum by scoring three in the top of the sixth, taking advantage of a poor outing from reliever Tommy D’Alise. The big blow was a long two-run blast from Spencer Myers, the first home run of the center fielder’s career. By the end of the inning, every member of the Fighting Irish’s starting lineup had a hit.
Notre Dame plated three more in the top of the seventh to remove any doubt about the final outcome.
Ultimately, this game is not too consequential for Northwestern in the context of the playoff hunt (much like Northwestern Football’s loss to Notre Dame in the fall). The Wildcats currently sit in the seventh spot in the conference, a half game ahead of eighth-place Rutgers and a game ahead of ninth-place Ohio State and Maryland. Therefore, a series win against Minnesota (24-24, 13-8 B1G) almost guarantees Northwestern a playoff berth, but anything else will leave them relying on some favorable outcomes in other games.
“We need to take each day on its own - don’t look too far ahead, don’t worry about what other teams are doing,” said star shortstop Jack Dunn. “I think things will work out our way.”
Minnesota is currently locked in a three-way tie for third in the Big Ten and will certainly be motivated to win this weekend. Rutgers faces second-place Indiana in Bloomington this weekend, while Ohio State is at 11th-placed Purdue and Maryland hosts sixth-place Iowa. Northwestern holds the tiebreaker over Rutgers and Ohio State, but not the Terrapins.