Once the college baseball season begins, it is a dead sprint to the finish with about 50 games in just over three months. While Northwestern students were lounging on the beach and sleeping in over spring break, Northwestern baseball was embarking on its Big Ten slate. Significantly improved from last season, Spencer Allen’s squad is now a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten.

Since March 23, Northwestern has gone 9-2, evening out their overall record to 14-14. In the Big Ten, the ‘Cats are 4-2 – placing them alone in fifth place in the conference. That includes a 1-2 series against Purdue, and most recently, a series sweep of the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus.

Game 1 from this past weekend was a harbinger of the offensive outbursts to come. Behind team leaders Willie Bourbon and Jack Dunn, Northwestern downed the Buckeyes 13-5. Bourbon went 3-4 with two runs and two doubles, and Dunn went 2-4 with a walk and a stolen base.  

The Wildcats struck first with a run in the top of the first, but Ohio State (16-15, 2-5 B1G) answered with four runs in the bottom of the third. Starter Quinn Lavelle did not have his best stuff, but worked through the rally en route to a seven-inning, winning performance. The Northwestern bats had Lavelle’s back, and responded in the next half inning with two runs off a single from freshman Michael Trautwein, who’s father John Trautwein was the captain of the team in 1984. Trautwein went on to bring in the go-ahead run when he reached on an Ohio State error in the eighth inning and followed it up with an insurance run.

The small ball ended in the top of the ninth when Northwestern demonstrated their power. Bourbon doubled in a run, and a few batters later Casey O’Laughlin hit a grand slam to turn the game into a blowout.

O’Laughlin, a sophomore, has 13 RBIs on the year – matching his total from last year.

On Saturday, the Wildcats relied on solid pitching and a steady offensive effort. Mike Doherty allowed one run in two innings before Ryan Bader pitched five innings of one-run ball in relief, bringing his ERA below 2.00 on the year. Offensively, the ‘Cats scored seven runs in five different innings.

The first five runs came on two RBI groundouts, one suicide squeeze, one infield single and one wild pitch. Over the course of the weekend, Northwestern proved they can score in a multitude of ways, and that will be a big asset to the team going forward. Trautwein added two more RBIs in the 7-2 win.

On Sunday, Northwestern again overcame an early deficit as they completed the sweep of the Buckeyes. Starting pitcher Tommy D’Alise labored through three-and-a-third (with no strikeouts) after allowing three runs in the first inning. After that, it was all Northwestern.

The Dunn brothers led the comeback. Redshirt freshman David knocked a solo homer in the fourth, and Jack notched a sac fly in the top of the seventh. Later that inning, Bourbon hit a bases-clearing go-ahead double after an Ohio State pitching change. The onslaught continued in the eighth with five more runs, highlighted by an RBI triple from junior Charlie Maxwell and a two-RBI double from freshman Shawn Goosenberg. Spencer Allen is not afraid to give the freshmen significant chances, and so far, it is paying off.

Northwestern’s season continues with a non-conference matchup at Milwaukee on Tuesday followed by a weekend series versus Maryland (15-15, 3-3 B1G) at Rocky Miller Park.