Despite a dismal start to its season in non-conference play, the Northwestern baseball team (7-19, 2-1 in conference) finds itself among five Big Ten teams with a winning record in conference play after an impressive series win at Minnesota (8-15, 1-5) this weekend.
Coming off a 4-game losing streak, including a 17-1 thrashing at the hands of Saint Mary's on March 25th, the 'Cats were reeling headed into the weekend series. They acted the part on Friday, falling 8-3, despite home runs from NU senior centerfielder Kyle Ruchim and freshman JR Reimer that bookended a solid 8.1 inning, three run, five strikeout outing from Minnesota starter Ben Meyer.
The 'Cats, albeit painstakingly, exacted revenge in the second game of the series on Saturday with a 13-inning 2-1 victory. It was a pitcher's duel from start to finish, as the teams combined for just 14 hits. Northwestern junior pitcher Reed Mason was the hero of the day, holding the Gophers scoreless over six innings of relief while striking out nine and allowing just two hits to earn the victory. NU snuck the go-ahead run across in the top of the 13th on an error and junior relief pitcher Jake Stolley racked up his third save of the year to even the series at a game apiece.
Teddy Roosevelt once said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick," but the 'Cats were only able to accomplish half of that on Sunday, as their bats pinged out an aluminum symphony at Seibert Field to the tune of 20 hits en route to a 19-7 series clinching win. This offensive fireworks show was the most runs NU has scored in a game since it beat Illinois 19-8 on April 14, 2006. Easily overcoming a tough six-run outing from ace senior pitcher Brandon Magallones, NU scored in every inning except the seventh. Seven 'Cats had multi-hit games, including freshman shortstop Grant Peikert, who got three knocks and scored four runs, and Ruchim, who got two hits and drove in a career-high of five. And for good measure, junior pinch hitter Jack Mitchell cranked a two-run homer in the top of the ninth, no doubt sending shivers down Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly's spine, wherever he might've been that afternoon.
Northwestern will return home (kind of) on Tuesday and Wednesday to face Chicago State and Western Michigan in Chicago before heading south to Champaign to take on 17th ranked Illinois for another conference series.