It might not feel like it with negative wind chills and several inches of snow on the ground, but Northwestern baseball season has officially started. The ‘Cats were far, far away under sunnier skies in Surprise, Arizona, for the Surprise College Baseball Classic this weekend, and they fell short in all three games they played to open the season 0-3.
In the first game on Friday, the ‘Cats played perennial Pac-12 power (and defending conference champion) Oregon State to a 1-1 draw through eight and a half innings on the back of a five inning, eight strikeout effort by senior starting pitcher Brandon Magallones. The bullpen held up until the bottom of the ninth, when the Beavers loaded the bases on freshman Tommy Bordignon with two walks and a single. Bordignon then balked, allowing OSU’s Joe Gillette to automatically score from third for the walk-off win.
Things didn’t get any easier for the ‘Cats on Saturday, as they matched up with yet another defending conference champion in the New Mexico Lobos. NU jumped out to an early 2-0 lead after two and a half innings, with and unearned run and an RBI single from senior Reid Hunter. But the Lobos broke through in the bottom of the third off junior starting pitcher Reed Mason, tying the game on an RBI groundout and a passed ball. They went on to grab a 4-2 lead in the next inning, and were able to withstand a late rally by the ‘Cats in the top of the ninth to walk away victorious, 5-3.
NU’s schedule eased up slightly on Sunday, as they faced conference foe Michigan State in what was technically a non-conference game. Weird, right? Starting lefty junior Matt Portland put together a masterful performance, allowing just two hits over six innings. But a throwing error from junior first baseman Zach Jones and two wild pitches from Portland allowed three unearned runs to score. That was just enough for the Spartans, who took advantage of an offense-deprived NU team and stranded six ‘Cat runners, coming away with a 3-2 win despite only picking up three hits.
This is now the second consecutive season that the ‘Cats have struggled to an 0-3 start out of the gate, but it should be noted that NU’s best player, senior infielder Kyle Ruchim, is currently serving a six game suspension for violating NCAA rules regarding contact with a professional team.
The ‘Cats will try to get up off the mat starting Friday in San Antonio, Texas, at the Irish Alamo Invitational, where they will play a doubleheader with Villanova and Incarnate Word. NU will face off against Notre Dame on Saturday, and junior outfielder Jack Mitchell will have an opportunity to extend his personal dominance over all things Irish. Go ahead, click that link. You deserve it. NU will also play a consolation or championship game on Sunday depending on the results of Friday and Saturday’s games. Ruchim would ostensibly be eligible to play on Sunday if he travels with the team.