There are slugfests, and then there are games that you blink twice before you realize that this is indeed a baseball game – and not, in fact, football, despite what the score might suggest. Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, today’s game was the latter. Riding a five-game winning streak took the ‘Cats out of the Big Ten cellar, Northwestern (14-25) fell to Western Michigan (19-19) 26-15 after a 15-run onslaught in the bottom of the 4th and a subsequent 7-run 6th. The electrifying Bronco offense doomed the Wildcats, even after a 15-run, 17-hit performance.
The game started out as a back-and-forth affair, with the score tied at 4-4 at the top of the 4th inning. Third baseman Connor Lind got the ‘Cats rolling in the first inning with a sacrifice fly to bring in shortstop Jack Dunn for the first of Dunn’s four runs on the day.
Western Michigan kept pace going into the 4th, when Northwestern took their second lead of the game from second baseman Alex Erro’s ground out, which brought home left fielder Leo Kaplan to make the score 5-4.
The Broncos proceeded to blow the game wide open with a 15-run inning marked by a grand slam, another home run, eight hits and two wild pitches. Western Michigan initially tied the game with a single by DH Andrew Stone, before running a riot over the Northwestern pitchers. The Broncos lit up pitchers Danny Katz, Anthony Alepra, Nick Cauley, and Nick Paciorek, who gave up 26 runs over a combined 25 at bats. Shortstop Connor Smith hit a two-run home run, and outfielder Nate Grys hit a grand slam to cap off this offensive onslaught as the ‘Cats stumbled into the fifth inning with a 19-5 deficit.
The ‘Cats didn't give up yet, however. In the top of the fifth, rightfielder Casey O’Laughlin hit a two-run double, Erro had another of his four hits on the night, and Northwestern tacked on 5 more runs to make the score 19-11. At this point, though, the ‘Cats were forced to gamble with catcher Paciorek on the mound, who stepped in to provide a quality shutout inning in the 5th. An error by Bronco shortstop Smith led to another run for Lind in the seventh, and the ‘Cats halved their earlier 14 run deficit to a more manageable 7.
The Wildcats’ pitching woes came back to haunt them in the bottom of the 6th, as Western Michigan scored seven runs to make the score 26-12. Three more late runs in the 7th and 9th made the score slightly more respectable at 26-15, but the ‘Cats could never overcome the blitzkrieg from the 4th inning.
Even though Northwestern lost by 11, there were positives from an otherwise disastrous game. Erro led the defense, who went 4-5 with a team-high 3 RBI, first baseman Willie Bourbon, who went 3-5 with a triple, and last but not least, he team topped 10 runs for the first time since February against Kansas. Hopefully, today’s performance portends future offensive prowess as the team closes out its schedule in May.
After the game, Northwestern Baseball's twitter provided us with the understatement of the year:
Western Michigan outscores Northwestern in nonconference action.— #B1GCats Baseball (@NUCatsBaseball) May 2, 2018
Up next: #B1GCats head to Purdue for a weekend series on Friday.
The Purdue series begins May 4 as the team fights to avoid the cellar of the conference.