Northwestern’s Big Ten losing streak continues.
After falling to the second-best team in the conference at Michigan State last weekend, the Wildcats (8-34, 3-15 Big Ten) couldn’t shake off the season’s woes, dropping all three competitions to the second-best team in the conference. Indiana (34-14, 12-6 Big Ten). The Cats haven’t won a Big Ten game in 12 outings.
However, unlike past battles, NU’s weekend progress was remarkable. Here are some of the positives of the Cats game against IU.
Right-handed graduate student Michael Farinelli throws a gem in Game 1
After snapping a streak against Michigan State last weekend, Farinelli showed promise in his light inning of work against UIC on Tuesday, not giving up any hits and striking out one.
However, that optimism quickly dissipated against Indiana in Game 1 on Friday, as the right-hander allowed Carter Mathison two singles and a three-run homer in the first inning — all with two outs.
Farinelli quickly rebounded, silencing the Hoosiers roster for the next six innings. The college veteran painted the corners of the strike zone perfectly, consistently creating ground ball opportunities for NU infielders and collecting five strikeouts. Farinelli was retired in the eighth after giving up another RBI to Mathison, but after seven and two-thirds innings, Friday’s start was by far his best effort of the season.
“It really starts with the throwing,” coach Jim Foster said. “The hardware is there, they just have to learn how to use it and work their way through the lineup.”
Although NU’s offense couldn’t sustain what was arguably the Cats’ best pitching performance of the year, Farinelli’s performance against a top roster like Indiana speaks volumes. With two series remaining, the right-hander may only have two or three more chances on the mound to do damage, but on Friday he proved to be a positive light in a pitching unit with the worst ERA in the game. Big Ten.
Cats take Hoosiers to overtime in Game 2
In a series between the team with the third-best record in the conference and the worst-record team in the Big Ten, the odds were not in NU’s favor.
Still, halfway through Saturday’s game, the Cats proved difficult to move, leading 2-0 until the eighth inning. Behind freshman left-hander Sam Garewal’s rebounding performance in striking out seven and allowing four hits and zero runs in six-and-a-third innings, graduate catcher Cooper Foard and senior outfielder Luke Tanner gave NU an early advance.
“You’re going to have to play hard to beat us because we’re not going to give up,” said infielder/senior outfielder Stephen Hrustich. “We just have to keep doing our best and hopefully things will start falling our way.”
Although the extended outing of junior right-hander Ben Grable proved costly and caused NU to lose 5-2, the Cats took the Hoosiers to 12 frames — the highest inning contest for Indiana this season.
Offensive production appears in Game 3
Heading into Sunday’s contest and in the last five games of NU’s Big Ten losing streak, the Cats have crossed home plate just 10 times, including twice in the last two games.
However, the cream script jerseys may have been the spark the Cats needed to shake off the bats, as the team scored nine goals on the Sunday morning of the series. NU’s point total in the series finale game represented its highest in a conference game this season.
“They start having a plan at home plate, you know, they start hitting the pitches they want to hit,” Coach Foster said. “They work hard and they care, you know, they want to improve, so that’s the main thing.”
The Hoosiers also turned up the heat, putting 11 on the plate to beat NU 11-9. But the Cats’ unexpected production suggests the team is finally coming together, especially against the Big Ten foes.
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– Baseball: Northwestern makes quick work of UIC in eight-inning game, turns to Indiana this weekend
– Baseball: Northwest slump continues after third straight series sweep, this time at Michigan State
– Baseball: Ones to Watch: Players to watch in Northwestern’s upcoming series against Michigan State
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