Northwestern Wildcats (5-22) at Nebraska Cornhuskers (18-11-1)
Location: Hawks Field at Haymarket Park, Lincoln, Nebraska
Dates: April 14-16
Times (all CT): ****April 14th: 3:05 pm***, April 15th: 2:05 pm, April 16th: 12:05 pm
Head Coaches: Jim Foster (1st season, 435-392-3) & Will Bolt (4th season, 82-63-1)
TV/Stream: All 3 games - B1G+, Saturday - Nebraska Public Media
Radio: Huskers Radio Network, Huskers.com, Huskers App
Northwestern has had one of the more eventful off-seasons and start to the seasons of any recent Big Ten team. Only 3 players that started more than 30 games returned, and the pitching staff was in even worse shape. Some graduated, some let their eligibility expire rather than pick up a Covid year, and more than a few transferred out. The majority of this happened after the transition in coaching staffs with the hiring of new head coach Jim Foster from Army.
Speaking of the coaching staff, Foster kept the hitting coach and director of baseball operations from the previous staff, but brought in his own pitching coach and volunteer coach. On February 27th, everyone other than the volunteer coach stepped away from the program in a stunning move. Foster quickly hired a coach that had most recently been a pitching coach a few years ago in the Cape Cod League.
Needless to say, this has left the Wildcats program in complete disarray. They are not only last in a lot of the major stat categories in the conference, but last by a wide margin. They only have a 5-22 record to show for it. However, they did win a game at Purdue, and nearly another as they lost in extra innings. Even more surprising, they won the series last week in Illinois and currently sit 8th in the conference at with a 3-3 record.
Game 1: LHP Emmett Olson (5-1, 3.04 ERA) vs. RHP Matt McClure (1-4, 6.53 ERA)
Game 2: RHP Jace Kaminska (5-2, 3.98 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Farinelli (1-5, 6.98 ERA)
Game 3: LHP Will Walsh (1-1, 3.86) vs. RHP Luke Benneche (0-3, 9.28 ERA)
Big Ten Pitcher of the Week Emmett Olson pitched his masterpiece at Michigan is what was one of the best pitchers’ duels of of the year with Wolverine starter Connor O’Halloran. Olson went a career high 7.2 innings, and gave up only 1 run on 2 hits with 8 Ks. Though he didn’t get the win, it marks the 7th straight game Nebraska won in which Olson started.
Back to back rough starts by Jace Kaminska in which he gave up more runs than the other 6 starts combined. It goes to show how much trust the staff has in him, that they left him in as long as they did when he obviously didn’t have his best stuff. A return home to Haymarket Park is hopefully just what the doctor ordered.
The result of Will Walsh’s first Sunday start was Nebraska’s first win on that day in over a month. While he was touched up for 7 hits and 3 runs over 3+ innings, he had 2 shutout innings and kept the Huskers in front when he left the game. It had been a while since a Husker Sunday starter provided that.
It’s hard to see a 1-4 record and 6.53 ERA and think that those are the stats of a Friday night starter, but that’s exactly what Loyola Marymount transfer Matt McClure is for Northwestern. It’s not a huge difference, but he has been pitching better the past 4 weeks, but the opponents are about to get a lot more difficult.
Michael Farinelli is in his 2nd year at Northwestern, as a grad student. He was 6-5 last year but is 1-5 this year. Despite his strikeouts, walks and batting average against being relatively similar, his ERA is up over 2.5 runs. Sundays have been an adventure for the Wildcats. Lafayette (PA) transfer Luke Benneche has had the majority of starts recently, but with no success. He was 1-10 last year as a starter in the Patriot League, and hasn’t improved jumping up to the B1G.
Northwestern Scouting Report
There is no way to sugar coat it, Northwestern is in the bottom 2 of just about every major offensive category in the conference. Only 2 regular players hit over .300. One is senior Stephen Hrustich. He is a career .260 hitter, but has his average at .341 currently. Sophomore Alex Calarco hit .219 last season, but is at .307 currently and leads the team in hits, 31, and doubles with 9.
Leadoff batter and Elon transfer Griffin Arnone actually leads the team in home runs and RBIs, with 7 and 18 respectively. The Wildcats aren’t any better on the base-paths. They don’t run often, only 22 attempted steals, and they are only successful just barely over half the time, with 12 steals as a team. Hrustich leads the team and is 4 for 4 in his attempts.
The defense for the Wildcats is dead last in nearly every category compared to the rest of the B1G. They have almost 10 more errors than the next worst team, and a fielding percentage of .954. Combine that with a team ERA of 9.14 (Illinois is 2nd worst with 5.94) and teams are piling up runs on Northwestern. They lost their last game 24-20 to the University of Illinois-Chicago on Tuesday.
Ben Grable is the top option out of the bullpen. He is tops on the team with a 4.41 ERA, has the teams lone save, and would actually have fairly stellar numbers without the horrendous appearance against Northern Illinois, in which he allowed 5 earned runs in 2.1 innings. Coby Mo is another go to guy for the team. He has better than a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio, but has a batting average against off .367.
Nebraska is 14-12 all time against Northwestern. They last played Northwestern during the conference only 2021 season, winning games 1 & 2 on April 14th & 15th before the third game had to be cancelled due to Northwestern running out of players.