Baseball shuts out Wildcats

By Brian Earle

Behind starting pitcher Jordan Ruckman’s first complete game shutout, baseball coasted to a 4-0 victory over Northwestern Wednesday at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood.

Ruckman picked up his first win of the season while the Huskies (14-30-1) earned their sixth shutout. The shutout ties the school record for most shutouts in a season.

In his nine innings of work, Ruckman only allowed three hits and four walks while striking out a season-high eight batters.

“From start to finish this was his best effort,” said coach Ed Mathey. “He stayed on top of the game. He stayed on top of what he was doing, and that’s impressive for a guy that hasn’t gone that deep into a game for a long time.”

Ruckman set the Wildcats (12-29) down in order three times in the game and managed to be effective by throwing a lot of first pitch strikes, putting pressure on their hitters.

“Jordan was outstanding,” Mathey said. “If you throw a shutout in college, you know you’re doing something well. He did a great job working ahead in the count and establishing a couple pitches in the strike zone to keep them off guard.”

The Huskies gave a stellar effort defensively as they played error-free and helped Ruckman end the game with their only double-play of the game.

The Huskies got on the board in the fourth inning when second baseman Justin Fletcher led off the inning with a double down the left field line. Fletcher didn’t stay at second base very long as he stole third base with nobody out.

With Fletcher on third base and designated hitter Chris Divarco on first base following a walk, Northwestern shortstop Cody Stevens committed a fielding error on a groundball hit by right fielder Micah McCulloch, allowing Fletcher to score from third.

“It was huge,” Mathey said. “He hit a leadoff double, and he was watching their pitcher a little bit and found an opportunity to steal a base. … Justin did a great job. With a guy over at third base there’s a lot better chances to score than over at second base. So, Justin taking that really helped us get on the board first.”

The Huskies went back on the attack in the seventh inning when they pushed two more runs across the plate to take a 3-0 lead.

Third baseman Tommy Hook came to the plate with the bases loaded and nobody out and delivered a two-run single through the right side that drove in catcher Johnny Zubek from third base and center fielder Alex Smith from second base.

The Huskies added one more insurance run in the bottom of the eighth inning. With left fielder Brandon Mallder on first base, Northwestern third baseman Nick Linne committed a fielding error on a ball hit by Zubek, allowing Mallder to advance to third base and Zubek to reach first base.

In the next at-bat, pinch hitter Connor Schomig struck out, but Zubek and Mallder executed a double steal, allowing Mallder to score from third base while Zubek stole second base.