Northwestern played a very solid game on both offense and defense in defeating West Lafayette 8-5 in the opening round of the IHSAA Class 3A Peru Baseball Sectional Thursday night.
The Purple Tigers next play Peru in the semifinal round at 12:30 p.m. on Monday.
Northwestern’s offense came alive with those eight runs on 11 hits. Its most explosive inning was the third, where the Purple Tigers scored four runs.
After one out in the third, Trenton Brazel singled and Logan Macaluso doubled to score Brazel. With two outs, Macaluso scored on a single by Conner Milligan. Trevor Richmond then walked. Kristian Simmons cleared the bases with a double to put Northwestern up 5-0. The Tigers added a run in the fifth inning on a triple by Keagen Downey that scored Macaluso, who had singled.
Northwestern scored the first run of the game in the first inning when Craten Brown singled, then scored on a Macaluso single.
Macaluso, who was the starting pitcher, was solid for the first five innings. He had five shutout innings, allowing only five hits and six walks, but it was the sixth, where the Red Devils finally got to him. The Red Devils ended up scoring four of their five runs in the sixth to cut the Tiger lead to one 5-4.
“I think the keys were that we hit the ball up and down the line up, and put 11 hits on the board. Against a quality team like West Lafayette [that] was important,” Northwestern coach Mike Brazel said. “The second thing, I thought was our pitchers were ahead in the count. Macaluso gave us five really strong innings. The sixth inning, we wavered a little bit with our fielding, and I said all along that the key to us playing well is that we have to put all three facets together. We did that for five innings [Thursday]. We had pitching, fielding and we had hitting, and in the sixth inning, we bobbled a couple of plays, and we let them back in. Fortunately, we composed ourselves in the seventh inning.”
In the seventh inning, Downey singled, and Milligan hit a home run right over the right center field fence for an 8-4 lead. West Lafayette tried to come back in the bottom of the seventh but managed just one run. The game ended when Northwestern’s Brown caught the fly ball in center field.
Macaluso picked up the win. He allowed four runs on seven hits with seven walks, while striking out six in five innings pitched. Milligan pitched the final two innings in relief for the save. He allowed one run on one hit and two walks, fanning three.
“Macaluso did a nice job of keeping us off balance,” West Lafayette coach Joel Strode said. “Both pitchers for them threw well, and seemed to be in command. They had pretty good stuff [Thursday]. We left guys on early in the game. We had bases loaded one out, and second and third one out, and we didn’t score. You can’t do that against good teams and expect to win.”
Macaluso led Northwestern in hitting with two singles, a double, two RBIs and two runs scored. Milligan added a home run, single and three RBIs and two runs scored. Downey contributed with a single, triple, one RBI and one run scored.