The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

McFadden-Ackman’s historic performance headlines baseball’s sweep of Western Michigan

February 28, 2023

Coming into the 2023 baseball season, there were some questions raised as to whether or not NKU’s offensive prowess would be where it was just a year ago due to key departures throughout the lineup. They would answer those questions with a resounding “yes” over the weekend as spectators at the Bill Aker Baseball Complex were treated to 42 runs out of the Norse over the weekend as they completed a three-game sweep over Western Michigan.

The Norse would grind out two walk-off wins on Friday and Saturday to take the series, but no performance was more impressive than junior infielder Liam McFadden-Ackman’s on Sunday, in which he clubbed two grand slams in one inning before turning around and hitting for the cycle in what he told SportsCenter was “…the best day I had on a baseball field, for sure” during Sunday’s 27-4 drubbing of the Broncos.

Game 1, Friday: NKU 6, WMU 5 (11 innings)

The tone for the weekend would be set early as top of the lineup would come through for the Norse, as after a bunt single from Treyvin Moss to lead off the bottom of the first, Manny Vorhees would lift the first homer of the season in NKU’s home ballpark to left center field to get on the board. NKU would extend their lead with a two-run double by John Odom to left in the third, and reigning Horizon League Batter of the Week Noah Fisher would stay hot with a RBI single to drive in Moss in the fourth, giving the Norse a 5-0 lead.

Junior Ben Gerl would provide a quality start for the Norse, going five innings while striking out six with the only blemishes being two walks, a hit batter and two earned runs. Those runs would come in the left-hander’s final inning of work as Brendan Harrity and Jimmy Allen would drive in one apiece for the Broncos to pull them within three.

Junior right-hander and Cincinnati transfer Aiden Bradbury would come on in relief for Gerl to pitch the sixth, but after striking out WMU’s Cade Sullivan to lead off the inning, the righty would allow a walk to Dylan Nevar and a two-run home run to Greg Budig. The Norse would get out of the inning, but a sacrifice bunt to third base from Will Morrison would tie the game at five.

Missed opportunities by both teams with runners in scoring position would take the game into extra innings before the Norse found paydirt. Moss would launch a one out triple off the wall in right field off Ryan Watt, with Vorhees and Fisher being intentionally walked to load the bases. Junior outfielder Colton Kucera would step in to pinch-hit for Jayden Wakeham and would get hit by a pitch to force in the winning run.

Game 2, Saturday: NKU 9, WMU 7 (10 innings)

After a quiet first inning to begin the game, McFadden-Ackman would provide some foreshadowing with a solo homer over the left center field wall in the bottom of the second to put NKU on the board first. The duo of Moss and Vorhees would pick up a RBI each in the third to extend the Norse lead.

The game would quickly turn into a seesaw affair as following the removal of starter Kaden Echeman (6 IP, 7 Ks, 2 ER) in the top of the seventh, junior Jackson Fraser would come in and have a rocky outing. Despite navigating out of a situation with a runner on second and two outs in the seventh, the eighth would not be as forgiving as the Broncos’ Gavin Doyle put WMU right back in the swing of things with a two-run homer to right center field. 

NKU and WMU would put up two in the bottom of the eighth and the top of the ninth respectively, sending the two into extras for the second day in a row. With one out and a runner on first, Wakeham would step to the plate to pinch hit in the designated hitter spot, just a day after he had been pinch hit for with the game on the line. The fifth-year would come through with a no-doubt home run to right field, sending the Norse and their fans home happy with a 9-7 win.

Game 3, Sunday: NKU 27, WMU 4

The Broncos would be the first on the board following a solo homer from Doyle off Norse starter Matthew Lopez, but a single by Moss, a walk from Vorhees and a hit batter in Fisher would set the table for McFadden-Ackman as he walked to the plate to face off against Broncos starter Ethan Houghtaling. The junior whacked his first grand slam of the inning over the left field fence, and the Norse offense was off and running from there, scoring five more runs before he would have another chance at the dish.

With Northern’s lead already being run up to 9-1, McFadden-Ackman would step up again with the bases full of Norse looking for the Fernando Tatis, Sr.-esque feat. He would gallop around the bags after going yard to left again, giving him eight RBIs on the afternoon in just two plate appearances.

Just as impressive as the two grand slams was how the infielder completed the cycle. With the brute strength part out of the way, McFadden-Ackman would double to right center in the second and smack a triple down the right field line in the fourth to check off the speed portions. With a shot to complete the feat with the Norse up 24-3, he slapped a two RBI single in his sixth and final plate appearance of the day. 

But McFadden-Ackman wasn’t the only one with a hot bat on the afternoon. Moss went 4-for-4 and drove in four runs, Schneider had a hit, two walks, and 3 RBI, and Wakeham went 3-for-5 with another home run in the winning effort. Matthew Lopez would labor comfortably with the large lead, going five innings of three run baseball.

The Norse finish out their homestand with a tough test against Xavier on Tuesday, Feb. 28. The game is set to start at 2 p.m.

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