Hurlers silence Big Ten sluggers

Andrea Cohen

More impressive than most of the major league pitching staffs outside of Arizona, the Northwestern baseball team combined for a 2.62 ERA last week.

Led by senior righthander Ryan Bos, who didn’t give up a run in five innings on Saturday, the Wildcats’ staff has yielded only 23 hits over the last five games. NU’s offense has combined for 37 hits.

Another standout on the Cats’ staff is freshman J.A. Happ. The lefty went 20 innings before giving up his first run in Sunday’s 10-5 NU victory over Purdue. Happ has posted a 1.08 ERA in the Big Ten.

Going with the same strategy he used in last week, when the Cats held Valparaiso to one hit, head coach Paul Stevens said he will most likely have a handful of pitchers throw a couple of innings each.

“It’s the pitching committee, we’ll throw whoever shows up for the meeting,” Stevens joked. “You’ll probably see a little (Dan) Pohlman, a little (Evan) Blesoff, maybe an inning out of (Zach) Schara.”

Filling Positions: Going into this weekend’s series at Purdue, Stevens said he had some question marks in his lineup, particularly at first and third base.

After the four games against the Boilermakers, things became much more clear.

“Lots of things were answered for me this weekend,” Stevens said. “Specifically at third base, Matt Brimmer certainly stepped up.”

Brimmer started three of the four games and went 3-for-7 at the plate.

“Personally, I was pretty happy,” Brimmer said. “I got my first hit this weekend, which was definitely nice. It’ll keep my dad and a lot of other people off my back – they’ve been giving me a hard time about not having a hit this late in the season. I stepped up this weekend, but next weekend it could be (Josh) Lieberman or Mike Phelps. I have confidence in the other guys, too.”

Stevens said that strong performances from Travis Tharp and Jason Krynski at first base have solidified the three spot, with Tharp slated to face right-handed pitchers and Krynski to face lefties.

Power pitcher: You don’t see a team’s pitcher batting cleanup often. A hurler belting a home run 430 feet? Unlikely. Then he says he didn’t “really hit it.” Go figure.

So apparently Dan Pohlman is a bit unusual, but unusual in a very good way for the Cats, at least in the batter’s box, on the mound, in the outfield and – for NU’s football team – at linebacker, where he recorded 37 tackles last year.

Playing designated hitter most of the weekend, the sophomore hit .556 against Purdue with three RBI.

Among those RBI was the ball Pohlman crushed over the center field fence to open the fifth inning of NU’s heartbreaking 3-2 loss on Saturday.

“I don’t think he really hit it,” Stevens said. “He reached. But that ball traveled a very long way. They probably were serving more food on that than any flight we took all spring.”

Stevens said Pohlman has been coming around in the past three weeks, and he only expects more improvements as the season progresses.

“Pohlman is lightning in a bottle,” Stevens said. “He’s just a baby in his development of baseball. He’s a stand-up kid and I think he’s going to live up to his commitment to us and his commitment to (football) coach (Randy) Walker.”

RAUCOUS REMATCH: Two weeks ago the Cats (10-18) were stunned by Chicago State (3-14), falling behind 14-2 before a late-game rally brought the final score to a less-embarrassing 15-12.

The rematch will take place at 3 p.m. today at Chicago State.