Old friend brings new competition

Patrick Dorsey

Northwestern’s showdown with downtown Chicago foe Robert Morris was canceled Tuesday due to rain. But it didn’t take long for the Wildcats to pick up another game, thanks to a little help from an old friend of NU coach Paul Stevens.

Bradley coach Dewey Kalmer, who was head coach at Quincy University when Stevens played for conference rival Lewis University in the mid-1970s, called Stevens on Monday night because he received a tip that NU was looking to add a game.

“We’ve known each other forever,” said Kalmer, whose Braves have had six games canceled this year because of weather.

The Robert Morris game was NU’s fifth cancellation.

After a bit of phone tag, Stevens said, the scheduling was finalized Tuesday morning.

“Our administration did a great job of jumping in and helping out,” Stevens said.

NU will return the favor, Kalmer said, playing a road game in Indianapolis in 2007.

Fields of injuries

Sophomore shortstop Caleb Fields, who has been limited by a strained quadriceps this season, is recovering but not expected to start Wednesday or this weekend, Stevens said.

“He’s coming along, slowly but surely.” Stevens said. “It’s a day-to-day thing.”

Fields has been out since he reaggravated the leg injury April 3 in a 12-9 extra-innings win at Indiana. Stevens said he may use Fields in a pinch-hitting role this weekend if his condition continues to improve.

“I’m feeling a lot better,” Fields said. “I had to take a little more time this time because it’s happened so many times throughout the season.”

In 10 games this season, Fields is hitting .357 with seven RBIs.

“I just want to do my part to help the team get somewhere,” he said. “(But) I’ve also got to be patient and smart about this.”

In his absence, senior Jon Mikrut has moved from third base to shortstop and junior Stanley Finch often has filled in for Fields in the lineup. Finch is hitting .289 with seven RBIs in 10 starts.

Last weekend the Cats also were without junior reliever Julio Siberio, who was ailed by flu symptoms, and freshman infielder Mark Bennett, who had back spasms. Sophomore utility man Michael Kalina was limited to pinch-hitting duty because of an arm injury. Stevens said he expects all three to be ready for Wednesday’s game.

Who’ll stop the rain?

When Northwestern next takes the field, perhaps each NU batter should trade in his intro music for “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.” Few other tunes would sum up the Cats’ season more appropriately than the Burt Bacharach classic.

“It’s been very interesting so far,” Stevens said of his team’s five canceled games this season.

Of the seven road trips the Cats have taken this season, five have seen games either canceled or rescheduled. Three games were lost in NU’s season-opening trip to Phoenix, a city that averages fewer than eight inches of rain per year.

Stevens said his players haven’t been affected by the season’s many cancellations and reschedulings.

“By now these guys are pretty flexible,” he said. “It just sort of rolls off (their) back. They adapt pretty well.”

Stevens said he’s even been able to find a positive about all of the precipitation.

“The good thing about rain is it makes things grow and beautifies things and greens it up,” Stevens said. “And green is a pretty good color because it’s also the color of money.”

Reach Patrick Dorsey at [email protected]