Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

41° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Stevens Attempts to Change Fortunes by Rotating Lineup

By Jake Simpson

The Daily Northwestern

In the middle of the seventh inning of Friday’s 6-2 loss to Illinois, Northwestern coach Paul Stevens came onto the field and approached the mound.

But instead of making a pitching change, Stevens moved his center fielder to left field, replaced his left fielder with a new center fielder, and kept his pitcher in the game.

Confused? It’s all part of Stevens’ new game, “Musical Positions,” in which the Wildcats (9-21, 3-9 Big Ten) turn their lineup on its head to try and find that winning combination of players.

Over the last two weeks, Stevens has been shifting and tweaking his lineup on a game-by-game basis.

Sometimes, he has even made changes in the middle of a game (or in Friday’s case, the middle of an inning).

Stevens said he is just trying to find a lineup that can turn the Cats’ season around.

“We’re trying to find something that works on an ongoing basis,” he said. “You’re always trying to make yourself offensively and defensively as good as possible.”

Offensively, Stevens has continually switched both the order and makeup of the Cats’ lineup. The coach moved leadoff hitter Aaron Newman from first to seventh, and then to ninth, and has shifted junior Jake Owens to the top spot.

At the same time, he has platooned Max Mann, Chad Noble, Geoff Dietz, Jim Grieco, Kenneth Avila and Mike Kalina at various spots in the lineup.

The constant shifting has made it difficult for these players to get into a rhythm.

“It’s definitely tough,” Avila said. “I never feel 100 percent that I’ll be starting that day. I have to be constantly ready because I might go in the next inning or even the next pitch.”

On defense, Stevens has not hesitated pulling his players when they have made costly errors.

After an Avila error led to three unearned runs in Sunday’s game, Stevens moved Caleb Fields from center field to second base, moved Tommy Finn to shortstop and replaced Avila with new center fielder Jim Grieco.

Grieco, who has been used primarily for his defensive prowess in the outfield, said he takes the same approach to every game, whether he starts or not.

“I always go out there knowing I can get in, so I’m on the bench staying loose,” he said.

NU will need to find the right lineup for this week’s series at Penn State, where they will try to climb up the Big Ten standings.

The Nittany Lions (12-19, 5-5) enter this weekend after taking three of four games against Michigan State last weekend.

The Cats will have to be creative to steal hits off Penn State’s pitching staff, which is third in the conference with a 3.36 ERA.

At the plate, Penn State is batting .265 as a team, with 60 multi-base hits.

Mired in last place, the Cats need to move up in the standings in order to qualify for the Big Ten tournament.

“This is our biggest weekend yet,” Grieco said. “At least three out of four is necessary if we want to stay in the hunt.”

Stevens downplayed the significance of the weekend.

“I don’t pay too much attention to the standings,” he said. “I know that’s a clich

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Stevens Attempts to Change Fortunes by Rotating Lineup