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Matt Forman

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Kalina returns to lineup

After missing the first eight games of the Big Ten season with a freak injury, senior Mike Kalina will be ready to return to conference action when the Wildcats (8-14, 3-5 Big Ten) take on Minnesota this weekend.

“I got a concussion being hit in the head with a baseball after practice over Spring Break,” Kalina said. “It was kind of a fluke, freak accident type thing just picking up equipment after practice. It was unfortunate, obviously, but I’m glad to be back.”

Coach Paul Stevens declined to comment on the injury.

Kalina did have a chance to dust off the cobwebs, however, in a 13-0 win Tuesday against Chicago State.

“It felt great to get back in the action on Tuesday, ” he said of his 2-for-4 performance.

His injury could not have come at a worse time, starting the season on a .474 clip.

Stevens stressed the importance of having Kalina, Northwestern’s leading run producer over the Big Ten schedule last season, in the middle of the Cats’ potent lineup.

Hitters get aggressive early

In the first three games against the Spartans last weekend, NU’s batting average when putting the first pitch in play was .750. Nine of their 19 hits in those games came on first-pitch fastballs, a number that surprised third basemen Chris Lashmet.

“Really?” Lashmet said. “I mean we’re a very talented team at the plate, and those stats prove it.”

In game one against Michigan State, both of his hits came on first-pitch fastballs.

With the injury to Kalina, Lashmet was forced into the cleanup spot, where it was even more important to stay aggressive.

“Being aggressive early in the count allows you to not get fooled deeper in the count,” Lashmet said. “It’s especially important being the four or five hitter.”

Stevens said he hopes the Cats will continue their aggressive approach.

“I’ve always been someone who’s been a huge advocate of taking the guess work out of hitting. I like being aggressive, I just like that style of play.”

As NU heads deeper into conference play, senior Matt Havey has evolved into the Cats’ bullpen stopper.

“I’m going to do whatever they ask me to do. If they put me in when the game’s on the line, that’s fine. I like the situation. That’s when it’s fun.”

Havey did just that against Michigan State last Sunday, allowing no runs on one hit and lowering his staff-leading ERA to 1.29.

Despite his numbers, Havey said he doesn’t do anything special.

“I don’t really have an out pitch,” Havey said. “They just tell me to throw strikes, so that’s what I do. My approach coming out of the bullpen… do whatever I can.”

With that approach, Havey has gained confidence from Stevens, who compared the senior to a former Cat.

“I see Matt Havey as a Julio Siberio type pitcher,” Stevens said, referring to the 2006 NU graduate who was a third- team All-Big Ten relief pitcher his senior year.

“Mr. Siberio was a pretty daggone effective pitcher, and that’s how I see Matt Havey because he’s got that kind of energy and enthusiasm. I think he can be a go-to guy in any situation that I need.”