Culture change on the horizon?

Matt Forman

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After three Big Ten series, Northwestern knows what it has to do to get over the hump and return to the Big Ten tournament. According to shortstop Tommy Finn, it’s simple.

“If we can just keep it consistent, that’s the name of this game,” Finn said. “Baseball is all about consistency.”

But the Cats have been anything but consistent. In the Wildcats’ two wins over the Golden Gophers, the combined score was 16-5. NU lost the bookend games of the series by a combined score of 16-7.

Finn’s partner on the left side of the infield, third baseman Chris Lashmet, highlighted the Cats’ split personality. In the team’s two wins, Lashmet was 3-for-6 with 6 RBIs. He went 1-for-8 in the team’s losses.

The pitching staff also showed the ups and downs of NU’s season. In the Cats’ wins, coach Paul Stevens called to the bullpen only once, using a total of three pitchers. In the losses, Stevens was forced to use seven pitchers.

NU showed flashes of brilliance in its victories while struggling in its losses.

Which raises the question: Are the multi-faced Cats searching for an identity?

“No. We know who we are,” senior pitcher Matt Havey said. “We’re a tough team. We’re resilient. We’re going to do whatever we can to win. We know what we can do and we know what we’re capable of. We’ve just got to go out and do it.”

The Cats have shown that resilience at times, defeating Minnesota 10-0 in the nightcap of Sunday’s doubleheader and capturing the first game of Monday’s doubleheader in a seesaw battle. At the same time, NU failed to earn its first series victory.

No one came up bigger, and smaller, over the weekend than Finn. In a series when he went 2-for-13, his first hit was a big one, a home run to right field on a first-pitch fasstball. The line-drive longball, which put the Cats ahead 6-5 in the first game of Monday’s doubleheader, landed just beyond the outfield fence at Rocky Miller Park.

In the remainder of the series, however, the only other time Finn reached base was on a bunt single in the series finale. Despite battling deep into the count in the majority of his at-bats, Finn was unable to capitalize.

The junior will try once again to get into a groove next weekend when NU travels to Iowa looking for its first series win.

“We’re trying to change the attitude this year,” Finn said. “We need to go into weekend series thinking, ‘Let’s take three or four.’ We can’t be satisfied with a split; I don’t care who it is. We want to go into weekends knowing we can win the series.”

This season, NU is 5-7 through its first three Big Ten series. As the season progresses, each series is more important, Finn said.

“As you get later on in the year, they become necessity series,” he said. “If you lose games, you can move out of it very quickly. The ball is in our court and we need to get it rolling. No split.”

When asked how the Cats could get that elusive series win, Stevens gave a cliché response.

“You take it every pitch, every at-bat, every inning, every opportunity during the game and every game by every game. That’s the only way you can do it. I want to take it all in stride.”