Baseball: Northwestern takes midweek break from conference play to host St. Xavier

Steven Montero

St. Xavier fills its ballpark with an average of 45 fans when it plays at home. Northwestern crams 359 people on an average game day into Rocky Miller Park. When the Cougars visit Evanston on Tuesday, they will do so with eight of their 11 losses coming away from their cozy confines in Chicago.

NU (10-18, 3-6 Big Ten) showed it could compete with some of the best in the Big Ten at home when it took two out of three from Nebraska from March 30 to April 1. The Wildcats forced the most error-free team in the conference to commit an uncharacteristic six miscues in the same game.

However, the Cats’ three consecutive losses to Purdue this weekend leave their morale a bit shaken. St. Xavier (24-11, 11-4 CCAC) may be able to take their momentum off a three-game sweep of Calumet College of St. Joseph and pull out a win in Evanston. The visitors from the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference planned to play the Cats last year, but rain delays led to a cancellation.

“Anytime you put a uniform on you’re playing to win, and I don’t think our attitude or psychology changes,” coach Paul Stevens said. “My stand is, you put a uniform on to compete and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Junior Luke Farrell said the Cats must bounce back from their sweep at the hands of the Boilermakers. The right-handed pitcher also said a win against the Cougars at home would build NU’s confidence back up before it travels across the Midwest for a series in Minnesota.

St. Xavier brings power to the plate with two batters, third baseman Mike Pokers and right fielder Chris Klein, hitting .406 and .372, respectively. The highest average for NU belongs to senior catcher Geoff Rowan, who averages .368 so far this season.

Rowan said the loss to Purdue gives the Cats more motivation to play hard Tuesday. He said at this point every game counts for NU, which has to come out and bring its best game in order to demonstrate that the Cats can compete.

“It was nice to play a top-20 team,” he said. “You saw (Saturday) and even a little bit (Sunday) that we can play with them. If we limit the errors, get some time in hitting, we can definitely play with them. That just says we can take this series, move forward and play with anyone in the Big Ten conference and hopefully anyone out of conference.”

NU has not had a consistent season so far, with its longest winning streak being the two games against the Cornhuskers on March 31 and April 1. Meanwhile, St. Xavier managed to reel off six wins in a row, sandwiched in a nine-game period during which the Cougars went 8-1.

Stevens said the Cats need to bring a greater team effort Tuesday.

“It’s like any other time,” he said. “We’ve got to sit there and we’ve got to freaking pitch, play defense and find a way to score some runs. All we’re going to do is, we’re going to be working on things to set ourselves up for the weekend, and that’s how we’re going to attack that game.”

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