Baseball: Northwestern looks to continue offensive momentum against Chicago State

Steven Montero

The Wildcats finally put the pieces together last weekend in Michigan. Now, back home at Rocky Miller Park, Northwestern hopes the same offensive chain of attack can knock off Chicago State.

Coach Paul Stevens said he emphasizes an at-bat plan that capitalizes on who is already on the bases and where opportunities lie. Although the Cats (13-23, 5-10 Big Ten) recorded few hits against the Wolverines, not reaching the double digits all weekend, they still came away with enough runs to seal the victory in Saturday’s double-header.

That’s because each hit was distinct or, as Stevens said, had “quality” to it.

“I’m really proud of the guys of the offensive side that they executed, whether it’s getting bunts down or whether it’s hitting that fly ball or that ground ball that gets a runner in from third,” he said. “Those are all things, as far as I’m concerned, that are as big as any base hit that we can get.”

Facing off against the Cougars (5-27) at home could add even more fuel to the Cats’ fire. Chicago State is 4-16 on the road, and NU defends a respectable 3-5 record on its home turf. In addition, the Cougars hadn’t won a single game this season until April 10, when they slammed down a nonconference opponent 14-2.

But Chicago State’s record could prove to be a double-edged sword. The Cougars have won three contests in the last four days, riding a two-game winning streak into Evanston on Tuesday.

Senior first baseman Paul Snieder said NU has momentum of its own coming off the two victories it picked up at Michigan.

“It certainly gives us a lot of confidence,” Snieder said. “It shows that we can beat any team. We’re just going to come out next (time) swinging bats like we did this weekend. We were able to score runs a lot better this weekend, so hopefully we can carry that forward.”

The series in Ann Arbor, Mich., brought along seven errors next to the Cats’ scorecard. It was an unusually high number for NU in recent play, as the team executed perfectly in Minneapolis against Minnesota and had only four errors at home against Purdue.

“Errors are part of the game,” senior catcher Geoff Rowan said. “They’re going to happen. But as a player, after you make an error, you need to bounce back and not let them use it. That was the biggest thing for us. Even when they crawled back, a lot of our errors didn’t come back to hurt us. It was on the Michigan side. Their errors really came back to hurt them.”

Michigan also allowed NU to take control of the plate during the twinbill last Saturday. A series of walks in the fifth inning of Saturday’s second game highlighted the patience of the Cats’ lineup and the difficulty facing the Wolverines’ pitching staff, as they called two separate pitchers from the bullpen as relievers.

The first, Alex Lakatos, handed Rowan and two other players in purple a free walk to first base and pushed over the already-loaded bases to give NU a big 6-2 lead.

Even with the walks, Rowan said the Cats were aggressive, and they attacked the ball.

Stevens pointed to this timely offensive output as the way to future success.

“At the end of the day I’m looking for quality at-bats,” he said, “and if we can keep building on our quality at-bats and scoring runners when we need to then I’m going to be pretty happy over the next couple of weeks.”

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