Baseball: Wildcats look to clean up defense in mid-week games

Alex Putterman, Reporter

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Hitting and pitching are the primary tenants of successful baseball, but as Northwestern is showing, defense can sink a team as well.

As they prepare to face Wheaton College (8-17) in a mid-week, out-of-conference tune-up, the Wildcats (14-13, 4-8 Big Ten) can point to fielding as a major cause for their recent struggles.

In being swept by Minnesota in Evanston last weekend, NU committed 8 errors in three games, resulting in 10 unearned runs out of 17 total given up.

On the season, the Cats have made 52 errors — 13 more than their opponents — and surrendered 40 unearned runs, 7 more than their opponents. Every pitcher on the NU staff has allowed at least one unearned run, and more unearned runs have scored off ace redshirt senior Zach Morton than earned ones.

“If you make one error it’s too many,” coach Paul Stevens said. “My goal is always to have a goose egg in that situation. We’ve got to do a better job of not putting one error on top of another. … However we get an inning started, you’ve got to find a way to stop the snowball from going downhill.”

Redshirt senior shortstop Trevor Stevens is tied for the team lead with 6 errors, including 2 against Purdue two weekends ago and 1 against the Golden Gophers. Still, Stevens said they aren’t on the team’s mind.

“We’re more concerned about staying mentally prepared for the next pitch,” Stevens said after the Purdue series. “Physical things happen. It’s just part of the game. We’re more worried about just being mentally prepared and mentally focused.”

Wheaton should not be a difficult matchup for the Cats, who hope to use the game — and the one the following day against Western Michigan — as preparation for next weekend’s Big Ten series with Michigan.

“Mid-week games are just to kind of keep us in the groove of things,” junior catcher Jake Straub said. “Whether we’re playing really well, it’s just to kind of continue that mojo, or whether we’ve struggled with some stuff in the weekends and Big Ten then we can work on it during the mid-week.”