Baseball: Wildcats regroup with midweek rest before facing Spartans

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Daily file photo by Brian Lee

Cody Stevens fires a throw across the diamond. The senior infielder is one of several veterans hopeful that midweek rest will pay dividends for Northwestern.

Jesse Kramer, Reporter


Baseball


With no midweek non-conference games, Northwestern is trying to take advantage of the rare string of off days before beginning another road series Friday at Michigan State.

“It’s nice to get some home-cooked meals and all that,” senior catcher Scott Heelan said. “It’s kind of good to let everything reset and hopefully have a big weekend ahead.”

The full week off comes following a weekend series against Illinois. Prior to this week, the Wildcats (8-22, 2-4 Big Ten) have not had more than one day off between games since mid-March. Between the rigorous schedule and traveling — NU has yet to play a home game this season — the Cats have dealt with limited practice time.

While senior centerfielder Kyle Ruchim said playing exclusively on the road is tough, he also said the Cats’ veteran team is used to such a schedule.

Coming from a cold-weather region, NU typically does not play at home until late March, at the earliest.

“To be honest, we were going to places like Florida, California, Arizona. You can’t really beat that when it comes to baseball,” said Ruchim, whose .355 batting average is eigth-highest in the Big Ten. “I’d rather be there than playing a home game in 30 degrees.”

This season, the Cats’ home opener got pushed back even later due to renovations at Rocky Miller Park, but Heelan and Ruchim agreed an extra couple of weeks on the road doesn’t make much of a difference.

Although getting some rest during this precious break is important, taking advantage of the extra practices is also a priority.

“Guys don’t see balls off the bat besides once it becomes game time,” coach Paul Stevens said. “This week gives us the ability to get rid of all our nicks and nacks or little tweaks. We’re in a healthier spot (compared to last season). We’ve got some guys that are ready to do some damage, I believe. We’ll see if we can revitalize what we had at Minnesota.”

After winning its first Big Ten series against Minnesota, NU was swept by Illinois. The upcoming series against Michigan State (16-14, 2-4) could prove to be crucial later in the season.

Although the season is still fairly young, NU is tied with Michigan State for eighth place in the conference. Only the top eight teams make the Big Ten Tournament.

“We started to find our stride at Minnesota,” Heelan said. “Illinois was a great team. We improved a lot. There’s a lot of positives we can take away and use them going forward the next couple of weeks.”

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Twitter: @Jesse_Kramer

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