Baseball: Wildcats head to Chicago State to begin final third of season


Daily file photo by Leeks Lim

Willie Bourbon stands in the batter’s box. The freshman infielder notched the Wildcats’ only extra-base hit last weekend against Penn State.

Max Gelman, Sports Editor


Following a disappointing sweep, Northwestern will look to beat a familiar foe to get back on track.

When the Wildcats (9-27, 2-10 Big Ten) last played Chicago State (7-28, 1-11 Western Athletic), they debuted the newly-renovated Miller Park with an impressive 11-5 victory. Since then, NU has won just two games sandwiched between losing streaks of 6 and 3 games.

“The guys that struggled … just had issues locating their fastballs consistently,” coach Spencer Allen said after Sunday’s loss. “That’s something that we have to clean up. It’s disappointing, you want to see progress and we’re just not seeing progress. That’s on me, that’s on the coaching staff, we’ve got to work to continue to see that progress.”

For the Cats to repeat as victors and sweep their season series over the Cougars, they will need to ignite their offense, something they struggled with against Penn State last weekend. NU mustered only 7 runs over its three-game series with the Nittany Lions and tallied only one extra base hit.

Senior pitcher Jake Stolley, who has started each of the last three midweek games for the Cats, will not start Tuesday against Chicago State as he started Sunday’s loss to Penn State. Instead, NU will have junior pitcher Pete Hofman to start off on the mound, followed by a parade of relief pitchers.

After his pitchers surrendered 19 runs over their last two games against the Nittany Lions, associate coach Josh Reynolds said the staff needs to collectively improve its control.

“I don’t think we pitched the way we should or can,” Reynolds said after Sunday’s loss. “You walk guys, you hit guys, you show right there the command is not where it needs to be. When you face guys who are aggressive in the box, and they get balls they can hit, they do.”

Much like the Cats, the Cougars have encountered similar misfortunes on the field. Since its 11-5 defeat to NU last month, Chicago State has won only one of its past 12 games, including sweeps at the hands of Seattle University and Sacramento State, with its lone win coming over Texas-Rio Grande Valley on April 8.

At the plate, the Cougars are led by senior Andy Gertonson, who is first on the team in batting average, hits, runs, home runs and slugging percentage. When the teams last faced each other, Gertonson went 0-for-3 with a walk and 2 runs scored, and junior pitcher Noe Arteaga started for Chicago State, lasting 2.2 innings after allowing 6 earned runs on four hits and four walks.

As the final third of the season begins for the Cats, 2016 is looking like a lost cause. NU will need to win every remaining regular season game to finish at .500, something that has not happened since 2003, and only sits one game ahead of Purdue for last place in the Big Ten.

As a result, games against poor teams like Chicago State become must-wins.

“We’ve just got to find some ways to get some extra bases,” freshman infielder Willie Bourbon said. “I think just getting back on the winning side of things, just continuing to have the same approach at the plate, being able to stay in the middle of the field and hit some line drives. … We’ve just got to step it up a little bit more.”

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