Baseball: After winless start to Big Ten play, Wildcats look for rebound

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Baseball: After winless start to Big Ten play, Wildcats look for rebound

Matt Hopfner prepares for a pitch. The senior outfielder had a strong weekend at the plate, but the Wildcats were swept by visiting Indiana.

Matt Hopfner prepares for a pitch. The senior outfielder had a strong weekend at the plate, but the Wildcats were swept by visiting Indiana.

Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette

Matt Hopfner prepares for a pitch. The senior outfielder had a strong weekend at the plate, but the Wildcats were swept by visiting Indiana.

Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette

Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette

Matt Hopfner prepares for a pitch. The senior outfielder had a strong weekend at the plate, but the Wildcats were swept by visiting Indiana.

Talia Hendel, Reporter

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Northwestern’s start to Big Ten play didn’t exactly go according to plan: the Wildcats lost big in a trio of close home losses to Indiana this weekend.

But with several more weeks worth of games to play, the early struggles aren’t keeping NU (5-17, 0-3 Big Ten) down.

“It’s always tough starting off on the wrong note,” senior outfielder Matt Hopfner said. “We’ve got guys in here that believe in this team and believe that we’re better than what our record shows and that’s all that truly matters.”

Despite the disappointing results, the Cats performed admirably at the plate, offering a glimmer of hope and success to build on in the future. Hopfner alone, for example, scored 5 runs in just 13 at-bats.

“I thought the offense definitely showed some life this weekend,” coach Spencer Allen said. “Really the biggest thing is they really fought all weekend. We were down in a majority of the games and we really fought back.”

Though the offense flashed promise, it also showed inconsistency.

In all three games, NU fired on all cylinders in the early innings. In Friday’s series opener, an eventual 13-9 loss, the Cats scored 3 runs in the first 2 innings, but heated up even more in the third, adding 5 runs and taking an early 8-3 lead.

However, across all three games, the later innings told a different story. Aside from a last-ditch rally in the ninth inning of Sunday’s 10-9 loss, NU scored a total of just 4 runs in the middle and late innings over the weekend.

“We’re really fighting to find consistency in all phases of our games, and that is kind of a microcosm really of our entire season,” Allen said. “We flash pretty brilliant moments and then there’s times when we lack that consistency, so we’ll look to try to right the ship when it comes to that.”

With four games in five days, NU will need to adjust quickly. Hopfner said the Cats’ mental approach is critical to consistency.

“We’ve kind of been rushing and haven’t really been ourselves in the middle innings,” Hopfner said. “It’s just the mindset of keeping your timing down, having a good routine, and trying to be yourself each and every time on the plate.”

Though the offense was efficient at times, the Cats’ pitching staff struggled throughout the weekend. The Hoosiers scored 29 runs in the three games and several NU pitchers struggled to put away batters. In the Cats’ 6-5 loss in Friday’s second game, freshman Hank Christie gave up 5 runs in just 4 innings, putting NU in an early hole.

“We scored runs early and gave our team a chance to win every game,” junior pitcher Tommy Bordignon said. “From a pitching standpoint, we need to get better at shutting down innings after we score and put up some more zeros.”

Wednesday’s game against Chicago State is just one of 31 regular season games remaining for the Cats. That fact leaves the Cats optimistic for this week and the rest of the season.

“There is a lot of baseball left to be played,” Bordignon said. “Our confidence as a whole is high because we know we are capable of playing better baseball than we are showing.”

Email: taliahendel2020@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @taliahendel

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