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Baseball: Northwestern heads to Purdue in search of conference wins

Willie+Bourbon+swings+through+a+pitch.+The+sophomore+infielder+and+the+Wildcats+are+seeking+a+rebound+against+Purdue+this+weekend.
Willie Bourbon swings through a pitch. The sophomore infielder and the Wildcats are seeking a rebound against Purdue this weekend.

Willie Bourbon swings through a pitch. The sophomore infielder and the Wildcats are seeking a rebound against Purdue this weekend.

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Willie Bourbon swings through a pitch. The sophomore infielder and the Wildcats are seeking a rebound against Purdue this weekend.

Talia Hendel, Reporter

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After four losses in its last five games, Northwestern has found itself in desperate need for wins if it hopes to make an appearance in the Big Ten Tournament.

The next opportunity for the Wildcats (17-26, 6-9 Big Ten) to better both their overall and conference records comes in a three-game weekend set at Purdue (25-18, 9-6) this weekend.

“It’s a huge weekend for us, and we’re excited to get going,” senior outfielder Joe Hoscheit said.

After earning Big Ten Player of the Week honors in two consecutive weeks in April, Hoscheit has managed just two hits across his last four games.

With NU stuck in 10th place in conference standings and only eight spots in the tournament, it’s a poor time for its recent offensive hero to struggle. Senior pitcher Josh Davis, however, has confidence in his team’s ability to pull out some wins this weekend.

“Mainly, we just have to be ourselves,” Davis said. “If we’re ourselves, we know that we’re capable of winning games and winning close games. If we’re going to do that, I’d give us a really good chance of winning that series.”

That will be no simple task, as the Boilermakers have come a long way from their 2016 season. Last year, Purdue struggled mightily and secured just two conference wins and 10 overall, leaving them with a 10-44 record.

This year, the Boilermakers have clawed their way above .500. Purdue has nine conference wins to date and presently sits sixth in the Big Ten.

“They just got some better players than last year,” coach Spencer Allen said. “They’ve got some junior college kids that have really spiked, and they weren’t that bad a team last year. … I think the talent is just a little bit better this year.”

The Cats will have just two series after this weekend, heightening their urgency to improve their Big Ten standing.

NU’s last two opponents, Maryland and Rutgers, each sit above the Cats. Though the Scarlet Knights are just above NU in ninth, the Terrapins lead the conference with 13 conference wins.

“We’re looking forward to this weekend,” Hoscheit said. “If we could win, it would really give us confidence going forward.”

Although NU has struggled with inconsistency all season, its game plan has remained similar throughout. Prior to the Michigan State series last weekend, the Cats had won eight of their last 12 contests, but then dropped three of four the next week.

Allen pinpointed two particular goals for his team: timely hitting with runners on base and clean defense that makes opponents earn their runs. If NU executes on those fronts against Purdue, Allen believes his team could come home with a series win.

“We have to make sure when we have opportunities to get runs, we have to put that bat on the ball,” Allen said. “We’re going to have to use the short game and then just making sure they earn every hit, every base that they get. That’s going to be the key.”

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Twitter: @taliahendel

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