Baseball: Northwestern seeks tournament spot in contest against second-seeded Maryland


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Alex Erro watches the ball as he rounds first base. The freshman infielder played a major role in Northwestern’s series win over Purdue and could be critical again this weekend at Maryland.

Talia Hendel, Reporter


Another Northwestern team is living up to the phrase “Cardiac Cats,” as NU has tied with Michigan State for the eighth spot in conference standings with only two series remaining. To qualify for the Big Ten Tournament, the Wildcats will have to officially surpass the Spartans.

The golden ticket to the postseason may lie in NU’s (19-27, 8-10 Big Ten) upcoming series against Maryland (32-15, 14-7 Big Ten) — a conference powerhouse and nationally esteemed program.

“We know Maryland is a top team; we know what we’re in for as far as their talent level and the way that they like to approach teams coming into their place, into their ballpark,” senior pitcher Cooper Wetherbee said.

Although the Terrapins have fallen in two of their last four games, to say they’ve had a successful season would be an understatement. Maryland has proven itself to be tough to beat time and time again, with winning streaks as long as eight straight wins, a top-three ranking in the Big Ten standings and even the occasional national ranking.

On top of that, NU will face the Terrapins in their home arena — a ballpark where only one visiting team has walked out with a win. However, freshman infielder Alex Erro is not fazed.

“They’re bouncing in and out of about the top 25, so they’re getting a little bit of national attention, but every team is beatable,” Erro said. “We’re going to go up there looking to put at bats together and compete on the mound and get it done.”

The Cats have also fallen in half of their last four contests. The two wins came in last weekend’s series against Purdue, the holder of the seventh spot in the conference rankings.

Although senior outfielder Joe Hoscheit has propelled the NU offense in recent weeks, it was Erro who was the hero in the Cats’ eventual series finale win against the Boilermakers and will look to carry that momentum into the upcoming weekend’s series.

“Hoscheit’s been consistent all season, and we’ve talked about how we need one other guy to have a big series, and Alex was that guy,” coach Spencer Allen said. “It’s big. Alex being a switch hitter, being our lead off guy, he can set the table for the other guys, and that could be real important.”

The Cats have had their fair share of disappointing outcomes, including starting out the season with a seven-game losing streak, as well as a pair of tough late-game losses to Illinois and Penn State.

However, the bumpy start riddled with inconsistency that characterized the team in the beginning of the season is no longer applicable, Erro said.

“I feel like it’s just a different team since the beginning of the season,” Erro said. “We’ve gone through a lot of adversity throughout the year and starting to heat up at the right time.”

Wetherbee, who has become a consistent Friday night starter, will play an important role in setting the tone for the weekend.

Although NU will have a final opportunity to gain conference wins against Rutgers after this series, this weekend may hold the fate of the Cats postseason chances.

“It’s in our hands, I think,” Allen said. “At this point, we don’t need a lot of help; we don’t need to look at the standings. We have to go out and play good, consistent baseball for two series, and that’s all you can ask for.”

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