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Baseball: Northwestern readies for Michigan in first Big Ten Tournament since 2010

Jack+Claeys+crosses+home+plate.+The+junior+catcher+and+the+Wildcats+begin+play+in+their+first+Big+Ten+Tournament+in+seven+years+on+Wednesday.
Jack Claeys crosses home plate. The junior catcher and the Wildcats begin play in their first Big Ten Tournament in seven years on Wednesday.

Jack Claeys crosses home plate. The junior catcher and the Wildcats begin play in their first Big Ten Tournament in seven years on Wednesday.

Daily file photo by Kate Salvidio

Daily file photo by Kate Salvidio

Jack Claeys crosses home plate. The junior catcher and the Wildcats begin play in their first Big Ten Tournament in seven years on Wednesday.

Talia Hendel, Reporter

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The lengthy drought is finally over as Northwestern will face Michigan in the opening game of the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday in Bloomington, Indiana. The Wildcats, whose last appearance in the tournament was in 2010, have have earned the No. 7 seed.

After starting the season off with a lengthy six-game losing streak and sustained rut early in conference play, NU (24-28, 13-11 Big Ten) seemed to finally find its groove fairly late in the season, coach Spencer Allen said.

“It started with that Purdue series, getting that series win there on a team that was playing some pretty good baseball,” Allen said. “That really jumped our confidence coming back home, knowing, hey, we can do this thing here. We felt pretty good, ended up going 7-2 in our last nine games to get in.”

Three of those final seven wins came in a clutch series sweep against Rutgers last weekend when a tournament spot was uncertain. However, the high-risk games did not appear to unnerve the team, as the Cats pitched 19 straight scoreless innings and attacked the plate for 23 total runs in the three games.

The tournament bid aside, this season has been momentous for the program, senior pitcher Cooper Wetherbee said.

“Just getting that sweep against Rutgers and finishing over .500 in conference play, I think that’s a positive thing,” Wetherbee said. “To be really competitive in conference, these are the games that matter and that’s what you sign up for, to go into the Big Ten and play games against teams like Indiana and Maryland and Michigan and that kind of competition.”

Though NU was not among the premier teams in the conference, two of its players were recognized with All-Big Ten honors Tuesday. Senior outfielder Joe Hoscheit was named first team all-conference and freshman pitcher Hank Christie earned All-Big Ten freshman team honors.

Hoscheit received two straight Big Ten Conference Player of the Week recognitions this season, and a .468 conference games batting average is the highest average by a Big Ten player since the 1998 season.

The senior also led the league in hits, doubles and RBIs this season, at 44, 10 and 29, respectively.

“It’s good to see all the hard work paying off especially towards the end of my career, but most importantly we’re in the Big Ten Tournament and are able to compete for a Big Ten title this week,” Hoscheit said. “I’m really excited for it and I’m really excited for our guys to get to experience that.”

The Cats have not faced the Wolverines (42-13, 16-8) yet this season. Last year, however, NU was swept aside in a three-game set in which the Wolverines hammered 33 runs in the three games.

Nonetheless, Hoscheit said he’s confident in his team as they’ve been “playing a different brand of baseball lately,” a sentiment shared by Wetherbee.

“They’re going to be a tough opponent for us, but I think everybody on our side is really happy to be in the Big ten Tournament but not satisfied yet,” Wetherbee said. “We really welcome the challenge of playing a team like Michigan tomorrow.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @taliahendel

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