Baseball: Cats look for first win over Indiana in almost five years


Daily file photo by David Lee

Leo Kaplan takes a swing. The sophomore outfielder has recorded a hit in eight of his last nine appearances entering this weekend’s series at Indiana.

Ryan Wangman, Copy Chief


When Northwestern last beat Indiana on the baseball diamond — 1,798 days ago — the University had just recently hired Chris Collins as the men’s basketball coach and freshman phenom Quinn Lavelle was in 8th grade.

It’s been a while.

The Wildcats (9-17, 1-8 Big Ten) have lost their last seven games against the No. 10 Hoosiers (23-6, 3-2), their most recent victory a 12-1 thumping of a 2013 Indiana team that ended up reaching their first College World Series in school history and featured Kyle Schwarber, now a Chicago Cubs player. That Cats iteration failed to even qualify for the Big Ten Tournament.

Dating back to 2012, NU has lost 10 of its last 12 games against the Hoosiers — who it will face in a three-game series in Bloomington this weekend — although six of the 10 defeats were decided by one run. The Cats have also lost their last five games in conference play this season and will face a tough task trying to break their losing streaks on the road trip.

Nonetheless, NU is coming off of a mid-week 2-0 win against Notre Dame in which seven pitchers combined to hold the Fighting Irish to five hits and to strike out 10 batters. Coach Spencer Allen said a win against an ACC opponent may give the team a bit of momentum and confidence going into the Indiana series.

“We’re just going to go out there and go attack the game and see what happens,” Allen said. “We’re excited to head on down (to Bloomington).”

The Cats’ pitching staff will likely face one of its most difficult challenges yet in a trio of hitters featured on the Hoosiers’ lineup that hit above .330 — Matt Gorski (.333), Ryan Fineman (.344) and Scotty Bradley (.389) — and two more batters that hit above .310. Allen said to contain the offensive firepower, the team has to focus on what it can control, such as executing pitches and not leaving balls up in the zone.

NU will also have to contend with the conference’s top pitching staff, whose stellar ERA of 2.47 leads the Big Ten by almost a full point and is ranked third overall in the country. Indiana’s rotation is anchored by three pitchers with sub-3.20 ERAs, and the Cats sit near the bottom of the conference in batting average as a team, hitting .225 on the year.

Still, senior catcher Jack Claeys said he believes this year’s team is one of the most talented he’s played on in his four years. He added that players simply need to get their confidence back.

“Whether you’re at-bat with two outs and nobody on or (in) a big spot, you just got to be yourself all the time,” Claeys said. “Be the best version of yourself whenever your opportunity comes.”

Sophomore outfielder Leo Kaplan, who has recorded a hit in eight of his last nine games, said the key to his success has been having patience in his at-bats. Kaplan said he’s gotten into good counts and adjusted to how pitchers are throwing differently to him in his second year.

Kaplan said the team has played well, but they haven’t played their best baseball yet.

“We’re just going to continue to do what we’re doing, not change anything … to play the opponent,” Kaplan said. “Obviously, I don’t think our record shows how well we’ve played this year.”

Peter Warren contributed reporting.

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