Baseball: Northwestern looks ahead to Notre Dame, future


Daily file photo by Kate Salvidio

Jack Claeys steps up to bat. The senior will lead the Cats in the first of the final four games of his career against Notre Dame on Tuesday.

Ryan Wangman, Copy Chief


Before this season, the last time Northwestern had beaten Notre Dame on the diamond was in 2009, in a game played at U.S. Cellular Field, in a season where the Wildcats’ mark of 15 total wins was its lowest since 1975 and at a time when the Chicago White Sox’s home park still had its old name.

Now, following a sparkling April shutout in South Bend, the Cats (16-29, 6-18 Big Ten) have a chance to double dip against the Fighting Irish (23-25, 12-15 ACC).

Notre Dame been treading the waters of inconsistency this season, never establishing a winning or losing streak longer than four games, although the team sports a 4-2 record versus common opponents with NU. Their pitching staff’s ERA is an unimpressive 5.39, and among qualified hitters, only two are hitting above .300.

This is a game the Cats can win.

“Notre Dame’s a really good team,” coach Spencer Allen said. “(We) really just want to continue to compete and have some fun these last four games, especially for the seniors.”

Senior catcher Jack Claeys, who will conclude his collegiate career behind the plate this week, will bid adieu to a program for which he has played almost 150 games, tallying more than 100 hits and more than 500 putouts throughout his time in purple. The Minnesota native is having his best season to date, hitting a hair under .300 and plating 35 runs, his 8 bases-clearing bombs this year doubling the total number from his first three seasons combined.

He’ll end his four years in numerically satisfying fashion, as one of four seniors who has seen significant playing time this season competing in four final games at Rocky and Berenice Miller Park.

“The biggest thing would be for me as a senior, just soaking it all in, as a guy that’s not going to play pro ball after this, (that’s) going to go and join the working world and start a 9 to 5,” Claeys said. “It’s been a great four years.”

Despite finishing out of contention for a Big Ten Tournament berth and without hope for a winning record on the season, NU will look to make progress on two tangible goals to end the year on a high note: an above .500 performance in midweek games and overall in May. If the Cats win on Tuesday, they will finish a respectable 4-3 in midweek games and bump their record on the month to 4-5 ahead of a seizable season-ending series against Belmont.

Sophomore righty Hank Christie stressed the importance of continuing to focus on games, even without a larger goal to chase.

“It’s just so important to develop later in the year, especially when you’re not playing for anything,” Christie said. “You can still get better individually and as a team, and I guess just trying to hammer in as much as you possibly can before the year’s over.”

Looking ahead to the future of the program after the excitement-filled series upset of Iowa over the weekend, Allen was optimistic about the possibilities for next season.

“With a lot of guys coming back, I think they see what we can be,” Allen said. “It’s not like that the Iowas and the teams that are going to be in the tournament are that much better than us. I think that’s a positive and we can roll that into next year.”

Peter Warren contributed reporting.

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