April 3, 2014
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern has played its first 23 games away from home this season, but the Wildcats will finally return home this weekend to host Illinois in a three-game series at Rocky Miller Park, April 4-6.
The 'Cats were slated to open Big Ten play at home against Minnesota on March 21, but a brutal winter in the Chicagoland area left the field unplayable at that time. The three-game series was held instead at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., about 325 miles southwest of Evanston. NU also had to cancel its first midweek home game of the season against Western Michigan on April 2.
The Wildcats have a great giveaway and a special event lined up for this weekend. On Saturday, April 5, the first 500 fans in attendance will receive great Northwestern Baseball tumblers. On Sunday, April 6, NU will host the MLB's Pitch, Hit and Run competition, a free skills event for boys and girls, at Rocky Miller Field. For more information about the Pitch, Hit and Run event, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 847-467-3758.
Northwestern's offense accomplished a rare feat at the beginning of the season. As of March 24, the Wildcats were one of only 11 teams in all of Division I to record 10+ hits in five-or-more consecutive games this season. The 'Cats collected 10+ hits in the first seven games of the season between Feb. 14-23. NU had nine, then eight hits in the two games that followed, but bounced back with a season-high 18 on March 2 at Tennessee Tech. The 'Cats have produced 10-plus hits 12 times total this season, including each of the last two games entering the weekend. The other Big Ten squads on the list include Nebraska (6) and Iowa (5).
BIG TEN BOOST
Six Northwestern hitters are hitting above .300 during Big Ten play. Shortstop Cody Stevens has been the hottest of the bunch with a mark of .500 (8-for-16) in five games, while Zach Jones is hitting .364, and has matched Stevens with eight hits. Jake Straub (.667), Jack Mitchell (.400), Walker Moses (.333) and Jake Schieber (.313) are also all hitting above their overall numbers during conference play.
FINDING A WAY
Northwestern freshman Joe Hoscheit has reached base safely in a team-high 17 consecutive games for the Wildcats. Earlier this season another freshman, Matt Hopfner, reached safely in the first 17 games of his collegiate career before seeing that streak come to an end on March 23 vs. Minnesota. Hopfner also owns the Wildcats' longest hitting streak of the season at 10 games.
Northwestern opened the 2014 season at USC with back-to-back extra-inning games for the first time in program history. The Wildcats played back-to-back extra-inning affairs for the first time since April 2001 when they went 11 innings against Valparaiso and 10 innings against Indiana, however there were two days in between those ballgames. The 'Cats were 5-3 in extra-inning contests in 2013 and are 0-3 in 2014. Last season marked the first time the Wildcats played seven-or-more extra-inning games since 1993.
SCOUTING THE ILLINI
Illinois is 14-11 overall and 2-1 in B1G play in its ninth season under the direction of head coach Dan Hartleb. The Illini opened conference play last weekend by taking two-of-three from Purdue to wrap up an 11-game homestand. Catcher Jason Goldstein has been one of the top hitters in the conference this season as he ranks in the top three in both batting average (.383) and on-base percentage (.457). Starter Kevin Duchene and reliever Tyler Jay have been the top arms for the Orange and Blue this season. Duchene is 2-1 with a 1.70 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 37.0 IP. Jay leads the club in ERA (1.47), appearances (10) and saves (3).
ON THE AIR
All three games of the series against Illinois can be heard live through WNUR Sports. Links to those broadcasts are available at the top of this page. Sunday's series finale will also be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network. Wayne Randazzo will handle play-by-play duties with Danan Hughes providing analysis.
For more notes and information about the series between NU and Illinois, please download the PDF at the top of the page.
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