Baseball series preview: Northwestern vs Kansas
Following a weekend series in which they lost two of three to Big Ten foe Nebraska, the Northwestern Wildcats (15-31, 5-13 Big Ten) will look to right the ship and get over .500 at home when they play their final two out-of-conference games of the season Tuesday and Wednesday against Kansas (20-28, 7-11 Big 12).
Northwestern held its own over the weekend against the Cornhuskers, losing a close game Friday, winning Saturday behind a Matt Portland complete game shutout and being blown out Sunday. But despite the series loss, the ‘Cats will look to carry their home momentum into a midweek set with the Jayhawks.
Offensive leader Kyle Ruchim is questionable for Tuesday’s game, sidelined with an improving strained oblique. He has missed the ‘Cats’ last six games. Northwestern will rely on first baseman Zach Jones and catcher Scott Heelan to try and fill in the void created by Ruchim’s absence, assuming he cannot play. Jones is hitting .332 on the season, while Heelan is hitting .324. The two combined to go 7-22 over the weekend with two runs batted in against Nebraska
The ‘Cats will go up against a bit of an enigma in this Kansas team. Although eight games under .500, the Jayhawks have three top-25 wins this season, including two against No. 12 Oklahoma State. Kansas is 3-3 against the Big Ten this season, winning two of three against Michigan and losing two of three against Iowa.
Kansas’ pitching, much like the Wildcats’, is not its strong suit. The Jayhawks give up more than six runs a game, with a team ERA of 5.81.
Offensively, the Jayhawks are led by left fielder Connor McKay. The Colorado native is batting .362 on the season, leading the team in doubles, triples and runs. First baseman Blair Beck represents the team’s biggest power threat, having totaled a team-high seven home runs. Beck also has 29 RBI on the season.
In a series that features two struggling pitching staffs and two above-average offenses, Northwestern looks to keep its home out-of-conference record perfect. The ‘Cats will try to have success against a Kansas team that is just 5-11 this season on the road.