Baseball looks to bottle up wins in Coca Cola Classic

By Matt Hopkinson

As White Sox players took batting practice, NIU baseball was in attendance to watch for a short time.

The Huskies are in Surprise, Ariz. for their four-game trip and had time to take in some spring training practice while they were at it.

NIU will play four different teams in four consecutive days, including a matchup with No. 11 ranked Arizona State and No. 24 Oregon State.

The Huskies will also face Winthrop and Saint Mary’s.

NIU coach Ed Mathey said that the mindset relies on focusing on the team’s strengths and not worrying about opponents.

“It’s different, because with a normal series game one is all about seeing what everyone has,” Mathey said. “The other games is about who makes the better adjustments each day. When you’re playing four different teams, the energy has to be put into what you’re doing. It’s going to be good from that stance four our clubs, focusing on what we have to do to win games.”

Mathey is also looking for better pitching in these four games, as he said the offensive production has been good enough, but the pitching has set them back in games.

The Huskies have given up more than six runs in all but one game this season, which forced them to play from behind virtually all game every game.

“When you look back at some of the games we’ve played, the starting pitching hasn’t allowed us to stay close,” Mathey said. “When you’re playing the caliber of teams we’re playing, it’s not an easy task. We’re playing really good teams, so the starting pitching has to be there.”

NIU will have to perform a balancing act of sorts, as it tries to taper its motivation from game to game, opponent to opponent.

Huskies senior catcher Brett Frantini said it’s all about the approach, and not thinking too much about the opponent, but just playing baseball.

“Sometimes you can get caught up in the rankings,” Frantini said. “At the end of the day they’re throwing nine guys on the field, we’re throwing nine guys on the field. They’re not machines, they’re 18 to 23 year old guys like we are. We need to take advantage of the mistakes they make.”