Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Schwartz Switched Divisions, Roles During His Career (Baseball)

By Jake SimpsonThe Daily Northwestern

It’s certainly been a long, strange trip for Dan Schwartz.

Four years ago he was pitching for lowly Division III Amherst.

Now he ends his college career with 11 wins for Northwestern’s major-conference program.

This season, Schwartz made the switch from bullpen stopper to reliable starter, winning four games and baffling Big Ten opponents with his velocity and command of the strike zone.

The senior drew high praise from his teammates, particularly his fellow pitchers, for his success this season.

“It’s always nice to know you have someone who can go out there and shut down the opposition,” senior Ryan Myers said.

Such success was nearly unthinkable when Schwartz embarked on his collegiate baseball career. The hurler said he quickly found that Amherst was not a good fit for him, as both the college and its baseball aspirations were too small for the southpaw.

Searching for another university, Schwartz came up empty – until fate intervened.

“I went down to Florida to play baseball,” he said, “and my roommate was coach (Paul) Stevens’ nephew. One night I said to him, ‘I really don’t like Amherst, I think I’m going to transfer.’ He said to me, ‘You know, my uncle is the coach at Northwestern, and I’ll let him know you’re interested.'”

After watching Schwartz throw, Stevens was convinced the southpaw could be a valuable addition to an already strong pitching staff.

“He was somebody we thought had some ability,” Stevens said. “It worked out well for us.”

Schwartz arrived at NU in the fall of 2004 and joined a rotation that included future pros Dan Brauer and George Kontos, who were both drafted in 2006. While Schwartz said he was “overwhelmed” early in his NU career, he managed to post the best winning percentage on the squad, going 4-0 with two saves in his sophomore season.

Outgoing and good-natured, Schwartz had little trouble fitting in with his teammates off the field, especially since he was a neighbor to many of them.

“(Schwartz) came in and lived with the upperclassmen,” Myers said. “He was thrown into the mix and, to his credit, he did very well.”

In his junior season, Schwartz was an integral part of the Wildcats’ unexpected run to the Big Ten tournament. Pitching primarily as a closer, he tied for the team lead with five saves.

Schwartz’s favorite NU moment, however, came when he actually failed as a closer.

“The most fun I had was against Illinois last year,” he said, referring to a game the Cats won 7-6. “I actually blew the save, but it went to 13 innings and (Stevens) left me in there. I pitched six and a third innings, and we ended up winning the game. That was a ridiculous, ridiculous experience, but it was so much fun.”

This season, Schwartz has been a consistent performer even as the team struggled. While the southpaw had a few rocky outings, he continued to anchor the Cats’ rotation, starting a game in all eight Big Ten series.

Equally important has been his mentoring of NU’s young pitchers, especially fellow southpaw Joe Muraski. With experience at two colleges under his belt, Schwartz has offered pitching tips to the freshman hurlers.

“Guys just out of high school sometimes take time to adjust to the college game,” junior third baseman Jake Owens said. “(Schwartz) has really helped with that.”

Schwartz pitched superbly in his final start Sunday against Purdue, allowing two runs on eight hits in seven innings to pick up the win. The senior will leave NU with a career record of 11-7 and 99 strikeouts in 155 and a third innings of work.

For Schwartz, however, it was always about more than just the numbers.

“I’m just really glad that I got to keep playing baseball for as long as I did,” he said. “I got to experience a lot of different roles on this team and a lot of different emotions. That’s what it’s all about.”

Reach Jake Simpson at [email protected]

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Schwartz Switched Divisions, Roles During His Career (Baseball)