Baseball: Northwestern hoping to start off a bounceback season in Arizona


Daily file photo by Brian Meng

Jack Dunn rounds third. The senior shortstop is a key returning contributor for Northwestern this season.

Eric Rynston-Lobel, Reporter


It may only be the second full week of February, and snow still covers the Northwestern field, but college baseball season is here. The Wildcats start play this weekend in Arizona with a series this weekend against Brigham Young and California.

After a disappointing 2018 season that saw NU finish 17-32 overall and 6-18 in the Big Ten, the team is ready to put those results in the rearview mirror, especially with a new group of freshmen expected to contribute.

All around the diamond, coach Spencer Allen said his players will be competing for time on the field. He noted the catching position, which he said will feature a competition between sophomore Jack Kelly and freshmen Michael Trautwein and Jack Anderson.

Regarding the lineup construction, Allen said he sees more depth this year than he had at his disposal last season.

“Just looking at the lineup, we’re going to maybe be a little bit deeper one through nine, at least on paper,” he said. “We’ve got some incoming guys — Michael Trautwein, (infielder) Shawn Goosenberg. Hopefully (they’re) ready to step right in.”

Offensively, the team will be led by senior shortstop Jack Dunn, who hit .314 last season while striking out just 30 times in 194 at-bats. He’ll help anchor a lineup that also returns power-hitting first baseman Willie Bourbon and second baseman Alex Erro, a staple at the top of the order.

Heading into his final season playing in Northwestern purple, Dunn said a strong start is key, and ultimately the team’s goal is to “at the end of the year be one of the top 64 teams in the nation.”

Getting to that point, though, will require solid production on the mound, where Allen said he also has improved depth. The main focus, he said, will be finding the right roles so everybody is in the best position to help the team win. He added that over the course of the first three to four weeks, he’ll likely be “mixing and matching” to figure out the best ways to use his staff.

Allen did not rule out the prospect of bullpenning games where each pitcher would only throw one or two innings.

“There’s a chance we do that a little bit more,” he said. “We’re going to try to throw our top eight arms who have an opportunity to get outs. … We definitely do have some more options.”

Allen said one of the biggest focuses for improvement this season is better leadership from the upperclassmen. Junior pitcher Hank Christie, the expected ace in the rotation, echoed his coach, saying leadership is “everything” and “something we really lacked last year.” He said it’s essential for more experienced players to be able to pass down tips to younger teammates.

NU will have the opportunity to put that leadership on display when they take on the Cougars and Golden Bears. BYU finished last season at 22-28, while Cal went 32-22. The Cats’ nonconference schedule will also feature a Duke team that advanced to a Super Regional in 2018 and Georgia Tech, who finished last year 31-27.

Preparing to take on these tough opponents, Allen said this schedule will certainly help the team gain valuable experience.

“They’ve been where we want to get,” he said. “We want to be one of the top 64 teams in the country. That’s this team’s goal. We have not shied away from it.”

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