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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Baseball: What to know ahead of Northwestern’s trip to The Big Easy for opening series against Tulane

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Daily file photo by Mika Ellison
Senior right-hander Matt McClure comes to a set.

Facing Tulane will be a bit like looking in the mirror for Northwestern’s baseball team. 

The Wildcats’ (10-40, 4-20 Big Ten) disappointing 2023 season bears a striking similarity to the Green Wave’s (19-42, 8-16 AAC) own lackluster record. Both teams struggled to get consistent performances out of players last spring and will be competing with vastly different rosters than the year before.

NU, of course, bears the more extreme of the matchup’s shared shortcomings. Following reports of an allegedly abusive work environment and the removal of former head coach Jim Foster over the summer, the visitors lost a total of 18 players to transfers and graduation. 

The youth of their new roster presents a big question for Wildcat fans: Will this new team bring freshness to the field or the stumblings of a group still learning to work in unity?

The ’Cats have a reconstructed pitching staff after losing valuable contributors Sam Garewal and David Utagawa to the transfer portal. 

The spotlight will be on new coach Ben Greenspan and how he will steward the newly recruited class of pitchers away from last season’s team ERA of 8.53 with some of the coaching touch that kept his former team, Michigan, snug at the middle of Big Ten conference standings.

Tulane is no stranger to pitching woes either. The Green Wave’s difficulty nailing down a solid pitching rotation cost them their fair share of runs last year, ending the season with a team ERA of 7.08 that sunk them to the bottom of AAC standings. 

Each team’s ability to steward their pitching talent will be crucial to their success, but hits decide the difference between wins and losses.

NU took a considerable loss in leading hitter Stephen Hrustich’s transfer to conference rival Michigan. However, junior catcher and first baseman Bennett Markinson holds promise for some growth at-bat for the Wildcats. Of the four hitters with the highest batting average last season, Markinson is the only to return. 

The Green Wave will enter the series without their top two pitchers of last season, Ricky Castro and Dylan Carmouche. Their absence presents an opportunity for NU to take advantage of what is sure to be even more disorganization within an unreliable pitching rotation — and a team whose fielding lacks severely in cohesiveness. 

Chances of high action in this series are slim, to say the least. The games will likely be characterized by a slow-paced rally between two groups struggling to gain their footing with a few spurts of runs here and there.

Wildcat and Green Wave fans alike will have their fingers crossed and eyes shut, more nervous than eager to find out if anything has changed since the previous season. 

Overall, consistency will be key for the ’Cats this weekend. Strong hitting and reliable fielding throughout all nine innings is how they will bring a meaningful win back from New Orleans and usher in a new and improved season of play.

But, really, a baseball revival wouldn’t be the strangest thing on our 2024 bingo card. Retribution has been the tune of NU’s sports in recent times: The men’s basketball hype and football’s recent comeback from a 1-11 season have fostered a sense of hope for weathered Wildcat fans.

Baseball’s trip to The Big Easy on Feb. 16 may be just what we need to kick off a Cinderella storyline for the Wildcats.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @GenaSports

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