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Season Recap: Northwestern Baseball Falls Short of Big Ten Tournament

The Wildcats rebounded from a slow start and won three of their first four Big Ten Conference series, but a disappointing May put them outside of the playoff picture in 2022.
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Winning the final game of a Division I college baseball season results in one of two outcomes – a celebratory dogpile on the mound of Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, or a bittersweet end to a season for a team failing to advance to the postseason.

For Northwestern baseball (24-27, 10-14 B1G), the latter occurred on Saturday in Minneapolis. While the ‘Cats beat Minnesota 8-5 to win their final regular season series, they fell on the wrong side of a tiebreaker for the final spot in the Big Ten Tournament, ending the rollercoaster that was the 2022 season.

Northwestern lost their first three series of the year and owned a 2-10 record before they played a single home game. The Wildcats then reeled off 17 wins in their next 24 contests, winning three Big Ten Conference series and rising above .500 heading into the second half of league play.

With a ticket to their first Big Ten Tournament since 2017 within reach and a relatively favorable schedule in front of them, the ‘Cats went 5-10 down the stretch, losing nine of 13 games in May and tumbling to a 10th-place finish in the conference.

Northwestern’s pitching staff defined the up-and-down nature of the team’s season. During the 17-7 midseason run, Northwestern hurlers pitched to a 3.78 ERA, giving up more than eight earned runs on only two occasions. In the games before and after that stretch, the Wildcats’ ERA was 9.26 and the team compiled a 7-20 record, allowing at least nine earned runs in 12 of the 27 games.

While the team as a whole lacked consistency on the mound, first-year Sean Sullivan and graduate student Michael Farinelli shined in their debut seasons with Northwestern. The ‘Cats top starting pitchers finished one-two on the team in several statistical categories, including ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. Sullivan earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors twice and was named co-Big Ten Pitcher of the Week on March 16. Fellow first-year Grant Comstock blossomed into the Sunday starter role in conference play, ending the year with a six-inning, nine-strikeout performance in a no-decision versus Minnesota.

The Wildcats’ offense hit 64 home runs and 109 doubles in 51 games, good for sixth and fifth respectively in the Big Ten Conference. The lineup finished the season with a bang, plating a season-high 33 runs over the three-game series at Minnesota. Anthony Calarco, Jay Beshears, Ethan O’Donnell and Stephen Hrustich became the first quartet of Northwestern hitters to slug at least 10 home runs in the same season. Calarco led the team with 13 homers and 54 RBI, and first-year infielder Patrick Herrera hit a team-best .336 on the season.

Northwestern finished under .500 for the 19th-straight season and extended their NCAA Tournament drought to 65 years.

Big Ten Awards

Four Wildcats were honored by the Big Ten Conference on Tuesday for their individual accomplishments in 2022.

All-Big Ten Second Team

INF Patrick Herrera

OF Ethan O’Donnell

All-Big Ten Freshman Team

LHP Sean Sullivan

Sportsmanship Award Honoree

RHP Mike Doherty

Outfielder Ruben Fontes was also named Big Ten Conference Co-Player of the Week for the final week of the regular season. Fontes tallied seven hits and 10 RBI against Minnesota, including two home runs and a crucial double in the 9th inning of Saturday’s 8-5, come-from-behind win.

Team Leaders

Batting Average: Patrick Herrera, .336

On-Base Plus Slugging: Anthony Calarco, 1.051

Home Runs: Anthony Calarco, 13

Runs Batted In: Anthony Calarco, 54

Earned Run Average: Michael Farinelli, 4.43

Innings Pitched: Michael Farinelli, 87.1

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Strikeouts: Sean Sullivan, 78

Batting Average Against: Grant Comstock, .254

Fielding Percentage: Andrew Pinkston, 1.000 (49 chances)

Assists: Tony Livermore, 109

Graduating Seniors

INF Anthony Calarco

Calarco was a mainstay in Northwestern’s lineup for the past two seasons, earning a spot on the All-Big Ten First Team in 2021. The left-handed slugger hit 20 career home runs, including five in his final eight games as a Wildcat.

UTIL Tommy D’Alise

D’Alise began his Northwestern career as a pitcher before transitioning to a position player in 2021. D’Alise finished fifth on the team with eight home runs in 2022 and had two multi-homer games this year.

RHP Mike Doherty

Doherty logged 141.2 innings on the mound over four seasons and led Northwestern’s pitching staff in ERA and WHIP in 2021. Doherty finished his career with a two-inning save against nationally-ranked Maryland on April 30.

OF Ruben Fontes

Fontes, a graduate transfer from Davidson, hit .318 and blasted five home runs in 37 games this season. Fontes closed the season on an eight-game hit streak and a four-game multi-hit streak.

LHP Parker Hanks

Hanks, the lone left-hander in Northwestern’s bullpen this season, appeared in 12 games and pitched 10 innings. Hanks retired the only batter he faced against Minnesota on May 20 to earn his first save in his final appearance.

C J.C. Santini

Santini joined Northwestern after four years at St. Mary’s College and played in 34 games in 2022. Santini threw out 16 baserunners this season, which was tied for second in the Big Ten.

Incoming Talent

On National Signing Day last November, the Wildcats announced that six student-athletes will join the baseball program as part of the Northwestern Class of 2026.

RHP Drew Dickson, Zionsville, IN

INF Michael Elko, College Station, TX

LHP Sam Garewal, San Diego, CA

OF Marty Kaplan, Santa Monica, CA

UTIL Trent Liolios, Newport Beach, CA

UTIL Owen McElfatrick, Tampa, FL

According to Kendall Rogers of D1Baseball.com, Northwestern will begin a nationwide search for a head coach. Josh Reynolds led the team to a 24-27 record and 10 conference wins this year as the interim head coach.

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