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The NUmbers Guy: Valentine’s Love for Northwestern Athletes

WNUR Sports Director Jim Sannes (@JimSannes) dishes out some love to the most under-appreciated athletes at Northwestern in honor of Valentine’s Day.

Photo Credit: Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

Photo Credit: Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

With Valentine’s Day approaching, who better to tell you about love than the awkward sports writer with a feces obsession? Well, most everybody. But, still, with the way Northwestern’s sports have been performing the last few years, there’s plenty of love to go around. Because my adoration of Venric Mark, Brandon Vitabile, Reggie Hearn and others is well documented, today we’ll be dishing out the accolades to the most under-appreciated Northwestern stars. If you have any you would like to add to this list, put them in the comments box down below. LEH’GO! (Is that how you use that?)

Alyssa Leonard

Everybody knows Taylor Thornton because she’s kind of freaking awesome. However, Leonard’s value seems to go unnoticed at times, which is a sin. Her 24 draw controls this year put her second on Northwestern’s all-time draw control list at 205… AND SHE’S ONLY A JUNIOR!!! On Saturday against USC, Leonard tied the NCAA record for draw controls in one game with 15. I don’t care if they’re playing against USC (who is in their first season of Division-I play), Florida or the WNUR Sports staff… that’s just unreal. The ‘Cats get their first big test of the season (unless you count casual exhibitions against Team USA and Team England) on Friday when they head to Chapel Hill to take on #5 North Carolina.

Marisa Bast

So, I talked about my love of #BastMode quite a bit last year, but it bears repeating: Bast is the most dominant non-lacrosse player in Northwestern athletics. Last year, she won the Big Ten regular-season batting (.414) and RBI (63) titles, and finished second in home runs with 13. Bast’s 1.254 OPS was actually the inspiration for Kanye West’s “Power.” In the first five games this season, Bast has two home runs. If you’re looking for an exciting individual to keep an eye on this spring, here you go.

Tyler Miller

Dude had 10 shutouts for Northwestern soccer this season… in 23 games!! IF THAT ISN’T LOVE, I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS!! That translates to a First-Team All-Big Ten selection, durrrrrrh. His goals-against-average was 0.82, third lowest in the Big Ten. I know next to nothing about soccer, but I think I heard once that that’s a good thing. My soccer career went in the tanks when the size of the nets was no longer 5’x7’ and I couldn’t take up the entire goal. The offensive line and I were made to be bff’s.

Kyle Ruchim

Ruchim and Paul Snieder were the only ‘Cats to start all 54 games last season. The 5’10” utility player did it all on the diamond, leading the team in saves (7), doubles (12), extra-base hits (17), slugging (.412), on-base percentage (.373), OPS (.785) and stolen bases (10). If Ruchim can show similar improvement from his sophomore to junior year that he showed from his freshman to sophomore campaign, the ‘Cats will finish with a record better than last year’s 18-36. The baseball team’s first game is this Friday, so you ain’t gotta leave, winter, you just gotta get the heck up outta heeeeeeere.

Damien Proby

Okay, so it seems like it would be hard for a player to be under-appreciated when he records 112 tackles in a season. However, when the other guys in your position group have the big-playmaking abilities of Chi Chi Ariguzo and David Nwabuisi, it does happen. Proby provided a solid core to the middle of the Northwestern defense and was an integral part of the third-ranked rush defense in the Big Ten. On a team that struggled with tackling the entire season, Proby was a ringing exception. Proby had six of the team’s 18 individual games of ten or more tackles. With Nwabuisi’s departure, Proby may need to make more big plays, but having that rock at middle linebacker has to make Coach Fitz happy.

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