Season Recap: Baseball

By Max Rogal

In a season that started with fireworks and optimism, Northwestern ended up in a familiar place– the bottom half of the Big Ten Standings. 

Season Statistics:

  • Overall Record: 15-21
  • Home Record: 4-5
  • Away Record: 3-9
  • Neutral Site Record: 8-7
  • Team Leaders:
    • Avg: Shawn Goosenberg (.362)
    • HR: Shawn Goosenberg (14)
    • RBI: Michael Trautwein (35)
    • ERA: Mike Doherty (3.69)

Season Overview:

2021 was a weird year for college baseball (and virtually every other sport). Playing a shorter, all-conference schedule, without the usual preseason tournaments and tune-ups before, made each and every game matter.

After a season-opening four-game split with Penn State, the ‘Cats traveled down to South Carolina for a matchup with Michigan State. Northwestern hit three grand slams from three different players in each of the first three innings to announce the beginning of the ‘Evanston Power Surge’ and cruise to a 14-2 victory. Later on in the series, with the Spartans up two in the bottom of the ninth, Shawn Goosenberg launched a three-run walk-off bomb to secure the series win. 

Home runs were a theme throughout the season, with the team’s 66 total bombs smashing the previous program record of 55 set in 1985. Northwestern did not have a player hit for double-digit home runs for over a decade, but in 2021, Shawn Goosenberg, Michael Trautwein and Stephen Hrustich all accomplished this feat. 

After the dramatics against the Spartans, the Wildcats went on to win series at Minnesota and Illinois, and even after losing 3-of-4 in a weekend against Maryland and Michigan, the ‘Cats were feeling pretty good heading into their home opener against Rutgers. In one of the wildest games of the season, Northwestern came out on top thanks to a game-tying home run from Michael Trautwein in the ninth and a second walk-off shot from Shawn Goosenberg. What looked at the time to be a key momentum builder in the ‘Cats season turned out to be a high point. The ‘Cats went on to lose 11 of their next 12 games, not helped by a two-week COVID-19 hiatus, dropping several spots in the Big Ten standings.

After the season, Head Coach Spencer Allen announced he would not return to the program after six years at the helm. Pitching Coach Josh Reynolds will take over for Allen and looks to build on the highs of 2021 in an increasingly competitive Big Ten. 

MVP: Shawn Goosenberg

Goosenberg, an All-Big Ten First Team selection, started all 36 games of his junior season, leading the ‘Cats in just about every offensive category. He was absolutely unstoppable at points during the season, finishing with a .362 average, 14 home runs, 30 RBI’s and two Big Ten Player of the Week awards. Goosenberg, who had hit only one career home run entering the season, tripled that total with just his walk-offs alone in 2021, providing some of the most memorable moments of the season. He’ll now have the chance to prove himself at the next level after being selected in the 19th round of the MLB Draft by the Chicago White Sox.

Key Contributors: Anthony Calarco, Michael Trautwein, Mike Doherty

Anthony Calarco, another All-Big Ten First Team selection, was a key piece in the Wildcats’ lineup all season. An unconventional leadoff hitter, he led the team with 13 doubles on the year and was second only to Goosenberg in average (.295) and runs scored (35). His biggest game of the season came in a 16-run outburst against Illinois in which he drove in five of those runs and blasted three homers. 

Michael Trautwein hit 11 home runs and led the team with 35 RBI’s but spent most of the season hovering around a .200 batting average before ending the season on a high, going 10-for-22 with 10 RBI’s in the team’s final six games. Trautwein also led the Big Ten in runners caught stealing (15), earning him a place on the All-Big Ten Second Team. He’ll also now get his chance professionally after being taken by the Cincinnati Reds in the 13th round of the MLB draft. 

Mike Doherty, the ‘Cats’ Friday night starter, was as steady as they come. He allowed no more than four runs in all but one of his starts and made it through five innings in every start but his last. Not known for power or particularly electric stuff, Doherty relied on an effective mix of pitches and navigation of the strike zone.

First-Year Stars: Ethan O’Donnell and Vincent Bianchina

O’Donnell and Bianchina made their marks during their first seasons in Evanston, starting 33 games each. O’Donnell, a member of the All-Big Ten Freshman team, hit .248 with six homers and 15 RBI’s while Bianchina hit .270 with five long balls and 18 driven in. Northwestern will look to both O’Donnell and Bianchina to build on their first seasons and be future leaders of the program.