Former Northwestern baseball players are enjoying solid starts to their respective 2012 professional seasons.
Right-handed pitcher George Kontos, who competed for the Wildcats from 2004-06, got the call up from Triple-A Fresno to the San Francisco Giants over the weekend and tossed one scoreless inning with a strikeout in his National League debut against the Texas Rangers on Sunday. Kontos was a September call-up for the New York Yankees last season, making seven appearances. It appeared that Kontos might make the Yankees' Opening Day roster this season, but he was traded to the Giants on April 4. He posted stellar numbers at Triple-A prior to his promotion, notching a 2-0 record with a 1.71 ERA in 23 appearances, including allowing only one earned run over his last 20 innings for the Fresno Grizzlies.
Kontos is joined in the Majors by left-handed starting pitcher J.A. Happ of the Houston Astros. After struggling last season on a last-place team, Happ has gotten back on track in 2012 as he won four of his first seven decisions. Even though he has lost his last three decisions, he has recorded 23 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched over his last three starts, including fanning 10 over 6.1 innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers May 27. In consecutive starts that resulted in wins against the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs May 17 and 22, respectively, Happ allowed only one earned run over a combined 12 innings.
The Wildcat who is currently the closest to the Big Leagues is outfielder Jake Goebbert who was promoted to the Triple-A Oklahoma City RedHawks in the Astros organization. He notched a pinch-hit double and scored a run in his RedHawks' debut Saturday evening. Goebbert was batting .279 with 12 doubles, four triples, four home runs and 29 RBI for the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks at the time of his promotion. He also appeared in 31 games at Triple-A with the RedHawks a year ago.
Another former 'Cat who recently jumped up a level is left-handed pitcher Eric Jokisch who is currently with the Double-A Tennessee Smokies in the Chicago Cubs' organization. The promotion hasn't slowed down the 2008 Big Ten Freshman of the Year as he is a stellar 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA in four starts with the Smokies, while limiting opposing hitters to a .116 batting average. In his lone no-decision, Jokisch allowed only one hit over 6.1 innings on June 5. In his most recent start on Sunday, Jokisch surrendered just three hits and one run over 7.1 innings in a 4-2 win. Prior to moving up to Double-A, he was 3-4 with a 3.48 ERA for the High-A Daytona Cubs.
Jokisch's catcher for the Daytona Cubs was his former Northwestern backstop, Chad Noble. Noble has been catching every other day as of late and has appeared in 37 games this season. He has a .177 batting average with four doubles and 14 RBI.
Also at High-A is right-handed pitcher Bo Schultz who is with the Visalia Rawhide in the Arizona Diamondbacks' organization. Schultz got his 2012 campaign off to a terrific start as the team's closer. A recent string of four tough appearances have skewed his season numbers as he currently has a 2-1 record with a 5.76 ERA and nine saves. He has recorded 28 strikeouts in 25 innings pitched while allowing only six walks.
The most recent Wildcat currently in the Minors is 2011 graduate Chris Lashmet. The third baseman is batting .240 with four doubles, three triples and 10 RBI in 41 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates' Class-A affiliate West Virginia Power. Lashmet got his season off to a hot start, batting .308 in 12 games in the month of April.
The group is soon to be joined by 2012 Northwestern graduate Geoff Rowan who was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in last week's MLB First-Year Player Draft.