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    Catching Up with the 'Cats

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    Editor's Note: Cody Stevens, a current member of the Northwestern Wildcats, penned an update on how some recent alums of the program are doing in professional baseball.

    By Cody Stevens
    May 1, 2014

    J.A. Happ, a three-time, All-Big Ten First Team Pitcher, was drafted in the third round of the 2004 MLB Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. It took him three years to get in his first Major League game, where he pitched for the Phillies. He bounced between Class AAA and the major league club until 2009 where he became a regular starter for the Phillies. He went 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA and the Phillies went on to win a World Series ring in the fall. He was traded to the Houston Astros the next year and then to the Toronto Blue Jays two years later. He is currently a valuable part of the Blue Jays bullpen.


    George Kontos was drafted in 2006 by the New York Yankees is now playing for the Class AAA affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. He has a 4.32 ERA in 16.1 innings pitched with a staggering 25-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. He has spent significant time in the Majors with the Giants and Yankees over his career. In the past two years with the Giants, Kontos has had a 3.55 ERA with 91 strikeouts in 99 innings. He was also a part of the postseason roster for the Giants in 2012 when they won the World Series.


    Bo Schultz, who was signed by the Oakland Athletics in 2008, is now pitching for the Reno Aces, the Class AAA affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has five starts on the year with two wins and two losses and a 2.90 ERA. Schultz has 22 strikeouts in 31 innings pitched. The right-hander was called up to the Diamondbacks big league roster to make the trip to Sydney, Australia for Major League Baseball's opening series, While he was down under, he threw one inning where he did not give up a hit or walk. Bo's path was not an easy one, when he was released by Oakland in 2011 he signed to play Independent League baseball for the rest of the season. That opportunity got him another chance, with the Diamondbacks signing him for the 2012 season.


    Jake Goebbert was drafted in the 13th Round of the 2009 MLB Draft, by the Houston Astros. In 2012 he was traded to the Oakland Athletics where he would hit .262 in the minors. This year, Goebbert received an invite to Spring Training where he got several at-bats. He ultimately did not make the A's Opening Day roster, but he is now hitting .303 with four Home Runs in 21 games for the Class AAA Sacramento River Cats.


    Eric Jokisch was drafted in the 39th round out of high school but decided to attend Northwestern. After a stellar career in Evanston, he was drafted again in 2010 by the Chicago Cubs in the 11th round. He has moved up the Minor Leagues fairly quickly where he hasn't stayed in one level for more then a year and a half. On August 6, 2013, Jokisch threw a no-hitter as a member of the Class AA Tennessee Smokies. After spending much of Spring Training with the Cubs major leaguers, he now is in Class AAA Iowa where he has two wins and 1 loss with a 3.48 ERA to go along with 26 strikeouts in 31 innings.

    Geoff Rowan heard his name called in 2012 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 39th round. He saw his playing time greatly increase in 2013 where he played in 22 games with 11 hits. He also was named the proud winner of the Erik Walker Community Champion Award, which recognizes a Rays minor league player who shows teamwork, sportsmanship, and community involvement.


    Zach Morton, a 2013 graduate, was drafted in the 32nd round by the Houston Astros last June. He started in short-season A ball where he had a 1.93 ERA, but was then moved up to Class A where his ERA lowered to 1.45. He helped the Quad Cities River Bandits win the Midwest league championship last year and now is in the bullpen there once again. Morton has a 1.88 ERA in 14.1 innings with 10 Strikeouts.

    Luke Farrell, after a great 2013 season, was selected in the 6th round of the MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals. He was hampered by an injury late in 2013 that effected his stats, but the Royals have enough confidence in him to move him to Class A in 2014. For the Lexington Legends of the South Atlantic League, Farrell has posted a 7.5 Strikeouts for every nine innings he has pitched.


    Trevor Stevens was signed by the Chicago Cubs after his final season at NU in 2013. He went on to the Cubs Rookie League team where he hit .257 in 26 games. In 2014, he has yet to make an appearance because of a hand injury he suffered during spring training.

    Former Wildcat Fires No-Hitter

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    A brief seven-day stint on the disabled list did former Northwestern pitcher Eric Jokisch a world of good when he returned to the bump Tuesday night for the Tennessee Smokies, the Class AA minor league affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Jokisch threw his first career no-hitter as he halted the lengthy 11-game winning streak of the Jacksonville Suns.

    The former NU southpaw was in command early on as he mowed down the first 10 hitters he faced before issuing the first of four walks in the game. Jokisch settled quickly and got plenty of help from his defense along the way, including a fantastic diving stab by shortstop Javier Baez to secure the second out in the bottom of the ninth. The Virginia, Ill., native then got reliever Pete Andreiczyk to ground out to Christian Villanueva at third base to end the ballgame and cement his place in baseball history.

    "This is probably the best day of my life," Jokisch told's Ashley Marshall after the game. "I will try and get [the ball] home as safely and quickly as possible. That's something I will keep forever and hopefully tell my kids and grandkids that it happened.

    "I grew up just hoping one day to throw a no-hitter in the Major Leagues," Jokisch added. "This isn't the same, but right now I don't think I could feel any happier about the way things are going."

    It was the first nine-inning no-hitter by a Tennessee pitcher since Leo Estrella accomplished the feat in 2000. Jokisch's gem was the first individual no-hitter in the Southern League since 2011 when Matt Moore of the Montgomery Biscuits did it against the Mobile BayBears. Moore is now a member of the Tampa Bay Rays big league club.

    Here is a video of the final out and ensuing celebration, courtesy of

    Jokisch threw 108 pitches and struck out eight Suns to earn his ninth victory of the season. The lefty helped his own cause at the plate with a pair of hits and his first RBI of the season in the 10-0 route.

    In April, the 2008 Big Ten Freshman of the Year was named the Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Month. He currently leads the Southern League with 114 strikeouts and ranks third with 128.2 innings pitched this season.

    Here is a video of Jokisch's postgame interview, courtesy of the Jacksonville Suns:

    BLOG: Former NU Pitcher Wins World Series Ring

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    The San Francisco Giants finished off an improbable postseason run Sunday night by beating the Detroit Tigers in extra innings to sweep the World Series. The 4-3 victory in 10 innings at Detroit's Comerica Park marked the Giants second title in the past three years.

    The Giants faced elimination six times during the playoffs. They were down two games to none in the National League Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds but won the next three contests to advance. In the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Giants were down three games to one but managed to again win three straight to claim the best-of-seven series, 4-3.

    In the World Series, the flair for the dramatic was unnecessary. After a convincing 8-3 win in Game 1, San Francisco won both games two and three by scores of 2-0. On Sunday night, the Giants waited until extra innings to pull off the clinching win.

    A key piece to the pitching success of the Giants during the postseason was former Northwestern pitcher George Kontos. Coming out of the bullpen for San Francisco, Kontos saw action in eight postseason games, including one appearance in the World Series.

    Kontos was used most often in the NLDS against the Reds. He pitched 3.2 scoreless innings throughout four games, giving up just two hits. He appeared in three games against the Cardinals in the NLCS. During the World Series, he appeared during the Giants' 8-3 Game 1 win.

    Kontos was drafted by the New York Yankees in the fifth-round of the 2006 MLB draft after his third season at Northwestern. After a successful minor league stint, Kontos was called up to the big club in 2011; he pitched in seven games for the Yankees that year.

    Shortly before the start of the 2012 season, Kontos was traded to the Giants. He began the season with the Giants' Class AAA team, the Fresno Grizzlies, and in June, was called up to the big leagues for the rest of the season.

    Kontos earned his first career win in a relief of Barry Zito on Aug. 29 against the Houston Astros. Kontos finished the 2012 regular season with a 2-1 record and a 2.47 ERA.

    Kontos' younger brother, Chris, also played baseball for head coach Paul Stevens at Northwestern. He graduated last spring.

    The last Northwestern alum to appear in the World Series was J.A. Happ. He was drafted by the Phillies in 2004 and was on both of their World Series rosters in 2008 and 2009. The Phillies won the series in 2008 against the Tampa Bay Rays, but fell to the Yankees the following year.

    Perhaps the most recognizable face in professional baseball to come from Northwestern is New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi. As a player, Girardi made his major league debut in 1989 with the Chicago Cubs and, until his retirement in 2003, played for the Cubs, Colorado Rockies, Yankees, and Cardinals.

    In 2006, Girardi won the National League Manager of the Year award while at the helm of the Florida Marlins. In 2008, Girardi was offered the Yankees' managerial job and accepted. He won the World Series title with the team in 2009.

    By Carsten Parmenter

    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.



    Northwestern SAAC Food Drive Nets Record Donations

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    Through a spirited competition among staff and varsity programs, Northwestern's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee collected a record amount of canned goods during its annual food drive to benefit the Evanston branch of Family Focus.

    In a contest that officially ended yesterday, NU's athletes and staff members collected and delivered more than 6,100 units of canned and non-perishable food items for donation to Family Focus. The total shattered the old record of 5,700 established during last year's SAAC food drive. This year's SAAC effort was spearheaded by board members Belinda Niu (women's tennis) and Levi Mele (wrestling) along with the rest of the board.

    "The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee's annual food drive provides an opportunity for the entire Northwestern athletic department and the Evanston community to band together for a great cause," said SAAC co-president Jonathan Harris of men's soccer. "We at Northwestern realize how truly fortunate we are, and collecting food for those in need enables us to give back to our Evanston community.

    NU's 19 varsity programs competed among themselves to see who could bring in the most donations while the Northwestern Department of Athletics staff also held a separate contest. The overall winner was the NU baseball team, which collected a whopping 2,470 units. The team delivered the haul in dramatic fashion, pulling up to the front doors of Anderson Hall 30 minutes before the 5 p.m. deadline with two pickup trucks and two SUVs packed to the gills with foodstuffs.

    "It was exciting to see the thought process they put into the food drive this year," head baseball coach Paul Stevens said. "Our guys are so energized about making sure those who are less fortunate than them are taken care of all year long. Putting food on someone's table who otherwise might not be able to have it is pretty awesome."

    In addition to staff and student-athletes, Northwestern fans had the opportunity to give at recent men's and women's basketball games. Some elected to bring in physical canned goods while others donated money to the cause. That money was used during a shopping trip to Sam's Club today that netted more than 100 additional food items.

    "This year's drive was an absolute success," Harris said. "The competition between the teams and within the athletic department really brought out the competitiveness in everyone, which enhanced the giving spirit!"

    Kontos Earns First Major League Promotion to the Yankees

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    Former Northwestern right-hander pitcher George Kontos (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) has earned his first promotion to the Major Leagues as he has been announced as a September call-up for the New York Yankees.

    A fifth-round draft pick of the Yankees in 2006 following his junior year with the Wildcats, Kontos posted a 4-4 record with a stellar 2.62 ERA in 40 appearances primarily out of the bullpen for the Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees this season. He struck out 91 batters in 89 1/3 innings pitched while limiting opposing batters to a .221 average.

    Kontos joins left-handed pitcher J.A. Happ (Houston Astros) as former Northwestern players currently at the Major League level. Kontos will be managed by another Wildcat, Joe Girardi, during his time with the Major League squad. The Yankees currently lead the American League East by 2.5 games over the second-place Boston Red Sox.

    Kontos was a Rule 5 Draft pick of the San Diego Padres following the 2010 season but he was returned to the Yankees' organization during Spring Training.

    Chris Kontos, George's younger brother, is currently a senior outfielder on the Northwestern baseball team.

    Ruchim Earns First-Team Summer All-America Honors

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    Summertime is a chance for collegiate baseball players to get away from their university surroundings and hone their craft on a different stage. For the Northwestern baseball program, no one performed at a higher level than rising sophomore Kyle Ruchim (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson) this summer.

    The second baseman/right-handed pitcher was rewarded for his stellar play with the Glens Falls (N.Y.) Golden Eagles of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League (PGCBL) by being named a first-team summer All-American by Perfect Game USA. The recognition covers all collegiate summer baseball leagues in the nation.

    Ruchim was recognized as a utility player for his efforts as both a position player and on the mound. At the plate, Ruchim led Glen Falls with 16 doubles, 55 hits, 37 runs scored and 19 multi-hit games while ranking second on the team with a .333 batting average, nine home runs and a .552 slugging percentage. His 27 RBI ranked third on the squad. As a pitcher, he sported a 3-0 record with a 2.05 ERA and a team-record nine saves. Ruchim struck out a ridiculous 43 batters in 22 innings pitched while limiting opposing batters posted a mere .175 average.

    His efforts helped the Golden Eagles to East Division-leading record of 31-17. He was named to the PGCBL all-league first team as well as the Rising Stars team for his efforts.

    Numerous Former 'Cats Doing Well on the Diamond

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    Yesterday we updated fans on the progress of former Northwestern baseball standout Jake Goebbert who is performing well at Double-A for the Corpus Christi Hooks of the Houston Astros' organization. Goebbert isn't the only former NU player making his mark in professional ball, though, as four other Wildcats are also trying to work their way to the Big Leagues.

    We start off with George Kontos (2004-06) who is the most advanced of any former Northwestern player currently in Minor League Baseball. The right-handed pitcher is putting up impressive numbers for the New York Yankees' Triple-A affiliate, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. After being a Rule 5 Draft pick of the San Diego Padres in the off-season, Kontos was returned to the Yankees during Spring Training. He has appeared in 27 games this season and sports a 2-1 record with an impressive 2.26 ERA. Kontos is averaging more than a strikeout per inning, fanning 59 batters over 55.2 innings pitched while limiting opposing batters to a .200 average. Hopefully, Joe Girardi will have reason to call up a fellow former 'Cat to the Major League squad in the Bronx sometime in the near future.

    Another pitcher who is off to a good start this season is left-hander Eric Jokisch (2008-10). Playing just down the road from Evanston and just up the road from his hometown of Virginia, Jokisch sports a 7-2 record and a 3.24 ERA for the Chicago Cubs' Class A Midwest League affiliate the Peoria Chiefs. He was paired with another pitcher on the Chiefs' squad during the first half of the season and won each of his first seven decisions, all out of the bullpen. With the exception of one hiccup, Jokisch has performed well in his five appearances since being moved into the starting rotation. In three of the starts, he has not allowed an earned run with each of those appearances covering at least six innings.

    Joining Jokisch in the Cubs' organization is catcher Chad Noble (2007-10) who had been a bit of a nomad this season. The Rockwall, Texas, native has bounced around between the Peoria Chiefs, the Boise Hawks and currently the High A Daytona Cubs. Noble has appeared in 32 games overall between the three teams, with 20 coming for Daytona. Overall, he is batting .229 with 10 RBI while playing the most demanding position in baseball.

    Recent grad Chris Lashmet (2008-11) is the most recent Northwestern addition to the professional ranks. He recently joined the Class A State College Spikes of the Pittsburgh Pirates' organization. Lashmet has the rare opportunity to compete in a home stadium that he has already played at as the Spikes' facility is also home to the Penn State Nittany Lions in the spring. Splitting his time between first base and third base, Lashmet is batting .279 with two doubles, a home run and seven RBI in 18 games played.

    We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the one former Wildcat who is currently playing in the Majors as southpaw J.A. Happ (2002-04) is in his second season with the Houston Astros. Happ hasn't received much help from the struggling Astros squad. He has allowed two or fewer earned runs in a game seven times this season, but has just a 2-2 record in those contests. He has hit a rough patch, dropping his last seven decisions and is 3-11 overall this year with a 5.76 ERA. He tied a season high with eight strikeouts in just 5 2/3 innings pitched in his most recent outing against the Florida Marlins on July 7. Perhaps his highlight of the season came against the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 29 when he socked his first career home run.

    Former Wildcat Goebbert Shining in the Minors

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    Former Northwestern baseball standout Jake Goebbert (Hampshire, Ill./Hampshire) is climbing the charts through the Minor League Baseball ranks with the hopes of one day making it to the Big Show. Matt Rogers of the Corpus Christi Hooks provided with an update on Goebbert's progress.

    Let's make a distinction right off the bat.


    There are ball players and then there are ball players.


    Many ball players play ball from diapers to dentures, from neighborhood streets to slow-pitch softball diamonds with youth league-length base paths and pitching distances.


    A small percentage finds college ball, smaller yet pro ball and the big leagues.


    They are ball players because they play ball. That's it - pure and simple - from the last player jettisoned off his high school freshman team to some of the highest-paid and best-known athletes in the game.


    So, when Corpus Christi Caller-Times Hooks beat writer Greg Rajan muttered under his breath during a game early in the last homestand, "That Goebbert's a ball player," the weight of his statement wrapped itself around our shoulders like a humid August night on the west side of Whataburger Field.


    If Ted Williams' dream was to walk down the street and hear passersby say "there goes the greatest hitter who ever lived," it's no less noble for someone to be recognized as a ball player.


    But how do you define a ball player? What distinguishes him from ball players? Could it be as simple as attitude and hard work? Could it be that players who land on the self-made side of things are harder workers because they have grateful hearts?




    Jacob Goebbert grew up on a farm near Hampshire, Illinois. A Hook since May 6 - promoted from High-A Lancaster - he's not the most heralded prospect in the Houston system. Heck, he's not the most heralded prospect here. He is a good teammate, a considerate man, thoughtful in word and action.


    And an everyday player hitting .312.


    "Growing up I was never the best athlete. I never had the strongest arm and was never the fastest," Goebbert recalled. "But, I learned through life on the farm that you only get one shot. On the farm, you develop an attitude to give it your all. You learn to try to take advantage of every moment. Do your best every day; don't let yourself be taken out of the game.


    "I try to be a good teammate and play hard all the time."


    Hooks manager Tom Lawless calls Goebbert blue-collar, a grinder.


    Translation: ball player.


    Goebbert is unafraid to sacrifice his body at the convergence of wall, ball and warning track. He'll run through a stop sign if the play is in front of him, he has a decent look and the club desperately needs an extra base. He enjoys interacting with fans. He's insightful in postgame interviews, as good as any 23-year-old at breaking down wins and losses for a writer or broadcaster.


    And then it's over, ideally.


    "My wife (Heather) doesn't like the fact that I can so easily turn my emotions on and off. It's a game with a past, present and future. The only way you're going to limit your success in the future is to dwell on the past. That's something I'm still trying to get better at."


    Heather and Jacob met in high school, where he was a three-year varsity letterman in football, basketball and baseball. Coastal Bend football fans will appreciate his experience as a quarterback in the Wing-T, an offensive system born 60 years ago and not foreign to modern-day South Texas programs.


    Goebbert also played safety full-time.


    "My graduating class was 124, so we were pretty busy."


    "In high school, I loved Friday night football," he explained. "One game a week. Just one opportunity. But, baseball's always been my true love. I've always been the best at it."


    His parents were always Jacob's biggest supporters. He points to football coach Don Cavanaugh and baseball coach Steve Ream as strong influences along the way. Both men visit Corpus Christi this week to catch up with Jacob and Heather.

    But home - where the Goebberts operate an agritainment enterprise with a corn stalk maze, petting zoo, pumpkins and hayrides in the fall, vegetables in summer and annual and perennial flowers in the spring - is where the greatest lessons came.


    "There are a lot of things about farming that help in baseball," Goebbert emphasized. "The work is never over. You can stop when the sun goes down and start when it comes back up, but the work's never over.


    "I was in a position to see my dad and mom working side-by-side, every day. A farming family is a team. It takes a lot of teamwork to get the job done. It brings a sense of accomplishment, planting in the spring and the fall harvest.


    "You also learn to fail. There are the storms. What do you learn? Don't worry about the things you can't control and trust in God for His provision."


    That's not just the difference between a ball player and a ball player, but an indication of maturity well beyond the playing field.


    "It's important to realize what you have. I was not blessed with the most ability, but try to make the best of my situation. I have no regrets. I wouldn't change anything. It's important to look back and be grateful."


    Quite a ball player, that Jacob Goebbert.






    For more information on the Goebbert family business, go to