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    Wildcats Open 2012 Campaign at Big Ten/Big East Challenge

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Senior Paul Snieder is a two-time All-Big Ten selection.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Senior Paul Snieder is a two-time All-Big Ten selection.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    Feb. 16, 2012

    Northwestern vs. West Virginia
    Friday, Feb. 17, 2012
    Al Lang Stadium
    St. Petersburg, Fla. • 9 a.m. CT

    Northwestern vs. Pittsburgh
    Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012
    Jack Russell Stadium
    Clearwater, Fla. • 3 p.m. CT

    Northwestern vs. Seton Hall
    Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012
    Florida Auto Exchange Stadium
    Dunedin, Fla. • Noon CT

    WATCH: Stevens Season Preview Interview (Part One) | Stevens Season Preview Interview (Part Two)
    WATCH: Z. Morton Season Preview Interview

    EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern baseball opens up its 2012 campaign this weekend as it travels to Florida to compete in the Big Ten/Big East Challenge.

    The Wildcats open their season at 9 a.m. Central time Friday when they take on West Virginia at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg. NU also faces Pittsburgh at 3 p.m. Saturday at Jack Russell Stadium in Clearwater before wrapping up the weekend by squaring off against Seton Hall at noon Sunday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin.

    Northwestern returns 22 letterwinners, including eight position starters, from last year's team which went 20-29 overall and finished eighth in the Big Ten with a 10-13 conference mark. Head coach Paul Stevens begins his 25th season at the helm and enters the campaign just three wins shy of 600 for his career.

    The 'Cats welcome back a trio of All-Big Ten performers as well as three individuals who have earned Big Ten All-Freshman Team accolades. Senior first baseman/right-handed pitcher Paul Snieder earned first-team all-league honors as a relief pitcher in 2010 before being named to the second team as a designated hitter a year ago. Senior shortstop Trevor Stevens was a third-team selection as a sophomore before being tabbed a second-team pick last season. Junior utility player Zach Morton returns to the NU lineup after missing all of the 2011 campaign due to a knee injury. He was a first-team all-conference honoree at second base as a sophomore in 2010 when he led the Big Ten in batting average.

    In addition, sophomores Jack Livingston and Kyle Ruchim were named to the league's all-freshman squad last year, while junior Jack Havey picked up the recognition in 2010.

    Snieder ranked fifth in the Big Ten with a .523 slugging percentage, sixth with a .432 on-base percentage, seventh with 42 RBI and ninth with a .347 batting average last season. Havey ranked second on the squad with 30 RBI, while Chris Kontos tied Snieder for second on the team with 13 doubles.

    CollegeSportsMadness.com recently came out with its preseason All-Big Ten teams and named Trevor Stevens a first-team pick as an infielder while the second-team selections included Ruchim as an infielder and Snieder as a utility player.

    Northwestern's pitching staff returns 12 individuals who combined to record 335 strikeouts and a 4.59 ERA a year ago. Junior right-hander Luke Farrell paced all starters with a 6-3 record, a 3.33 ERA and 65 strikeouts. Snieder had a 2.88 ERA with a team-high five saves, while Ruchim contributed four saves with 25 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings pitched while limiting opposing to a .206 batting average.

    In addition to the talented group of returners, NU welcomes in seven freshmen. Right-handed pitcher Brandon Magallones was ranked as the fourth-best newcomer in the Big Ten by Baseball America.

    Scouting West Virginia
    The Mountaineers went 28-27 record in 2011, including tying for fourth in the Big East with a 14-13 mark in conference play. Junior Brady Wilson leads all returners with a .330 batting average, 45 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. Junior outfielder Chris Rasky batted .286 with a .434 on-base percentage. Sophomore left-hander Harrison Musgrave went 4-2 a year ago with a 4.61 ERA while Ryan Tezak posted three wins with a 3.81 ERA out of the bullpen. Greg Van Zant is in his 18th season as the head coach at West Virginia where he has amassed over 500 wins.

    Scouting Pittsburgh
    The Panthers posted a 33-23 record last season, going 16-11 in Big East play to finish in third place. The team must replace six individuals who were selected in the MLB Entry Draft. Senior Matt Iannazzo, a Preseason All-Big East First Team selection, paced the Panthers on the mound last season with an 8-3 record and a 2.73 ERA. In the bullpen, Alex Caravella notched a team-high five saves with a four wins and a 2.81 ERA. Sophomore outfielder Casey Roche batted .345 with 19 RBI in 2011, while senior first baseman Rick Devereaux hit .290 with 20 driven in. Head coach Joe Jordano is in his 15th season at the helm.

    Scouting Seton Hall
    The Pirates are coming off a 2011 campaign that saw them go 34-25, including 14-13 in league play. They won nine of their last 11 games and win the Big East tournament, their third conference title in school history, and advance to the NCAA tournament. Sophomore center fielder Zach Granite ranked second on the team a year ago with a .290 batting average while leading the team with 47 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. Meanwhile, the Seton Hall pitching staff ranked eighth in the nation with a 2.68 ERA in 2010. Junior Jon Prosinski posted a team-best 1.91 ERA and was second with seven wins. Rob Sheppard is in his ninth season as the head coach of the Pirates.

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