Baseball looking to rebound from 2017

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Baseball looking to rebound from 2017

Ryan Ostry

DeKALB — Baseball season is right around the corner, as the Huskies will look to improve on a disappointing 2017 campaign when they finished 17-38 with an 11-13 record in the Mid-American Conference.

Head Coach Mike Kunigonis will enter his fourth season at the helm for the Huskies, trying to adopt a term “huskieball,” which will be implemented as the team’s slogan.

“We’re trying to build a foundation, which takes time,” Kunigonis said. “I think we have a group of guys that show up to work everyday, battles, fights, never gives up and continues to grind whether we’re up or down.”

NIU will be coming off a 2017 year where they faced a significant amount of power house schools at the likes of the University of Notre Dame, Boston College, University of Iowa, University of Michigan and Oklahoma University.

This year the Huskies’ power house opponents will include the Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

“It’s going to be good competition,” Kunigonis said. “These are obviously going to be very good teams, but we’re going to take it one game at a time, and my horizon is us getting on a bus Thursday.”

NIU will be departing Friday for its first series of the 2018 season down south in Conway, Arkansas, to take on the University of Central Arkansas Bears.

Senior pitcher George Faue will get the nod on opening day for NIU.

Faue is coming off a year where he had 20 appearances with five starts, logging a 4.28 ERA in 54.2 innings pitched.

“We’re really excited to have him throw,” Kunigonis said. “[Faue] is a senior this year, and he definitely deserves it and has earned that spot.”

Kunigonis’ club will not be back at its home of Ralph McKinzie Field until March 23 with a weekend home series against MAC rival Central Michigan Chippewas.

The 2018 Huskie roster will feature 14 freshmen with 32 total players, while keeping senior outfielder Scooter Bynum, who started all 54 games this past season.

Bynum led the Huskies with a .300 batting average, including 60 hits with seven triples.

The Fairbanks, Alaska, product was also a force on the base paths with 14 steals.

Even though NIU has a lot of freshmen, Kunigonis said his team is not led by one person, and it’s a collective effort.

“We have a really good core group of guys that are sophomores, juniors and seniors that have been here who are veteran players,” Kunigonis said. “We don’t rely on one player.”

NIU will look to kick off the season on a positive note when they take on the University of Central Arkansas Bears 3 p.m. Friday in Conway, Arkansas.