This year, Northwestern baseball rose from the ashes and made it to the Big Ten Championship Game. We caught up with starting second baseman Alex Erro, who made the starting lineup as a freshman and had a great season for the Wildcats. We discussed his recruitment, the Big Ten Tournament run and the future of the program.
Q: Why did you decide to come to Northwestern? Historically, it’s a program that hasn’t had much success in recent years, so why did you make the choice to become one of (head coach) Spencer Allen’s first big recruits?
Alex Erro: Well, through the recruiting process I was looking for a good balance between Power 5 athletics and a really good education. Probably the biggest role that someone could have played in my recruiting process was Coach Tad Skelley because he was at Notre Dame and I had been talking to them and he really took interest in me. I went up there, we got to know each other and when October of my senior rolled around, we got in touch and got the ball moving and that’s how I ended up at Northwestern.
Q: In your freshman year, the baseball team had a pretty incredible season, obviously. You hit a huge season-changing home run against Maryland in the 11th inning that propelled you to the Big Ten Tournament and then the Championship Game. How did all that feel to you, as it was happening?
All season long we’d been talking about how we could hang in this conference. We were sort of looked at as the little brother for a long time and that was sort of the culture at Northwestern. I guess, at that point in the year, taking two-of-three from Maryland on the road, where they had been 20-1...I think that we finally turned that mentality into fruition.
We realized that it’s go time, we can do this, and there’s no team in the conference that could beat us when we’re playing our good baseball. We’d been talking about it all season long. We’d seen spurts of it earlier in the season when we took two-of-three against Iowa.
The two turning points of the season was that Air Force weekend with the Connor Lind walk-off home run and then taking two of three from a ranked Maryland team.
Q. You played Maryland again in the second elimination game before the Final. You were also part of a huge double play in the top of the eighth. How were you feeling on the bench after making that double play?
BASES LOADED, UP ONE, SAM LAWRENCE GETS THE DOUBLE PLAY.— #B1GCats Baseball (@NUCatsBaseball) May 28, 2017
THERE. ARE. NO. WORDS. #B1GCats | #SaddleUp https://t.co/V4ZHqXorWY
After a play like that it’s pretty tough to lose that game. We had all the momentum going. Cooper (Wetherbee) was outstanding in that game. He shut the door completely—talk about a guy who went from a support player to the biggest arm in our rotation. He’s just a huge competitor.
Sam Lawrence coming in, bases loaded, no outs, against a team like Maryland who can do real damage offensively. That was just huge. Everyone knew that Lawrence can do it. He’d shown it all year, that “nobody’s gonna beat me mentality,” and I mean, the double play was just a byproduct of us going through our regular routine.
Q. Just in terms of the program as a whole, how important was that six-game stretch where you were beating everyone in the Big Ten?
That was something we knew we could do all season long. We ended up carrying it out on the field and the entire conference got to see what we believed. I think there was a lot of respect to be earned from other teams in the conference. They’d come around and they expected a breath of fresh air, you know, it’s an easy weekend for us. Now that we’ve done some damage in the Big Ten Tournament, I don’t think they can think that anymore.
Next year, we expect to be in an [NCAA] Regional. We expected to be in a Regional this year. And probably most of our conference would’ve said it’s far-fetched, but we were just one game short this year. Just one of our goals for next season is winning every conference home series, which we did all but two last year, winning the Big Ten Tournament and ultimately making an NCAA Regional.