4/27/18 Rutgers, Jacson McGowan

Jacson McGowan smiles at first base with assistant coach Greg Goff after being intentionally walked. With McGowan at first, the bases were fully loaded for the Boilermakers during the fifth inning in an April 2018 game.

Baseball season will officially be underway Friday for the Boilermakers and their new head coach, Greg Goff.

Goff, who joined the Boilers as an outfielders coach in July 2017, was hired to replace former head coach Mark Wasikowski in June of last year. Since then, he has been trying to make his mark on the program and help the team improve from a below .500 record last season.

“The transition has been great, from (Wasikowski) to myself,” Goff said. “(We) go back such a long way, so there’s a lot of similarities in what you’re gonna see, so I think we’re in a pretty good spot.”

The Boilermakers are benefiting from the return of junior outfielder Ben Nisle, who missed the majority of last season due to a back injury he suffered in March. Nisle returned to the field for five games at the end of the season, but he wasn’t at full strength.

In his freshman year, Nisle was named a Collegiate Baseball All-American and was unanimously voted onto the Big Ten All-Freshman team. The Boilermakers seem excited about his potential impact to the team this season.

“(Nisle) has really grown in our program,” Goff said. “He had a tremendous freshman year. He came out last year and he got off to a good start, and he got hurt. Having him in the middle of the order, it’s gonna make a big difference for all the guys around him, so we’re really excited for him to be there.”

Nisle is also enthusiastic about seeing the field once again.

“I’ve been ready to go for a while now,” Nisle said. “I think we’ll be ready to go. We’ve got a deep lineup this year, and I think we’ll have some offensive power for sure.”

The Boilermakers will play their first games of the season in the warm weather of Sanford, Florida, as they play a four-game series against Hofstra University.

“After this week’s preparation, I felt like we are in a good spot and ready,” Goff said. “Now, time to go somewhere and play somebody else.”

The team will travel to Buies Creek, North Carolina, on Feb. 21 for the Campbell Invitational.

From there, non-conference play continues through spring break, leading up to the first Big Ten game of the year against Michigan on March 20.

Goff and the rest of the coaches are still uncertain on the starting pitching rotation, something Goff said will be key to their success this season.

“We haven’t locked in on some guys,” Goff said. “We’re gonna kinda see where guys are. We have a lot of depth. We have a lot of different guys who can do it, and I think for us as a coaching staff, we need to find our who’s gonna be our starters, who can come in and relieve.”

The coaching staff is considering a few players.

“We got Trent Johnson,” Goff said. “He was a bullpen guy early, then started the last few games last year. He did a great job. Bo Hofstra’s a guy that closed for us last year. We feel like whenever he comes back fully healthy, he’s a guy that we’re definitely looking to as a starter.”

Regardless of any uncertainties, Goff is confident the team will be an improvement from last season.

“I do think we’re gonna be better offensively,” Goff said. “We got some offensive guys that were not here last year, so I think I’m expecting those guys to take some of the load, and of course, you gotta play defense, and I think we’re gonna do that for the most part.”

The most important trait this team has, according to Nisle, is its experience.

“A lot of older guys this year,” Nisle said. “I think they’ll be better in the field defensively. I think all around we’re pretty deep everywhere, so I think that’s what’ll be good for us this year.”

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