At 6-foot-8 and just under 200 pounds, some college baseball programs might have seen Will Anderson as a project.
But the Columbus East graduate was able to contribute in a big way as a freshman at Northern Illinois this season. He was the Huskies’ No. 1 starting pitcher and earned Mid-American Conference Freshman Pitcher of the Year and first-team All-MAC honors.
“I had a good team backing me up,” Anderson said. “That was probably most of it. They helped me out with some bad pitches I threw. We had a good team, and it was a fun year.”
Anderson went 5-4 with a team-best 4.08 ERA. He struck out 49 in 86 innings pitched.
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Northern Illinois coach Mike Kunigonis said he’s not surprised at the level of success Anderson enjoyed as a freshman.
“The level that he played at, the award that he won and what he did for us, not many freshmen are capable of doing that, which just becomes a testament to his work ethic and character,” Kunigonis said.
As a senior at East, Anderson went 5-2 with a save and a 2.52 ERA. He also batted .371 with three home runs and 27 RBIs in earning All-Hoosier Hills Conference and The Republic All-Area honors.
But at Northern Illinois, Anderson was strictly a pitcher. He did not record a plate appearance.
“It would get boring at times at practice,” Anderson said. “But during the games, it was nice because I could just concentrate on the next inning and who I had coming up in the lineup, figuring out what pitch sequence I was going to throw to what batter.”
Anderson said playing fall baseball with the Huskies and throwing against his teammates in the winter helped his transition from high school to college baseball.
“But really, the adjustment was just hitting your spots and always having to compete every pitch,” Anderson said. “In high school, you can kind of get by with some bad pitches, but in college, those pitches are going to end up over the fence.”
After hitting 92 mph with his fastball as a senior, Anderson topped out at 90 mph in his first game at Northern Illinois. Kunigonis said he was consistently in the 84 to 90 range.
Kunigonis said as Anderson’s body continues to mature physically, he’ll see his fastball jump into the 87 to 91 or 92 mph range. Kunigonis considers Anderson’s ceiling a very high one.
“We’re expecting great things from Will, and that’s a blessing and a curse all in one,” Kunigonis said. “We’ve seen how good he can be. When you play at that high of a level, people expect it all the time. We know it’s not all going to be rainbows and sunshine, but we expect him to continue to develop as a pitcher and give us a chance to win every time he’s on the mound.”
High school: Columbus East
College: Northern Illinois
Year: Just completed freshman year
Key stats: Went 5-4 with a 4.08 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 86 innings.