Fittingly enough, in the home finale for the St. Ignatius baseball team, it was senior Jack Dyke who gave the Wildcats a 3-0 lead with a home run in the first inning.
That would prove enough for St. Ignatius, which also got a homer from Nick Glafkides and an RBI infield single by Dyke, going on to beat Half Moon Bay 7-2, before facing off with Serra in the West Catholic Athletic League finale in San Mateo on May 7.
St. Ignatius is still near the bottom of the league, at 14-12 overall and 4-10 against WCAL competition, but the Wildcats are a far cry from where they were just a year ago. The revival of St. Ignatius’s baseball team — which won just 10 league games combined over the last three seasons — is instructive for Dyke, who will head to Northwestern next fall to help continue the revival of another Wildcats baseball program.
“I’ve thought about that a lot,” Dyke said late last month. “At SI right now, we’ve talked a lot about culture, and what it means to rebuild a culture and what a winning culture is.”
Before this season, first-year head coach Brian Pollzzie gave his players a book to read. It just so happens to be one of Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr’s favorites: Legacy, about the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. Both Kerr and Dyke cited the same chapter as making the biggest impact.
“He had all the seniors read it,” Dyke said. “I think it was really important, because one of the messages was, the oldest guy on the All Blacks … would sweep the locker at the end of the day. People would go, ‘Why don’t you just have the rookies do it?’ That’s the whole thing about culture: It’s not split. Everyone’s got to be together. Everyone’s got to be connected. There’s been a lot of building.”
A 4.0 student and a First-Team All-City offensive lineman for St. Ignatius on the gridiron, Dyke was only able to find time in his schedule to visit Evanston in July, and committed over the summer.
Northwestern has had 16 straight losing seasons, and hasn’t finished a season over .500 since before Dyke was born (27-23 in in 2000). At 20-22 this season, with nine games left, Northwestern has a chance to reverse that trend under fourth-year head coach Spencer Allen.
After winning 15 games in his first season season, Allen has gone 61-82, headed into play on Saturday. That’s more than the Wildcats have won in three consecutive seasons since 2010-12. He’s won 20 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since Nortwestern did it in 2010 and 2011 under longtime head coach Paul Stevens.
With Pollzzie’s arrival at St. Ignatius, Dyke said, the team has become much closer, and so have the scores. Last year, the Wildcats were outscored 128-103, and 93-27 in losses. With two games to go this season, St. Ignatius is actually outscoring opponents 121-118.
“I think I can bring some of that understanding, and the importance of what it takes to change a culture to Northwestern, which is special,” said Dyke, who hopes to play some first base, despite being signed as a pitcher.
This season, Dyke leads the pitching staff with five wins in 11 appearances, and has a 3.85 ERA in a staff-high 43 2/3 innings, with 40 strikeouts to eight walks. At the plate, Dyke leads regulars with a .378 batting average in 81 plate appearances, with five home runs, six doubles and 26 RBIs — all either leading the team outright, or tied for the team lead.
A big, athletic right-hander, at 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, he has a high upside for Northwestern, thanks to a strong lower half he built while playing football.
“I did think about [playing both sports] for a while, and I had some opportunities to play, and coach [John] Regalia was always relaly good about getting me in touch with college coaches,” Dyke said. “But, I think my heart was always with baseball, and the opportunity at Northwestern presented itself, so that was kind of special. I think my heart is with baseball, but there’s something about football that I’m going to miss forever.”
It’s no wonder that once he arrives at Northwestern, he wants to major in learning and organizational change. He’s already taken a crash course.