Huskers Unveil 2019 Baseball Schedule

Lincoln, Neb. — Head Coach Darin Erstad and the Nebraska baseball team announced the Huskers’ 2019 schedule on Wednesday, which includes 27 home games at Hawks Field.

Nebraska’s schedule features games against seven NCAA Tournament qualifiers from last season, including three College World Series participants. In addition, the Huskers face each of the top four teams from last year’s Big Ten standings.

NU begins its 54-game schedule with trips to California, Arizona and Texas. For the third consecutive year, the Huskers open their season against UC Riverside (Feb. 15-17). Nebraska visits the Highlanders for four games in Riverside, Calif., after squaring off each of the last two seasons in Tempe, Ariz.

Nebraska enters a daunting slate of seven neutral-site games when the Huskers play at the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge (Feb. 21-24) and the Frisco College Baseball Classic (March 1-3). Three of Nebraska’s four opponents during that stretch – Oregon State, Texas Tech and Mississippi State – qualified for the 2018 College World Series. NU faces the reigning national champion Beavers four times at Surprise Stadium in Surprise, Ariz., from Feb. 21-24.

The Huskers make their second appearance in three years at the Frisco Classic when NU travels to Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Texas to open the month of March. Nebraska battles former Big 12 foe and 2018 CWS participant Texas Tech (March 1), reigning Southland regular-season champion Sam Houston State (March 2) and 2018 CWS qualifier Mississippi State (March 3) in Frisco.

NU’s home opener is set for Tuesday, March 5 against intrastate rival Omaha at Hawks Field. The Huskers and Mavericks meet twice in 2019, including an April 17 matchup at Werner Park in Omaha. NU has three games scheduled against its other intrastate rival, Creighton. The Huskers and Bluejays square off March 26 and April 23 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, and April 9 at Hawks Field.

The Huskers host former Big 12 brethren Baylor, March 8-10, to continue a 13-game homestand. The Bears won last season’s Big 12 Tournament en route to earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

The Huskers host North Dakota State on Wednesday, March 13 before a three-game set against New Mexico State (March 15-17) and a two-game series against Air Force (March 19-20). New Mexico State won last year’s WAC Tournament to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Nebraska opens Big Ten play at home against Michigan State, March 22-24. NU also hosts conference series against Purdue (April 5-7), Illinois (April 26-28) and Michigan (May 16-18). All four opponents qualified for the eight-team Big Ten Tournament last year, including the Boilermakers, who finished second in the regular season and tournament to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines finished third in the Big Ten last season, while the Fighting Illini took fourth place.

NU’s first Big Ten road trip is slated for March 29-31 at Minnesota. The Golden Gophers captured the 2018 Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles before advancing to the Super Regionals, where they fell to eventual national champion Oregon State.

Nebraska’s other Big Ten road series are at Penn State (April 12-14), Iowa (19-21) and Northwestern (May 4-6). The last time NU visited State College, Pa., the Huskers clinched the 2017 Big Ten regular-season crown with a win in the season finale. The Hawkeyes took sixth place in the Big Ten last season to earn a spot in the conference tournament.

The Huskers face former Big 12 rival Kansas State twice in 2019, visiting Manhattan, Kan., on April 2 before hosting the Wildcats at Hawks Field on April 16.

Before its final home series against Michigan, which concludes with Senior Day on May 18, Nebraska hosts Arizona State for a three-game series, May 10-12. The series history between the Huskers and Sun Devils includes NU’s first win in a College World Series game in 2005. The two teams last met at the 2007 NCAA Tempe Regional.

The Big Ten Tournament is scheduled for May 22-26 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb. The Huskers have taken runner-up honors twice at the tournament (2013, 2014) since joining the conference before the 2012 campaign. TD Ameritrade Park previously hosted the event in 2014, 2016 and 2018 in addition to the College World Series since 2011. The Big Ten Tournament returns to TD Ameritrade Park from 2020 to 2022.

New season tickets for the 2019 season can be purchased starting on Friday, Oct. 19 at 10 a.m. by visiting Huskers.com/tickets. Current season ticket holders will receive renewal information in the near future. Improvements and additional purchases will be available in January during the Seat Yourself process, which allows fans to choose their own seats at Hawks Field.

Illini Recruiting Class Ranked No. 22 by D1Baseball.com

Champaign, Ill. — The Illinois baseball team’s class of newcomers for this season is ranked No. 22 in the nation by D1Baseball.com, the website released Monday. Illinois was previously ranked No. 24 in the nation by Baseball America.

“This is probably one of the top classes that we’ve had in my tenure,” head coach Dan Hartleb said during his Signing Day press conference in November. “It’s pitching heavy, which is so important in the game of baseball. And we met a lot of needs as far as athletes and position players.”

Two student-athletes were picked in the 2018 MLB Draft before choosing to honor their commitments to Illinois. Catcher Jacob Campbell was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 36th round and pitcher Aidan Maldonado was picked two rounds later by the Milwaukee Brewers. Both were in Baseball America’s top 300 prospects and were considered top 5-10 round talents at the conclusion of their senior years of high school before falling in the draft due to signability. Maldonado was up to 96 MPH this fall during his first semester on campus.

Pitcher Garrett Acton was also drafted out of high school in 2016 to make it three of 10 newcomers that have been selected by MLB clubs. Acton is one of three junior college pitching signees that are set to help the staff.

“These are some of the higher rated kids that we’ve had,” said Hartleb. “A lot of these players had committed or were on our radar from back in 2015 year.”

Illinois had an unprecedented season in 2015, winning 50 games and the NCAA Champaign Regional on the way to hosting the program’s first ever Super Regional. The Illini also had back-to-back seasons with a first-round pick in 2015 (Tyler Jay) and 2016 (Cody Sedlock) and the 2018 Collegiate Baseball Newspaper National Player of the Year in Bren Spillane, who became Illinois’ highest-ever drafted position player in June.

“I’m really excited about this group,” said Hartleb. “It meets what we’ve always tried to do as far as good student-athletes and guys that will try to work hard and get better.”

Iowa Releases 2019 Schedule

Iowa City, Iowa —  The University of Iowa baseball team released the details of its 54-game 2019 schedule, it was announced Monday by head coach Rick Heller.

Below is a rundown of the Hawkeyes’ 2019 schedule:

– Twenty-six of Iowa’s 54 games will be played at Duane Banks Field. The Hawkeyes are 72-20 (.760) at home since the start of the 2015 season. The home opener is set for March 6 against a TBA opponent.

– Iowa will play 12 games against four NCAA Tournament teams and all 12 games will be on the road. The Hawkeyes will travel for three-game series at Oklahoma State, Indiana, Purdue, and Ohio State.

– The Hawkeyes will host Big Ten series against Illinois, Rutgers, Nebraska, and Michigan State.

– Iowa travels for Big Ten series against Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State, and Maryland.

– The Hawkeyes don’t play Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, or Penn State during the regular season, but Iowa will play a nonconference game against Northwestern at Impact Field in Rosemont, Illinois, on May 1.

– Iowa will open the season at the Diamond 9 Sunshine State Classic Series in Kissimmee, Florida, for a second straight season before traveling to Honolulu, Hawaii, for a four-game series at Hawaii.

– The Hawkeyes will also play nonconference series at Evansville, while hosting Cal State Northridge and UC Irvine at Banks Field.

– The 2019 Big Ten Tournament will be held at T.D. Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, from May 22-26 for a second straight season. The Hawkeyes have advanced to the postseason five straight seasons — a school record.

Nebraska Recruiting Class Ranked No. 16 by D1 Baseball

Lincoln, Neb. –The Nebraska baseball team’s 2018 recruiting class is ranked 16th nationally by D1 Baseball, which announced its top 25 classes on Monday. The rankings are based on newcomers that arrived on campus this fall.

The Huskers achieved the best recruiting class ranking by a Big Ten team, six spots ahead of No. 22 Illinois. D1 Baseball compiled its rankings with help from Prep Baseball Report in addition to information from recruiting coordinators and scouts across the nation in an attempt to balance instant impact with long-term potential.

NU has 15 newcomers on the roster, including 11 freshmen, as the entire recruiting class made it to campus.

Two newcomers – Spencer Schwellenbach and Bo Blessie – were drafted in June 2018, but chose to come to Nebraska to play college baseball. Schwellenbach, an infielder/right-handed pitcher from Saginaw, Mich., was selected in the 34th round by the Cleveland Indians. Blessie, a right-handed pitcher from Midland, Texas, was drafted in the 36th round by the Washington Nationals.

Additional freshmen include Cam Chick (Rocheport, Mo.), Caleb Feekin (Papillion, Neb.), Drew Gilin (Omaha, Neb.), Colby Gomes (Omaha, Neb.), Brett Hammit (Nixa, Mo.), Tyler Martin (Webb City, Mo.), Kyle Perry (Omaha, Neb.), Blake Peterson (Loomis, Calif.) and Shay Schanaman (Grand Island, Neb.).

Four newcomers – Aaron Palenksy (Southeast Community College), Trey Kissack (UNC-Greensboro and Southeast Community College), Ty Roseberry (Nebraska-Kearney) and Gareth Stroh (Purdue and Coffeyville Community College) – bring previous college baseball experience to NU’s roster.

In addition to D1 Baseball, NU also earned a top-35 spot from Baseball America on Sept. 18 when the publication released its “Next 10” after the top-25 class rankings. NU earned the second-best recruiting class ranking by a Big Ten team from Baseball America, behind only No. 24 Illinois.

Illini Holtzman Inducted into St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame

St. Louis — Former Illinois pitcher Ken Holtzman was inducted Wednesday into the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame during a banquet at the Hilton St. Louis Frontenac Hotel. A number of University of Illinois representatives were in attendance, including current Illini head coach Dan Hartleb.

Holtzman was Illinois’ team MVP and an All-Big Ten selection in 1965 before debuting in the Major Leagues with the Chicago Cubs in the same year. He spent 15 years in MLB, pitching in 451 games with a 174-150 record and 3.49 ERA.

Holtzman is one of the most decorated Illini players ever. He was part of the Oakland A’s starting rotation for back-to-back-to-back World Series titles in 1972-74 and was an MLB All-Star in 1972 and ’73.

This year’s St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame class includes Holtzman, Rich Niemann (basketball), Kenny Wallace (auto racing), Terry Metcalf (football), Bob DeMarco (football), Andy Van Slyke (baseball), Marty Hogan (racquetball), Keith Tkachuk (hockey), Earl Austin Jr. (media). Tony Van Zant (football) received the President’s Choice Award and Jack Jones (football) received the Metro Legends Award and Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis receiving the Community Service Award.

Buckeyes Announce 2019 Schedule

Columbus, Ohio — The Ohio State baseball team released its 2019 schedule Wednesday. The Buckeyes will play 24 home games at Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium, while nine contests are against 2018 NCAA Tournament teams.

“We are excited about the very competitive schedule we have set forth for the 2019 season,” head coach Greg Beals said. “It will be a great test and one that will position us for another at-large bid to the national tournament. We have mixed our early non-conference games with round robin tournaments and three or four game series. The round robins will allow us the opportunity to see multiple teams and the series will allow us to do more prep with scouting and in series adjustments to prepare us for conference play. We are fast at work this fall getting ready for the 2019 season.”

Ohio State opens the 2019 season Feb. 15-17 at the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla., with three games against Seton Hall. The Buckeyes will then play one game at FGCU Feb. 18 in Fort Myers, Fla. Ohio State will travel south to the state of Texas for the first time since the 2008 campaign, playing in the Kleberg Bank Tournament Feb. 22-24 in Corpus Christi, Texas. The Scarlet and Gray will face BYU, Texas A&M Corpus Christi and Oral Roberts at Whataburger Field. Following the tournament, the team will play one true road game at Texas A&M Corpus Christi Feb. 25 at Chapman Field.

Ohio State begins the month of March traveling to the state of Florida for the second time with a four-game series at Bethune-Cookman March 1-4 in Dayton Beach, Fla. The Buckeyes will make a trip to the state of South Carolina to play four games, including one against a Big Ten opponent the following week. The team will participate in the Greenville Drive 1st Pitch Invitational March 8-10 in Greenville, S.C., competing against Furman, Michigan State and Western Carolina. Ohio State will then play a single contest at Wofford in Spartanburg, S.C., March 12.

The Buckeyes open the home schedule with an eight-game homestand beginning March 15-17 with a three-game series against Lipscomb. Ohio State will welcome Hawaii to Columbus for the first meeting between the two programs in a four-game series March 21-24. The team closes out the homestand with a midweek contest with in-state opponent Toledo March 27.

The Scarlet and Gray open Big Ten season on the road in a three-game set at Rutgers March 29-31 in Piscataway, N.J. The team returns home for a midweek contest vs. Cincinnati April 3 and a three-game conference series against Northwestern April 5-7. Following a road game at Ohio April 9 and a home contest vs. Dayton April 10, the Buckeyes will host conference-rival Michigan April 12-14 at Bill Davis Stadium. Ohio State faces Xavier in a midweek game April 16 before traveling to College Park, Md., for a three-game series against the Terrapins April 19-21. Ohio State concludes the month of April with a three-game home series vs. Iowa April 26-28.

Ohio State hits the road to begin the month of May with an in-state contest in Oxford, Ohio, vs. the RedHawks May 1. The Buckeyes travel to Minneapolis, Minn., for the first time in three years with a three-game series vs. the defending Big Ten champion Minnesota Golden Gophers May 3-5. The Buckeyes wrap up the home schedule against Wright State May 8 and Penn State May 10-12. Ohio State will finish the regular season on the road with a game at Youngstown State May 14 and a three-game series at Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., May 16-18.

The Big Ten Tournament will be back again at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., May 22-26.

Illinois’ Recruiting Class Ranked No. 24 by Baseball America

Champaign, Ill. –The Illinois baseball program’s recruiting class, the class that arrived on campus in August, is the 24th-best in the nation according to Baseball America, the publication announced Wednesday. Illinois is the only Big Ten program ranked and it is the first time in program history an Illini recruiting class has been ranked in the top 25.

“This is probably one of the top classes that we’ve had in my tenure,” head coach Dan Hartleb said during his Signing Day press conference in November. “It’s pitching heavy, which is so important in the game of baseball. And we met a lot of needs as far as athletes and position players.”

Two student-athletes were picked in the 2018 MLB Draft before choosing to honor their commitments to Illinois. Catcher Jacob Campbell was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 36th round and pitcher Aidan Maldonado was picked two rounds later by the Milwaukee Brewers. Both were in Baseball America’s top 300 prospects and were considered top 5-10 round talents at the conclusion of their senior years’ of high school before falling in the draft due to sign ability.

Pitcher Garrett Acton was also drafted out of high school in 2016 to make it three of 10 newcomers that have been selected by MLB clubs. Acton is one of three junior college pitching signees that are set to help the staff.

“These are some of the higher rated kids that we’ve had,” said Hartleb. “A lot of these players had committed or were on our radar from back in 2015 year.”

Illinois had an unprecedented season in 2015, winning 50 games and the NCAA Champaign Regional on the way to hosting the program’s first ever Super Regional. The Illini also had back-to-back seasons with a first-round pick in 2015 (Tyler Jay) and 2016 (Cody Sedlock) and the 2018 Collegiate Baseball Newspaper National Player of the Year in Bren Spillane, who became Illinois’ highest-ever drafted position player in June.

Illinois narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament last year after finishing fourth in the Big Ten and advancing to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. The recruiting class combined with a solid core of returners has Illinois poised for an exciting season in 2019.

“I’m really excited about this group,” said Hartleb. “It meets what we’ve always tried to do as far as good student-athletes and guys that will try to work hard and get better.”

The best recruiting classes from 2010-2014

There’s still a few Big Ten programs yet to start their fall practice season. But for most, new faces are mixing with returning places as rosters start to take shape with the 2019 season in mind.

As the talent across the Big Ten continues to get better and deep year over year, many freshmen will arrive to campus and put on their school’s colors with prodigious accolades from their prep days, with a few having the honor of being selected in the MLB Draft. The past of a freshman makes it easier to fill out bios and for outside publications to compile all of the freshmen who compose a recruiting class, list them next to each other, and proclaim who has the best recruiting class. But when the time comes to step into the batter’s box or toe the rubber, what was done in high school means little.

Instead, we think it’s best to allow a recruiting to have their four-year window on campus come to pass, in order to compare and determine who had the best. Here, before fall practice has commenced throughout the conference, and a sense of who may be a standout can fully form, 10 Innings looks at the top recruiting class over the last five years in the Big Ten.

To note, more emphasis was placed on individual success, believing that while one recruiting class can drastically change the fortunes of a program, the success of a team in any given year is made up of four recruiting classes. Also, recruiting classes were based on who was a freshman on campus in the fall of their high school graduating year. This would, for example, exclude considering Scott Donley as a part of Indiana’s class of 2011, as he was a transfer from Virginia Tech. Finally, the first classes for Maryland and Rutgers to have spent all four years in the Big Ten would have been 2014, four-year graduates of this past spring.

So with history on our side which program had the top recruiting class over the last five years?

2010- Indiana

Key players: Dustin DeMuth, Joey DeNato, Ryan Halstead, Aaron Slegers

Four-year team accomplishments: 2013, 2014 Big Ten champions. 2013, 2014 Big Ten Tournament champions. 2013 Bloomington Regional champions. 2013 College World Series. 2014 NCAA Tournament National Seed. 153-82 overall, 65-31 in Big Ten.

Individual honors: 2011 Big Ten Freshman of the Year: DeNato. 2011 Big Ten All-Freshman Team: DeMuth, DeNato, Halstead. 2013 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year: Slegers. 2014 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year: DeNato.

Combined All-Big Ten first-team selections: 7

Highest draft pick: Slegers, fifth round, 140th overall, 2013.

Why them? This class was the foundation of teams that helped Indiana lead the change in conversation regarding Big Ten baseball. The following year’s recruiting class drew the headlines, covered magazines and have two MLBers, but this is the class that was necessary to take Indiana into college baseball’s upper echelon. A four-time All-Big Ten first-team selection, DeNato is the best pitcher in Indiana history, holding the school record for innings, strikeouts and wins. Slegers’ 2013 campaign was quietly dominant. DeMuth litters the Indiana record book, and Halstead was a rock of a reliever at the back of the IU bullpen for their two regional clubs. Arriving to campus two years after Indiana broke through and won the 2009 Big Ten Tournament, this group pushed IU over the top.

 

2011- Indiana

Key players: Kyle Hart, Luke Harrison, Kyle Schwarber, Sam Travis

Four-year team accomplishments: 2013, 2014 Big Ten champions. 2013, 2014 Big Ten Tournament champions. 2013 Bloomington Regional champions. 2013 College World Series. 2014 NCAA Tournament National Seed. 2015 NCAA Tournament. 158-81 overall, 66-28 in Big Ten.

Individual honors: 2012 Big Ten Freshman of the Year: Travis. 2012 Big Ten All-Freshman Team: Chad Clark, Hart, Schwarber, Chris Sujka, Travis. 2013 Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Travis. 2013 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team: Schwarber, Travis. 2014 Big Ten Player of the Year: Travis. 2014 Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Schwarber.

Combined All-Big Ten first-team selections: 5

Highest draft pick: Schwarber, first round, fourth overall, 2014.

Why them? The Bash Brothers. What hasn’t been said of the impact that Schwarber and Travis had on Indiana, Big Ten and college baseball? A rival coach called Schwarber a generational talent, one you see every 20-25 years, Travis a once-a-decade player. Where DeNato is the best pitcher in Indiana history, quite the argument can be made that Hart is the second-best. Appearing in 87 games, Harrison pitched 167 innings to the tune of a 2.86 ERA and 15-4 record. While Schwarber and Travis were ascending the ranks in the minors in 2015, Harrison and Hart were  key factors in Indiana’s transition between head coaches Tracy Smith and Chris Lemonis, making sure Indiana’s two-year run wasn’t a blip on the radar, but the start of a new day for IU baseball.

 

2012- Illinois

Key players: Kevin Duchene, Jason Goldstein, Tyler Jay, Adam Walton

Four-year team accomplishments: 2013 NCAA Tournament. 2015 Big Ten champions. 2015 National Seed. 2015 Champaign Regional champions. 145-74-1 overall, 64-30 in Big Ten.

Individual honors: 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year: Duchene. 2013 Big Ten All-Freshman Team: Duchene, Goldstein. 2015 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year: Jay. 2014 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team: Jay.

Combined All-Big Ten first-team selections: 4

Highest draft pick: Jay, first round, sixth overall, 2015.

Why them? If Indiana forced a different discussion around Big Ten baseball, this recruiting class of Illini helped cement the change in perception. After helping Illinois to the Nashville Regional in 2013, being left on the outside of the 2014 NCAA Tournament helped fuel the most dominant showing by a team in Big Ten play the following year. As upperclassmen, the class helped Dan Hartleb’s team to a school-record 27-game winning streak, and a 21-1 Big Ten record in 2015. The regular season ended with the Illini were earning the No. 6 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. From their first spring, Duchene was a key starter, Jay a lights-out receiver and Goldstein a rock behind the plate. Walton gave this recruiting class its fourth All-Big Ten first-team selection in 2015, with strong two-way play at short.

 

2013- Ohio State

Key players: Ronnie Dawson, Travis Lakins, Troy Montgomery, Tanner Tully

Four-year team accomplishments: 2016 Big Ten Tournament champions. 2016 NCAA Tournament. 127-102 overall. 46-50 in Big Ten.

Individual honors: 2014 Big Ten Freshman of the Year: Tully. 2014 Big Ten All-Freshman Team: Dawson, Tully. 2016 Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Dawson.

Combined All-Big Ten first-team selections: 2

Highest draft pick: Dawson, second round, 62nd overall, 2016.

Why them? The toughest class to pick, the individual star power between Dawson, Montgomery, Lakins and Tully helped pushed this class over Nebraska’s 2013 recruiting class. The Husker did appear in three NCAA Tournaments, 2014, 2016-17, and won the Big Ten, topping Ohio State’s one regional and tournament title. But of Nebraska’s 11 freshmen in the fall of 2013, there were only a combined four All-Big Ten selections, no first-team picks, only five of the 11 made significant contributions over their career. Dawson and Tully were both All-Big Ten second-team picks as freshmen in 2014, before earning first-team nods in 2016, while Montgomery was a second-team selection in 2015. Lakins was a sixth-round draft pick by the Boston Red Sox as a draft-eligible sophomore in 2015.

 

2014- Minnesota

Key players: Micah Coffey, Lucas Gilbreath, Toby Hanson, Luke Pettersen

Four-year team accomplishments: 2016 Big Ten champions. 2016 NCAA Tournament. 2018 Big Ten champions. 2018 Big Ten Tournament champions. 2018 NCAA Tournament National Seed. 2018 Minneapolis Regional Champions. 137-88 overall, 58-34 in Big Ten.

Combined All-Big Ten first-team selections: 1

Highest draft pick: Gilbreath, seventh round, 216th overall.

Why them? The class didn’t have a star like Schwarber, Travis, or Dawson, but collectively they were steady contributors, year after year. Gilbreath is responsible for the lone All-Big Ten first-team selection in the recruiting class, tabbed as one of the three best Big Ten pitchers in 2017. But Coffey was a three-time All-Big Ten pick, a second-team selection in each of his final three seasons, with Hanson earning third-team praise in 2016, before Pettersen did in 2018. The last three years of their time in Minnesota stands against any three-year period for any Big Ten program over the last 25 years, capping their career with winning the Minneapolis Regional, advancing the program to its first super regional appearance.

The Big Ten’s newest assistants

The transition from the summer offseason to the fall practice season isn’t complete without a rundown of new faces. Yes, the Big Ten is welcoming another talented freshman class, headlined by several players saying no to professional organizations, but they will also be new faces in the in the coaches’ boxes and in the dugout as part of the coaching staff.

With an entirely new staff in Bloomington as head coach Jeff Mercer leads the Hoosiers, to two new assistants up the road in West Lafayette under Mark Wasikowski, rounded out by promotions in Columbus and Minneapolis, heres a look at the new full-time assistants coaches in the Big Ten.

Read more

Ten thoughts from the summer II

It’s time to close the book on summer thoughts, news and notes.

Here’s the second part of ten thoughts from the summer, as we get ready to shift gears to fall practices and the 2019 season.

Top prospects heading to campus

The MLB Draft was pretty kind to Big Ten programs this year. Across the conference, from Minnesota to New Jersey, top prep players with pledges to Big Ten programs spurned professional overtures.

A few players did sign a contact. Michigan lost Drew Rom, a Kentucky prep left-handed pitcher, to the Baltimore Orioles, after the American League organization picked him in the fourth round. Ohio State saw recruit Keegan Fish, a catcher and 13th-round pick from southwest Ohio, sign with the Miami Marlins. And Iowa-signee Korry Howell, a JUCO transfer picked by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 12th round.

But more players who were the highlights of respective recruiting classes will arrive on campus.

A few noteworthy players:

Illinois

Catcher Jacob Campbell- 36th round, Chicago Cubs

RHP Aidan Maldonando- 38th round, Milwaukee Brewers

Michigan

RHP Steven Hajjar- 21st round, Brewers

Michigan State

OF Zaid Walker- 36th round, Cincinnati Reds

Nebraska

SS/RHP Spencer Schwellenbach- 34th round, Cleveland Indians

Rutgers

C- Peter Serruto- 22nd round, Reds

Worth noting, a player picked in the 30th+ rounds may not seem overly impressive, outside of the impressiveness of being draft in the first place, but each of the above player’s talent merited being selected earlier. They were drafted in the final quarter of the draft due to their respective commitments to their school. Professional clubs viewed them as unlikely to sign, but the talent each possessed warranted selecting them, just in case there was a change of heart, or a signing bonus of $125,000, the maximum a club can offer without it counting against its allotted pool to sign players drafted in the first 10 rounds, would be a enough.

Prep Baseball Report ranks Maldonado, Schwellenbach and Walker the respective number two players in Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois, players who have a chance to standout on campus over the next three years before their time comes again to be picked by a professional club.

Midwest vs. West

Players like Hajjar and Serruo heading to campus is another example of the Big Ten providing a great product on the field, alongside the world-class education the student-athletes receive. How good that product is might surprise the casual fan, but more and more there is proof the Big Ten is an elite baseball conference.

I remember five years ago, after his first season in Ann Arbor, Michigan head coach Erik Bakich told me there was no reason the Big Ten would not only be a true Power 5 conference in baseball, but would be on par, if not better than the Pac-12 and Big XII. The depth of the Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conferences, along with the geographic advantage will likely have those two be 1-2 in some order for the foreseeable future. But Bakich had no doubt the Midwest could be the Big Ten’s and level to those on the Pacific coast.

Looking at NCAA Tournament participants, since 2015, the Big Ten has placed 17 teams in a regional, with the Pac-12 one ahead at 18. Last year, the Big Ten and Pac-12 split 24 regular season games.

The Pac-12 has done a better job of advancing teams through the NCAA Tournament, and of course have the reigning national champion in Oregon State, who knocked out Minnesota in the Corvallis Regional, but not before the Gophers twice beat UCLA to win the Minneapolis Regional. Now, as schedules begin to trickle out, the 2019 season will offer more opportunities for to two conferences with Rose Bowl ties to square off on the mind.

In touching base with coaches around the conference, what’s known so far in Big Ten-Pac 12 showdowns:

Arizona will travel to Penn State during the final weekend of the regular season, the start of a home-and-home series which has Penn State traveling to Tucson in 2020.

Michigan State has a three-game series at Arizona State, followed by a midweek game at Arizona.

Minnesota will see Oregon State in back-to-back weekends to open the season, the two participating in a pair of tournaments.

Michigan will participate in the Dodger Stadium/Dodgertown College Baseball Classic with USC, UCLA and Arizona. Two years ago the Wolverines were in the field with USC, UCLA and San Diego.

Lengthy droughts continue for Michigan and Ohio State

I started blogging on Big Ten baseball matters 10 years ago, taking over the Ohio State-centric Buckeye Nine. One, I have no idea how that turned into this. Two, it’s a bit scary to think a decade has passed.

Nonetheless, to say the Big Ten of 2018 is not the Big Ten of 2008 is an understatement. Forget recruits, facilities, head coach salaries, just look who has won the Big Ten this decade.

Since 2010, Minnesota has three titles (2010, 2016, 2018) and Illinois has two (2011, 2015). Those two have been historically strong programs, their championships would cause someone to bat an eye in 2008. But Michigan State (2011), Purdue (2012), Indiana (2013-14), Nebraska, hello realignment, (2017) certainly would. But perhaps more than who has won the conference crown is who hasn’t.

The 2019 season will be the ten-year mark since the Buckeyes last won the Big Ten. But even then, they will have a more recent championship than their arch-rival, Michigan last winning the conference championship in 2008. To know just how rare this is, the last time neither Michigan nor Ohio State won a Big Ten championship in a nine-year window would be 1908-1916. A period when the University of Chicago found themselves Big Ten baseball champs.

For the conference as a whole, it’s a good thing the Big Ten isn’t dominated by Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio State, as was the case for four decades from 1980-2010. More teams winning means more depth, more depth means more teams in the NCAA Tournament, more teams in the NCAA Tournament increases the odds of having a representative in Omaha.

But it is a bit surprising two of collegiate athletics most recognizable names, programs with storied histories, have gone so long without winning the conference.

Wisconsin baseball isn’t coming back

With the team they have returning, losing only one underclassman to the draft, many view Michigan as a preseason Big Ten favorite, a club ready to end that aforementioned drought. While certainly possible, if not probably, we know for certain one Big Ten institution that’s not winning a baseball championship any time soon: Wisconsin.

The baseball-less Badgers are the lone Big Ten university without a varsity baseball program. As Big Ten baseball continues to make strides, as well as Wisconsin producing top baseball talent (Campbell is a Wisconsin native, as was Minnesota All-American shortstop Terrin Vavra), it’s entertaining to think is the time coming for Wisconsin to revive its baseball program.

I don’t think it’s happening.

In June, the Detroit News revealed the University of Michigan will receive $52.1 million in Big Ten conference distributions, stemming from the television rights the conference has with ABC/ESPN, FOX, and its own Big Ten Network.

There would be Title IX matters to resolve in terms of scholarship equality between female and male students, as well as figuring out where games will be played. But if living in a day and age where Big Ten universities are receiving more than $50 million a year from television rights doesn’t create the landscape for Wisconsin to bring back a program, one that many believe would have more than a shot to compete for conference championships and regional bids when brought back, I can’t see when the time will be right.

Joe Healy’s appreciated work

Wrapping up everything that crossed my mind over the summer, I cannot go without shining a light on the work done by College Baseball Central’s Joe Healy and his podcast series, especially in the absence of myself producing any content. Throughout the summer, Healy spoke to people throughout the media, often beat writers, to dig into ongoings regarding programs around the country. Many of Healy’s podcast covered Big Ten teams, and here you can listen to insights, news and opinion on:

Indiana

Iowa

Nebraska

Purdue

Joe was the lone national writer to cover the Big Ten Tournament this past year, and is a great reference and source for news and content covering the Big Ten.

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