The number three reigned supreme in the Big Ten this weekend. With conference play beginning, a trio of clubs garnered weekend sweeps in their pursuit of a conference champion. The conference’s power surge continued with three more players hitting three home runs in a game. And outside of Big Ten play, none of the three teams on a bye week had a losing weekend.
Here’s a recap of the weekend’s action.
Terps take down Wolverines
In a battle between the Big Ten preseason favorite and the conference’s lone ranked team, the club the coaches expected to win the conference crown, Maryland (15-8, 2-1), grabbed a pair of home victories over No. 21 Michigan (17-6, 1-2), starting Maryland’s third season in the Big Ten on the right foot.
Hitting a home run for a third consecutive game, sophomore Terrapin Marty Costes started the weekend’s scoring with a solo shot in the bottom of the first in Friday’s opener. Maryland quickly put the game out of reach with a four-run second, highlighted by a three-run home run from junior Justin Morris. Michigan responded with a pair of runs in the top of the third, senior Michael Brdar picked up a two-run double, cutting the Wolverine deficit to 5-2, but U-M could get no closer, Maryland added the two runs back in the eighth, to win 7-2.
Junior right-handed pitcher Brian Shaffer tied a career-high with 10 strikeouts over eight innings, scattering five hits. Michigan third-year left-handed pitcher Oliver Jaskie also struck out 10 batters, but Maryland struck for five runs off five hits in Jaskie’s 6.1 innings of work.
The Wolverines were the ones quick out of the gate in Saturday’s contest, scoring in their first two at-bats. But Maryland scored last and the Terrapins picked up the series win with a 5-4 victory. Brdar went 2-for-5 with two runs and junior Drew Lugbauer picked up three hits in five at-bats as Michigan enjoyed a 3-1 lead after four at-bats, but a big day from Will Watson and small-ball pushed Maryland to the win. Maryland scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth to reset the game, 3-3. A Wolverine run in the fifth was matched by Watson connecting on a solo home run in the sixth. A pair of singles, the latter by Watson, before a sacrifice fly from Madison Nickens plated Nick Dunn, giving Maryland it’s fifth and final run of the game. Watson went 2-for-3 to lead Maryland, who was outhit by Michigan, 10-6.
Salvaging the weekend, the top of Michigan’s order push the Wolverines to a 6-2 victory. Michigan’s first three batters, Ako Thomas, Johnny Slater and Brdar, went 6-for-13 with four runs and a pair of RBI. In a three-run fourth, Slater and Brdar each scored, Michigan’s effort aided by a four walks, a pair of passed balls and a wild pitch. Junior left-handed pitcher Michael Hendrickson held Maryland to two runs off five hits in five innings before freshman lefty Tommy Henry tossed 2.1 innings of scoreless relief. For the weekend, Michigan relievers pitched
Lloyd carries Hoosiers past Wildcats
It was an action-filled weekend in Evanston with Indiana and Northwestern lighting up the scoreboard and each providing big, hold-your-breath moments. Indiana ultimately coming out on top in each of the three games, there was excitement from start to finish in a series that saw the Hoosiers and Wildcats combined for 52 runs, 78 hits and 29 extra-base hits.
Northwestern jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first inning of Friday’s conference opener, and held a 8-3 lead after three innings. But a Hoosier attack led by DH Matt Lloyd poured on the scoring. Led by Lloyd recording Indiana’s first three-home run game since 2009, IU used a five-run six, a run in the seventh and two each in the eighth and ninth to win 13-9. The game featured five home runs with junior outfielder Logan Sowers and freshman first baseman Matt Gorski each dialing up a home run for the Hoosiers. Unable to hold the five-run lead, Northwestern was unable to capitalize on a 5-for-5, five-RBI day from their DH, Joe Hoscheit.
A storm system moving through the Midwest was forecast to hit Illinois on Saturday created a Friday doubleheader, with the teams taking advantage of seasonable weather on Friday.
In the warm weather, Lloyd continued swinging a hot bat. The sophomore transfer from Iowa Western picked up his fourth homer of the day in a 6-5 Indiana victory. Again, the first inning saw a crooked number placed on the scoreboard, Indiana pushed across four runs with Northwestern responding with three. After IU added a run in the fourth, the game was scoreless until the ninth when Indiana added a run and kept Northwestern’s tying run at second base, holding NU to two runs to win the game.
Northwestern fell one run short again on Saturday, as a five-run ninth ended the NU’s effort just shy in a 10-9 Indiana win. Three Wildcats picked up three hits, a 17-hit outburst led by Alex Erro, Matt Hopfner and Connor Lind. Indiana countered with a pair of four-hit games, Lloyd finished a banner weekend with two doubles and two singles in five at-bats, joined by third baseman Luke Miller going 4-for-5 as part of Indiana’s 16-hit game. For good measure, Lloyd, the Big Ten Player of the Week, bookend the IU sweep with saves in game one and three.
Minnesota brings out the broom to start title defense
Minnesota’s title defense kicked off with a weekend sweep of Ohio State (9-14). Garnering their first sweep of Ohio Satte since 1990, Minnesota (14-8) showed they can pitch their way to a win, turn up the offense in blowout and secure a tight, back-and-forth game.
On Friday, leading Minnesota to a 5-2 win, junior left-handed pitcher Lucas Gilbreath held Ohio State to two runs, one earned, over 6.2 innings, striking out seven batters without issuing a walk. The Gophers offense was led by junior right fielder Alex Boxwell, who, in a three-run game, connected on a solo home run in the fifth and scored the winning run in a three-run sixth inning, breaking a 2-2 tie.
With the forecast showing inclement weather hitting Columbus on Sunday, game three of the weekend was bumped up a day to create a Saturday doubleheader.
In the opener, Minnesota only scored in three innings, but it was enough to rout Ohio State, 15-5. As the Gophers picked up 17 hits in the opener, totaling 30 on the day, the bottom of the order, batters 6-9, Jordan Smith, Jordan Kozicky, Cole McDevitt and Luke Pettersen went 9-for-16 with seven runs and nine are RBI. John Anderson’s team scored five runs in the fourth, three in the fifth and seven in the eighth. Minnesota held OSU to just five hits, though three were home runs, with Jacob Barnwell, Tyler Cowles and Noah West going deep for the Bucks.
The weekend capper was a back-and-forth contest with Minnesota coming out just ahead, 6-5. Ohio State grabbed the initial lead, 1-0, in the bottom of the second, but Minnesota answered with a run in the top of the third. The Gophers plated a pair of runs in the top of the second, before Ohio State halved the deficit with a tally in their fourth inning at-bat. Each team added a run in the fifth, for Minnesota to hold a 4-3 after five innings. Minnesota scored twice in the sixth, with Ohio State responding with a run in the bottom of the inning, to make it a 6-4 game. After a scoreless seventh, there was high drama in the eighth.
A leadoff-single by DH Zach Ratcliff and a double from Brady Cherry put a pair of Buckeyes in scoring position. A four-pitch walk to Cowles loaded the bases, forcing Anderson to turn to closer Brian Glowicki, seeking a six-out save. The senior right-hander surrendered a sacrifice fly to the first batter he faced, but did not let any other Buckeyes cross home. A 1-2-3 ninth closed the door on the Minnesota win, giving Glowicki his eighth save of the season.
Iowa halts Purdue’s winning streak, wins weekend
Both Iowa and Purdue entered the weekend averaging more than six runs per game. In a showdown between a pair of high-powered offenses, scoring was held in check, an average of less than six runs combined per game, but big innings carried the Iowa-winning weekend.
The Hawkeyes and Boilermakers were locked in an 0-0 affair through seven innings in Friday’s opener. After Purdue’s Mike Madej drew a one-out walk, in the top of the eighth, the game was halted for 70 minutes due to a rain delay. When the game resumed, consecutive pitches provided the game’s only scoring. Sophomore catcher Nick Dalesandro drove in Madej on a first-pitch triple to right center, then scored on the very next pitch when classmate Jacson McGowan drove a double to right center, tacking on an insurance run in the 2-0 victory. Purdue starter Tanner Andrews pitched six scoreless innings, with Iowa’s starter Nick Gallagher countering with five scoreless frames.
In game two, it was the eighth inning again that provided the decisive at-bat. Iowa broke a 1-1 tie with four runs, en route to a 5-1 win. Jake Adams and Luke Fraley each picked up an RBI-double in the inning, as Iowa pounded out 15 hits on the afternoon.
In the rubber match, again, the penultimate inning decided the victor. The game tied, 2-2, five runs pushed Iowa to a 7-2 victory, deciding the weekend winner. Fraley drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a sac bunt. Mason McCoy drew the second walk of the inning before Adams singled to load the bases. A dribbled to the mound plated the go-ahead run, then Iowa used back-to-back two-run singles, by Ben Norman and Justin Judkins to walk away with win.
“Every inning of this series was a battle,” said UI head coach Rick Heller. “To come out today and get the series win was big for us.”
Michigan State mashes way to sweep
Michigan State entered the weekend as the Big Ten’s top hitting team. Following three games at Illinois, the Spartans showed just how potent their offense can be.
Improving to 15-5 on the year, MSU swept the three-game set in Champaign, reaching double digits in all three contests, earning victories of 12-4, 12-1, 17-6. In the high scoring weekend, the Spartans showed they can swing a big stick.
Michigan State bruised Illini pitching for 13 home runs on the weekend, capping the weekend with an eight-home run game, the most in the NCAA by a team in one game this season. Leading Michigan State to its first sweep of Illinois since 1979, junior center fielder Brandon Hughes picked up four home runs, the last three coming in Sunday’s series finale. Michigan State scored at least four runs in an inning five times on the weekend.
Illinois senior first baseman Pat McInerney showed he too has power, hitting three home runs to run his season total to eight, tied for the most in the conference with Iowa’s Adams. But Illinois pitchers were unable to keep Michigan State’s batters in check, the Spartans batted .317 on the weekend with a .726 slugging percentage.
“Anytime you go on the road, the goal is to win the series, and it’s hard to sweep the series on the road, and for our guys to do what they did this weekend, we showed what we’re capable of,” said Michigan State head coach Jake Boss. “I think this weekend we showed offensively, defensively and on the mound what this group is capable of doing.”
Outside of conference
A three-home run game from sophomore center fielder Jawuan Harris powered Rutgers to a 11-3 series finale win, capping a weekend road sweep of USC-Upstate. After sophomore Serafino Brito dazzled in a seven-inning, scoreless start to help Rutgers (9-14) knock off USC-Upstate (12-14), 5-1, in the series opener, the Scarlet Knights reached double digits in runs during both of Saturday’s doubleheader, clinching the winning weekend with a 10-7 win the twinbill opener. Senior first baseman Mike Carter recorded at least two hits in all three games, starting with a 2-5, four-RBI effort on Friday, where he hit his first career home run. Mike Martinez went 5-for-9 on Saturday, hitting his first homer of the season in game one, before Harris collected Rutgers’ first three-home run game since April 2002.
Penn State was three outs away from wrapping up a weekend victory over Columbia, but the Nittany Lions settled for a series split. In a game where all nine batters recorded a hit, a 13-batter, nine-run fifth inning broke open PSU’s 11-7 victory over the Ivy League program, on Friday. A nine-strikeout game from sophomore right-handed pitcher Justin Hagenman wasn’t enough to turn back CU in the first game of a Saturday doubleheader. In a 4-2 loss, Penn State’s two-run fourth inning was countered by Columbia’s three-run fifth. Penn State rebounded in the nightcap, winning 10-6, scoring all 10 runs between the second and sixth innings. Jordan Bowersox, Ryan Sloniger and Willie Burger each recorded two hits. Senior right-handed pitcher Dakota Forsyth tossed four hitless innings in relief, striking out eight batters. On Sunday, after Penn State (9-13) grabbed a 4-3 lead with two runs in the bottom of the eighth, Columbia (3-13) plated five in the ninth inning, winning 9-4.
Nebraska (12-10) picked up three wins in a four-game set at Cal Poly (8-15) over the weekend, ensuring Big Red enters Big Ten play with a winning record. Behind a strong effort from right-handed pitcher Jake Hohensee (6.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R) Nebraska held off Cal Poly, 3-2 in the series opener. The Mustangs rebounded for a 3-2 win of their own in game two, but were unable to crack junior left-handed pitcher Jake Meyers in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. Meyers, entering the weekend as the Big Ten’s ERA leader, pitched eight innings, allowed three runs off four hits, leading the Huskers to a 6-5 win. In the win, six of Nebraska’s nine hits were for extra-bases. Nebraska again hit six runs, this time on 10 hits, securing a weekend win with a 6-4 triumph in the series finale.