Illinois at Illinois State Postponed

Champaign, Ill. — The Illinois baseball team’s game scheduled for Tuesday at Illinois State has been postponed due to forecasted weather. The game will be made up Wednesday, April 4 at 4:30 p.m. CT.

No. 24 Illinois (11-5) resumes its schedule Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. CT against CSUN at Illinois Field.

Ohio State vs. Eastern Michigan Cancelled

Columbus, Ohio — The Ohio State baseball game against Eastern Michigan was cancelled Wednesday due to predicted weather in the Columbus area. No makeup date has been announced. The Buckeyes (14-6), who have won six straight games, will host Georgetown Friday-Sunday in a three-game series at Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium.

Due to the cancelation, Ohio State has added a midweek game against Youngstown State. The Buckeyes and Penguins will square off at 6:35 p.m. ET April 18 at Bill Davis Stadium.

The Weekend 10

In the final weekend before conference play begins, it was a big weekend for many teams around the Big Ten. Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio State picked up home sweeps, while Minnesota and Rutgers collected big weekend victories on the road.

Who helped power those teams to victory? Here’s a look at the Weekend 10.

Penn State Fr. LHP Dante Biasi

Biasi twirled a gem on Sunday, as Penn State looked to finish a sweep of New Jersey Institute of Technology. The left-hander allowed just one hit and walked a batter, keeping NJIT off the scoreboard while striking out seven batters in six innings of work. NJIT erupted for seven runs over their last three at-bats to avoid the sweep, but not before Biasi made life miserable for the Highlanders

Ohio State Soph. OF Dominic Canzone

Ohio State opened their home slate with a swept Cal State Northridge, running their season-best winning streak to six games. The catalyst for the streaking Buckeyes has been Canzone, their leadoff hitter. The right fielder picked up eight hits over 15 at-bats, with two doubles, to set the table for an OSU lineup that scored 20 runs against the Matadors.

Michigan Fr. LHP Ben Dragani

Grabbing Freshman of the Week honors, Dragani turned in a brilliant, and efficient, performance against Bowling Green to cap a weekend sweep of the Falcons for Michigan. In his first start as a Wolverine, Dragani allowed just one unearned run off five hits, and struck out six batters without issuing a walk, needing only 74 pitches to pitch seven innings.

Michigan State Jr. RHP Riley McCauley

McCauley made sure the Spartans were victorious in their first home game of the season. On Thursday, against Niagara, McCauley pitched seven shutout innings, scattering four hits, to lead Michigan State to a 10-1 victory. McCauley walked three batters and struck out two, in recording his first victory of the season in three decision.

Minnesota middle infielders Luke Pettersen and Terrin Vavra

Minnesota’s middle infield was at the forefront of a headline-grabbing series victory at TCU. Knocking off the nationally-ranked Horned Frogs on the road, Pettersen, a senior second baseman, went 6-for-15 atop the Gopher lineup, while Vavra, a junior shortstop, went 7-for-13 from the three-hole. The two combined for six runs and six RBI.

Iowa Jr. OF Robert Neustrom

Neustrom had a big weekend to help Iowa end a five-game losing streak with a three-game sweep of Evansville. In a Saturday doubleheader against the Purple Aces, Neustrom went 5-for-9 with a pair of home runs, and a double, to score five runs and drive in three. Nuestrom scored his sixth run of the weekend on Sunday, collecting a walk and single in Iowa’s 4-3 win.

Rutgers Fr. LHP Harry Rutkowski

The big weekend for rookie southpaws extends down into Florida, where Rutkowski led Rutgers to a weekend-clinich victory. Helping the Scarlet Knights turn back Florida Gulf Coast, 6-3, Rutkowski struck out seven Osprey batters over six innings, allowing one run off four hits and three walks. Moving to 2-0 on the year, the win ran Rutgers’ winning streak to six games.

Illinois Jr. 1B Bren Spillane

A three-home run game in Illinois’ weekend opener against Southern Illinois was the start of a big weekend for the 10 Innings Player of the Week. Powering the Illini to a 16-6 victory, Spillane’s three home runs were a part of a 4-for-6, six-RBI effort, in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. In the nightcap, Spillane collected four more hits, two were doubles, to collect 19 bases on the weekend in 13 at-bats, for a 1.461 slugging percentage.

Indiana Jr. RHP Jonathan Stiever

Collecting 10 Innings’ Pitcher of the Week honor, Stiever was nearly perfect as Indiana rolled to an 18-0 victory against Northern Illinois. In the series opener against the Huskies, Stiever faced only two batters over the minimum, allowing just two singles in six scoreless innings of work. Moving to 2-1 on the season, Stiever struck out six batters without issuing a walk.

Illinois Jr. RHP Ty Weber

A career outing from Weber helped Illinois grab their road series at Southern Illinois. Over eight innings, Weber allowed two runs, one earned, off three hits and two walks. In the 6-2 victory, eight strikeouts helped Weber moved to 2-1 on the year and lowered his ERA to 3.63.

Friday Penn State Action Postponed to Saturday

University Park, Penn. — Due to forecasted cold temperatures, Penn State’s baseball series opener against NJIT, originally scheduled for Friday evening at 5 p.m. on Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, has been postponed to a Saturday doubleheader starting at noon, Penn State head coach Rob Cooper announced Thursday afternoon.

Fans with tickets for the Friday NJIT game can redeem them at the State College Spikes box office for any other 2018 Penn State baseball game.

The weekend series against NJIT will now feature a doubleheader starting at noon Saturday and one game Sunday, also starting at noon.

Both games will feature 2018 schedule poster giveaways. Saturday will also include a “Luck of the Lions” prize raffle to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. On Sunday, youths ages 12 and under who wear their Little League Jersey able to receive FREE admission and then all kids can run the bases postgame.

Nebraska-Northwestern State Cancelled

Lincoln, Neb. –Today’s baseball game between Nebraska and Northwestern State has been canceled due to weather. The two teams will play one game on Saturday at the regularly scheduled time and one game on Sunday at the regularly scheduled time.

Saturday’s game is set for 2:05 p.m. (CT) and Sunday’s game is set for 11:05 a.m.

March 15-18 Weekend Preview

Rutgers in position to turn the corner

Rutgers is off to a 9-6 start, even though top prospect Jawuan Harris has been limited to 10 games.  (Noah K. Murray/Rutgers University)

Blake Dowson-

Last season, as they had in seven of the previous eight years, Rutgers flew down to Miami to start its season against a very good Hurricane team. The Scarlet Knights dropped the first two games before rolling to a 17-6 victory in the Sunday finale.

But any momentum established from the romp in Coral Gables was short lived, Rutgers went 5-7 in their next 12 games following opening weekend, before finishing the non-conference portion of their schedule at 10-14.

This season, Rutgers again started its season at Miami, and again grabbed the Sunday finale after dropping the first two games of the series. The difference, though, has been the Scarlet Knights’ resiliency this season. Following the Miami series Rutgers has bounced back, going 8-4 since.

“So far, we’re playing okay,” Rutgers head coach Joe Litterio said. “That’s the best way to say it. We’re up and down. Our record’s pretty good. There were a couple games out there that we left out there. So our record should actually be much better. It’s been a process.”

The couple of games Litterio referred to were a Feb. 25, 11-6 loss to Boston College, where the Eagles scored seven runs in the ninth inning, and another last-inning lost, on March 4, when Rutgers couldn't hold a 3-0 lead going into the bottom of the ninth, falling to Old Dominion 4-3.  But, on the heels of a four-game winning streak, those tough defeats are the thing of the past, with Rutgers' biggest weekend to-date on hand.

Rutgers is staring at a series against Florida Gulf Coast, a team that contributed to the Scarlet Knights’ rocky non-conference season a year ago by sweeping their three-game set. The Eagles outscored the Scarlet Knights 26-9 last season.

If Litterio and his squad want to completely flip the script from a season ago, a strong showing against FGCU will go a long way.

The thing about that is, strong showings against the Eagles have been hard to come by this year. They sit at 13-3, having won nine of 10 at home thus far.

“They’re a good ball club. It’ll be a good test for us heading into conference season,” Litterio said. “Going in on a Friday night and playing on someone else’s field is always a tough test. I’m excited to see how we compete.”

Compete is exactly what Rutgers has done this season, according to its head coach. Litterio said a deep lineup has been able to cover up any one struggling spot in the order.

If one or two guys are slumping, four or five other guys have come up with multi-hit games to level out the production. More of that this weekend will lead to success, Litterio said.

“Our lineup is deep,” he said. “I think our guys are firing together and when we do that, it gets real deep. We have some key guys struggling, but other guys are picking them up.”

That deep lineup has seen 13 different guys pick up at least two RBI, including four that have reached double-digit runs batted in, and three more that have contributed seven. Five regulars are hitting above .300, led by Kyle Walker (hitting .515 in 33 at-bats) and Luke Bowerbank (.340 in 53 at-bats).

However, the Rutgers lineup has its work cut out for it this weekend, facing a Florida Gulf Coast staff that boasts three weekend starters who have all logged over 20 innings, and all sport an ERA of 2.74 or better.

All of that can be daunting, considering this is one of Rutgers’ biggest series in years.

Although the team has been in Florida for the last week, on spring break, the wear and tear of the travel a northern team faces over the first month can lead to tired bodies, haphazard and inconsistent play. And in some years, that would most likely be the case, according to Litterio.

“[Getting on so many planes] usually does take a toll, but I think this year it’s going too fast, because we’re playing good baseball,” Litterio said. “Everyone is getting along. There are no grumpy faces on the bench. We finished up practice [on Thursday], and everyone had high energy, they were focused. Usually this time of year, it’s a grind. We feel good with where we’re at right now.”

Win a couple games against FGCU, and Rutgers will feel really good heading into Big Ten play.

 

Webb's Words: Statement weekend round two

I often try to avoid putting too much stock into one weekend. First, baseball is a weird game, more than any sport, anyone can beat anyone. But more importantly, one three-game weekend is barely 5% of a 56-game college baseball season. A football fan wouldn't punt on a season after just one game, so I try to remind others that one weekend doesn't make or break a season.

But it's fair to say some weekends are bigger than others.

The first weekend of March saw high-profiled contests take place throughout the country. Michigan had a four-game series at Stanford, Indiana went to San Diego for another four-game set, Texas welcomed Northwestern and the Dairy Queen Classic saw Arizona, UCLA, and Washington take on Illinois, Michigan State and host Minnesota in a de facto Big Ten/Pac-12 challenge. Across those 21 games, the Big Ten went 10-11, lead by Illinois sweeping the DQ field and Indiana taking three games from San Diego. The weekend allowed Indiana to cement their position as a top team, and cause many to take notice of the Illini.

It's time for another significant weekend for the Big Ten.

In addition to Rutgers' series at Florida Gulf Coast, the conference has two more tough road series, Maryland travels to No. 18 East Carolina, while No. 11 TCU hosts Minnesota.

Both Maryland and Minnesota have appeared in the NCAA Tournament within the last two years, and each team has a roster which should put them in position to contend for a spot in another regional. Expectations were high entering the season, with the Gophers and Terrapins predicted to finished third and second, respectively, by D1Baseball.com.

Unfortunately neither team has really lived up to their billing. Minnesota went 1-2 in the DQ Classic, before suffering another 1-2 weekend last week at home against Creighton, to stand a respectable, but not too mighty, 12-7 on the year. Maryland has as many losses as Minnesota, but three less wins, their 9-7 record the result of a very uneven start to Rob Vaughn's tenure in College Park.

But any unfulfilled promise from the first month can be wiped away this weekend. In fact, this weekend is just the beginning of what could still shape up to be a special March, a month that stands tall come May.

Following Minnesota's trip to Texas, the Gophers open Big Ten play at reigning champion Nebraska, then welcome St. John's a preseason ranked team, to Minneapolis during their bye week. Maryland starts conference play in two weeks, but not before Stetson makes a trip to town, a team that is 13-1 and checks in as the No. 28 team in this week's NCBWA poll.

So this week this is a big week, but it won't make or break the season for Maryland, Minnesota, or Rutgers, but it's a weekend that can go a long way in starting something big, and provide another testament to the growth of Big Ten baseball, that Maryland and Minnesota are perennial regional threats, or that Rutgers is just the latest team to take a step forward.

 

Required reading

Former Illinois Coach Augie Garrido Dies -Matt Daniels, Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette

Punxsutawney natives bring lifelong friendship to Penn State -Matthew Knaub, Daily Collegian

Matt Warren appreciating his extra innings for Huskers -Evan Bland, Omaha World-Herald

What to watch for

Avoiding the letdown

What may be most impressive about Indiana's season so far is the Hoosiers ability to avoid a stretch of bad play. The bats may not have been out in full force last week against Pacific, but the pitching was stingy and powered a series victory. Any slight hiccup that may have occurred with a midweek loss to Cincinnati and dropping the first game to Pacific, 2-1, has been swept to the side by three straight victories.

At 12-4 and with a handful of quality victories, IU looks the part of a potential regional host.

A lot was expected of Indiana this season, the coaches' preseason conference favorite, and a veteran team has kept a steady ship.

Now it's time to see how a couple of teams, who many didn't think much of in the preseason, react with the attention upon them growing.

Illinois cracked this week's Baseball America poll at No. 24, and Ohio State caught the eye of DIBaseball.com after a midweek swept of UNC-Wilmington after splitting two games against Coastal Carolina. At 8-4 and 11-6, respectively, Illinois and Ohio State may be the contenders Indiana must fend off, opposed to Maryland and Nebraska, whom received the bulk of the preseason attention.

After picking up quality wins away from home, both the Buckeyes and Illini are playing baseball in their home state this weekend. As Illinois travels to Southern Illinois and Ohio State hosts Cal State-Northridge, but Big Ten teams are favored to win, and taking care of business against the teams they should, will help both sustain their momentum heading into conference action, with a growing eye on the NCAA Tournament.

Whelan's return

With all of Iowa's star power last year,  Jake Adams, Tyler Cropley, Mason McCoy, and Robert Neustrom, helping the Hawkeyes to the Houston Regional, it may take a peak at the Big Ten record book to remember Chris Whelan was selected as the Most Outstanding Player of the Big Ten Tournament.

After starting out 8-2, Iowa has dropped five consecutive games, in part due to an offense batting just .248, the absences of McCoy, to graduation, and Adams, the nation's home run leader, have certainly been felt. But this weekend Rick Heller and the Hawkeyes hope to get a shot in the arm and turn around their recent ways with the return of Whelan.

Coming off of a campaign where he batted .307 with 11 doubles and seven home runs as a sophomore, the outfielder has missed the first four months of the season after sustaining an UCL injury in his throwing elbow, which required surgery. Whelan has been medically cleared to swing and returns to the Iowa lineup as the team's DH this weekend against Evansville.

With only 21 extra-base hits, the fewest in the Big Ten, a bat like Whelan's returning one week before Iowa hosts Indiana to start Big Ten play is exactly what Iowa needs, as it seeks a fifth consecutive 30-win season.

Michigan, the new Florida?

It may be spring break for many teams around the Big Ten, but the action isn't heavy in Florida this weekend, only Rutgers is playing in the Sunshine State. Instead, no state has more Big Ten teams playing in it this weekend than Michigan.

Michigan and Michigan State have kicked off their home slates this week, continuing action on campus this weekend with the Wolverines hosting Bowling Green and the Spartans welcoming Niagara. An hour north of East Lansing, Central Michigan plays host to Northwestern.

There may be a little shifting of schedules in the three series, as Friday temperatures won't break the mid-30s throughout the state, but Saturday and Sunday will be sunny, climbing into the 40s and 50s. As the temperatures rise, all three teams hope they catch fire, Michigan, Michigan State, and Northwestern have struggled to 4-11, 5-10 and 5-7 starts so far.

 

By the numbers

.156- Already a two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week, Mason Erla is holding the opposition to a .156 batting average.

.333- Opponents have a 33% success rate in stolen base attempts against Indiana, stealing a Big Ten-low five bases in 15 attempts.

0- The Wolverines are the lone Big Ten yet to record a save this season.

1.32- The combined era over 47.2 innings between Purdue starters Tanner Andrews and Gareth Stroh, who respectively rank first and third in the conference.

51- Ohio State senior first baseman Noah McGowan has touched 51 bases this year, 10 more than any other Big Ten player.

203- Minnesota leads the Big Ten in hits with 203, for the conference's best average (.308), while having the best walk-to-strikeout ratio with just 107 strikeouts to 93 walks.

Iowa Changes Schedule; Saturday DH on Tap Against Evansville

Iowa City, Iowa — With real feel temperatures expected to be around 28 degrees and early evening precipitation forecasted Friday’s University of Iowa baseball series opener against Evansville has been pushed back to Saturday.  The Hawkeyes and Purple Aces will play a doubleheader beginning at 12 p.m. (CT) at Duane Banks Field.

Sunday’s series finale is still scheduled for a 1:05 p.m. (CT) start.

March 15 Power Rankings

How does a team win a baseball game? By scoring more runs than their opponent.

This week’s power rankings takes a look at the leading run creator for each Big Ten team. Runs created is statistic created by Bill James to estimate the number of runs a player contributes to his team. For the algebraically-inclined, the formula is:

RC = ( (Hits + walk) x Total bases) / (At-bats + walks).

Don’t worry, we did the math for you.

Previous power rankings: Week 1Week 2, Week 3

#1 Indiana (12-4) Last Week: 1

Jr. OF Logan Kaletha: 12.95 RC. Indiana’s leadoff batter, Kaletha has been the catalyst to IU’s offense, batting .304, and posting a .500 on-base percentage, behind 11 walks and 11 hit by pitches, to score 19 runs. The junior outfielder has shown some pop with four doubles, two triples, and two home runs, to slug .554.

#2 Illinois (9-4) LW: 3

Jr.  1B Bren Spillane: 15.33 RC. Making a strong case for the most improved player in the conference, Spillane’s emergence is a key factor to the Illini’s hot start. Anchoring Dan Hartleb’s lineup, Spillane has a triple-slash of .367/.429/.735, with seven doubles, three home runs, and 15 RBI.

#3 Ohio State (11-6) LW: 7

Sr. 1B Noah McGowan: 23.84 RC. Leading the Big Ten with 26 RBI, McGowan powers an Ohio State lineup that is averaging a conference-leading 7.6 runs per game. With a .406/.476/.739 line, the Buckeye has earned the right to be named the Big Ten’s best player over the first month.

#4 Rutgers (9-6) LW: 12

Sr. INF Kyle Walker: 11.4 RC. Although Walker has only recorded 33 at-bats, the senior Scarlet Knight has picked up 17 hits. Walker’s .515 average ranks second in the country, with his ability to get on base helping Rutgers to a solid 9-6 start.

#5 Nebraska (10-7) LW: 8

Sr. DH/OF Scott Schreiber: 17.06 RC. Over the last week, Schreiber has collected his 200th career hit and 30th career home. Batting .348 on the season, with five doubles and four home runs, the four-year starter is closing a strong Husker career with another season as the key offensive force in Darin Erstad’s lineup.

#6 Minnesota (12-7) LW: 5

Jr. SS Terrin Vavra: 18.57 RC. Vavra is the top run creator in a Gopher lineup that’s batting .301, the best clip in the Big Ten. With a .392 average, composed of four doubles, two triples, and a home run, Vavra leads the Big Ten with 29 hits, second to McGowan with 19 runs scored.

#7 Maryland (8-7) LW: 6

Jr. 2B Nick Dunn: 18.59 RC. Following a summer where he established himself as a top prospect, garnering all-start honors in the Cape Cod League, the first month of Dunn’s junior season as done nothing to dispel notion. Dunn leads Maryland in average (.358), doubles (five), home runs (five), runs scored (16) and RBI (18).

#8 Purdue (9-6) LW: 2

Jr. 1B Jacson McGowan: 18.57 RC. As Purdue looks to show their 2017 turnaround wasn’t a fluke, McGowan has anchored a Boilermaker lineup that is the program’s most potent since its 2012 regional team. McGowan leads the Big Ten with a .745 slugging percentage, on the strength of a Big Ten-best six home runs.

#9 Iowa (8-6) LW: 4

Jr. OF Robert Neustrom: 9.01 RC. While it hasn’t been a spectacular start to the 2018 season for a player some evaluators view Big Ten’s top positional prospect for the June draft, it has been a solid month. Neustrom leads Iowa with a .323 average, second in on-base (.403) and slugging (.415) percentages.

#10 Michigan State (4-10) LW: 10

So. OF Justin Antoncic: 11.07 RC. For most Michigan State hitters, the first month was a forgettable one, collectively the club has a .224 average in 14 games. The exception being a Justin Antoncic, a player who had all of two at-bats a year ago, but leads the team with a .354 average, six extra-base hits, .971 OPS, and five stolen bases.

#11 Michigan (4-11) LW: 9

Jr. OF Miles Lewis: 6.6 RC. Lewis is the lone Wolverine with more than one home run, his two accounting for 40% of the team’s total. With a .306 on-base percentage and .400 slugging mark, the outfielder is the only regular with an OPS above .700, as Michigan’s offense struggles to Big Ten-lows average (.218) and slugging percentage (.287)

#12 Northwestern (5-7) LW: 13

Jr. 1B Willie Bourbon: 11.63 RC. Northwestern had a big void to fill with the graduation of Joe Hoscheit and so far Bourbon has elevated his game to be the big bats the ‘Cats need. Eight of Bourbon’s first 12 hits have gone for multiple bases, with two doubles, two triples and four home runs leading to a .714 slugging percentage.

#13 Penn State (4-8) LW: 12

Jr. C Ryan Sloniger: 9.54 RC. It’s been a rocky start for the Nittany Lions, but one consistent has been the performance of Sloniger. Enjoying a breakout season in his third year in State College, the backstop’s 13 RBI and .946 OPS pace the club.

BTN Releases 2018 Television Schedule

Chicago, Ill. –BTN announced its 2018 baseball and softball schedule, featuring over 400 games on BTN/BTN2Go and BTN Plus throughout the upcoming season.

BTN’s television coverage of Big Ten baseball begins with a non-conference showdown between Pittsburgh and Penn State on Wednesday, March 21, at 6:30 p.m. ET. Last season Nebraska claimed its first ever regular season Big Ten Championship and Iowa won the Big Ten Tournament en route to the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years. The Big Ten coaches voted the Indiana Hoosiers, currently ranked No. 14 nationally, as the 2018 conference favorite.

BTN’s television coverage of Big Ten softball begins Friday, March 23, when No. 22 Michigan visits Iowa at 6 p.m. ET. Reigning Big Ten Champion Minnesota makes its debut on Saturday and returns seven starters from its championship squad, including Big Ten Player and Freshman of the Year Kendyl Lindaman. No. 17 Ohio State currently leads the way in the conference with a record of 16-2.

Highlights and coverage of Big Ten baseball and softball will be featured on The B1G Show, which airs on Sundays beginning April 1. Hosts Rick Pizzo and Mike Hall will discuss Big Ten matchups and breakout performances from the weekend’s games.

Illinois at SIU Schedule Changed

Champaign, Ill. — Due to the weather forecast, Illinois and Southern Illinois have moved their scheduled Friday game to a doubleheader Saturday at 12 p.m. CT. The teams will finish the three-game series Sunday at 1 p.m. CT as scheduled.

No. 24 Illinois (9-4) has won eight of its last nine games, including a 9-6 victory in the home opener Wednesday against Milwaukee.