Week 2 Weekend Observations

What grabbed 10 Innings’ attention the most the second weekend of the season? Here’s a look.

Purdue continues to prove times have changed

Purdue’s five-run ninth inning against Notre Dame on Sunday helped the Boilermakers capture the Alamo Irish Classic. It also was the latest sign things have changed in West Lafayette. After Purdue lost 4-2 in extra innings to the Irish on Saturday, halting their perfect start to the season at 5-0, the Boilermakers appeared in over their heads against their in-state rival on Sunday. But, down to their final three outs and trailing by four, Purdue showed the character of the culture Mark Wasikowski continues to mold is one of resiliency. With a 6-1 record heading into March, Purdue is receiving votes in the NCBWA poll for the second straight week, and showed they can go toe-to-toe with a team that previously took a weekend series at LSU. Purdue is far from untalented, no team in the conference had more than Purdue’s five preseason All-10 Innings selections, but more evidence continues to mount that Purdue is back among the top of the conference.

Michigan’s growing pains

With the turnover Michigan experienced, 11 draft picks tends to remove a few talented players from a program, it was expected the start of the season for the Wolverines may be a bit tough as newcomers take on Division I college baseball for the first time, and previous role players take on bigger burdens. But the degree to which Michigan has scuffled has been surprising. The competition was stout, but an 0-3 showing in the Tony Gwynn Legacy, combined with a Monday night defeat against San Diego State has Michigan sitting at 2-5, ahead of its four-game set at #5 Stanford. Michigan is pitching at a serviceable level, holding a 4.50 ERA, but the team is batting just .219 and has the Big Ten’s worst fielding percentage at  .950, yet to play an error-free game. Before needing to replace six starts, last year, Michigan finished second in the country with a .983 fielding percentage.

Don’t count Michigan State out just yet

Michigan State wasn’t playing bad over it’s first five games, the Spartans suffered three defeats of one run, but an 0-5 start is an 0-5 start, and Spartan faithful couldn’t be blamed if they were to have concern. But it is worth remembering five games is less than 10% of a 56-game season, and that all teams will scuffle throughout the season, some at the start, some in the middle, some at the end. For the Spartans, their skid ended on Saturday, before starting a new streak, this time on the winning side, in capturing the final two games of their series at Pepperdine. Through their first seven games, Michigan State has shown it will have the pitching necessary to compete for a conference title. Senior right-hander Ethan Landon is pitching to his 2016 self, Riley McCauley has stepped nicely into the Friday role, and the team may have a star in Sunday starter Mason Erla. As a team MSU has a 3.86 ERA, with 68 strikeouts against 17 walks. The offense is still morbid, the team is batting at a .208 clip, two wins and a strong pitching unit should give the Green and White optimism heading into this weekend’s loaded Dairy Queen Classic.

Ohio State’s sustains its offensive mite

Ohio State scored 36 runs in four games during the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge, showing its opening weekend outburst of 34 runs wasn’t a fluke. It was worth watching if this would hold true, as Oregon State and Utah figured to offer better pitching than Canicius and Milwaukee, whom the Bucks played the weekend before. A year after batting .260, the fourth-worst mark in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes boast a healthy .311 average after eight games. Oregon State did not throw their ace Luke Heimlich on Friday, he faced Nebraska on Thursday, but Ohio State striking the Beavers for eight runs, five off of a pair of Connor Pohl home runs, should offer a level of confidence that will provide benefits throughout the season. A mighty offense will also help the 5-3 Buckeyes stay afloat if its defense continues to flounder, Ohio State committed nine errors over the weekend, as their .953 fielding percentage beats only Michigan.

Nebraska’s pitching staff may face another hit

Before the season began, Nebraska lost junior right-handed pitcher Chad Luensmann and redshirt freshman lefty Connor Curry to Tommy John surgery. After the first weekend of the season, junior right-hander Robbie Palkert was lost for the season, also needing Tommy John. Now the Huskers are potentially without left-hander Jake McSteen after the junior left his Saturday start against Oregon State with an elbow concern. Nebraska is expecting Reece Eddins back from his own Tommy John surgery at some point this season, but for now, Nebraska’s pitching depth has taken quite the blow, only juniors Nate Fisher and Mitch Steinhoff represent healthy left-handed pitchers. The continued arm injuries may alter Darin Erstad’s plans to use Luis Alvarado as a two-way player. Alvarado, Nebraska’s Friday starter, made his first appearance in the field on Sunday, starting at first base, and promptly went 2-for-5, helping the club to a 7-4 victory over Utah. With a team average of .216 and only 10 extra-base hits, Nebraska can use Alvarado’s bat, but the rash of injuries may take the coaching staff to take an extremely cautious approach to his dual use.

Northwestern’s prowess on the bases

Coaches can be overly optimistic in the offseason, impressive feats can be exaggerated as there is no perspective to how performances would fare with another team on the mound, in the field, and at the plate. But Northwestern head coach Spencer Allen was confident his team would run more in 2018, and rely on speed to make up for some of the loss in power the Wildcats saw graduate, mainly in the form of All-Big Ten selection Joe Hoscheit. So far Allen’s belief has held true.  Highlighted by six steals in Saturday’s 18-12 victory over Kansas, through six games, Northwestern leads the Big Ten with 17 stolen bases in 19 attempts. Northwestern’s 17 stolen bases represents the fifth-most swipes in the country. A trio of player are leading the charge on the bases, with Alex Erro (6-6), Jack Dunn (5-5), and Ben Dickey (4-5) ranked first, second, and third in the Big Ten. The aggressiveness on the bases have helped Northwestern average 6.5 runs per contents, even through the team is batting .238.

The Weekend 10

The second weekend of the season saw Indiana, Minnesota and Rutgers converge in Port Charlotte, Fla. In games where Big Ten teams didn’t play each other, Indiana and Rutgers tangled on Friday, the conference went 6-1, outscoring the competition 76-28. Helping their teams to 3-0 weekends, Hoosier Pauly Milto was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, while Gopher Terrin Vavra was named the top player of the week.

Across the Gulf of Mexico in the Lone Star State, Purdue continued it’s strong start, going 3-1 to claim the Alamo Irish Classic. Here are the players that powered the Boilermakers to the title and who else shined in the Big Ten over the final weekend of February.

Northwestern Jr. 1B Willie Bourbon

Borboun dialed up quite a weekend as Northwestern had a three-game series at Kansas. Going 6-14, the Wildcat drove in eight runs, scored six, and connected on two home runs.

Purdue Jr. C Nick Dalesandro

Dalesandro capped a big weekend in the Alamo Irish Classic with the game-tying RBI and scored the go-ahead run in Purdue’s thrilling 8-7 victory over Notre Dame on Sunday, to claim the title. Dalesandro batted a team-best .467 over Purdue’s four games in San Antonio, hitting a double and a home run, adding three stolen bases.

Michigan State Fr. RHP Mason Erla

The 10 Innings Freshman of the Week, Erla helped Michigan State clinch its weekend series at Pepperdine with his first collegiate win. Against the Waves, Erla pitched five scoreless innings, surrended just two hits and struck out four batters without issuing a walk.

Nebraska Fr. 3B/OF Jaxon Hallmark

Hallmark went 6-for-15 with two walks and drove in five runs as Nebraska went 2-2 in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge. Hallmark drove in three of Nebraska’s four runs scored against Oregon State, the No. 2 team in the country.

Purdue Fr. RHP Bo Hofstra

En route to being tabbed the Big Ten Freshman of the Week, Hofstra appeared in two games in the Alamo Irish Classic. The right-hander totaled 4.2 innings over the weekend, allowing one run off two hits and a walk, and recorded a save.

Ohio State Sr. 1B/OF Noah McGowan

After leading the country with 12 RBI over opening weekend, McGowan helped Ohio State score 36 runs in four games in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge, driving in seven runs. Needing just two weekend to match his 2017 RBI total, McGowan, the 10 Innings Player of the Week, batted .450 with three doubles and a home run in Surprise.

Indiana Jr. RHP Pauly Milto

On Saturday, Milto recorded his first career complete game, tossing a four-hit shutout in Indiana’s 4-0 win over Boston College. The right-hander struck out eight batters without issuing a walk, running his scoreless innings streak to 15 innings to start the season.

Ohio State Soph. 3B Connor Pohl

Behind the cleanup-hitting McGowan in Ohio State’s batting order, Pohl put together a strong weekend in his own right. Going 7-for-19 in Arizona, Pohl drove in six runs, cross home twice and hit a pair of home runs against Oregon State, in Ohio State’s 10-8 loss on Saturday.

Illinois Jr. 1B Bren Spillane

The graduation of Pat McInerney left a sizable hole in the heart of the Illini batting. Through two weeks junior Bren Spillan has nicely fill the vacancy. Spillane went 7-for-16 over the weekend, using two doubles, a triple and a home run to drive in seven runs.

Minnesota Jr. SS Terrin Vavra

The Big Ten Player of the Week, Vavra powered a Minnesota that twice scored at least 14 runs in Florida. Vavra recorded three hits in every going, going 9-for-15, with two triples, and scored eight runs. Vavra’s .433 is second in the Big Ten.

Feb. 22-25 Weekend Preview

Vaughn's Ready For His Moment

(Photo courtesy Maryland Athletics)

Blake Dowson-

When John Szefc left Maryland to take the head coaching position at Virginia Tech, he handed the ball to Rob Vaughn, to put it in terms we all understand here on this site.

Vaughn isn’t coming into a six-run lead in the ninth inning, and he’s not in line for a save with his new Terrapin club. But he’s in a good spot, let’s say something like a one-run lead, coming into a clean sixth inning. He credits the transition from Coach Szefc to himself for that.

“Big picture, my goal was to be a head coach by the time I was 35. I didn’t know it would happen at 29,” Vaughn said. "The transition to Coach Szefc leaving, to being in the athletic director's office talking about the job, to getting the job, it happened really quickly and really smoothly."

The lead Vaughn has comes from what Szefc left for the 30-year-old first-time head coach: a roster that includes both the 10 Innings Preseason Pitcher and Player of the Year, Taylor Bloom and Marty Costes, and depth behind them both on the mound and in the field.

"I’ve recruited a lot of these position players, and we're working on more depth at those positions. But when you can roll a No. 1 and No. 2 like Taylor Bloom and Tyler Blohm out there, that’s comforting. We have two very reliable guys to throw out there…guys that have a lot of experience. It’s rare in college baseball to have good, experienced seniors…we have lots of those guys."

Vaughn could blow through the final few innings for a win, if a check in the win column was what he is after. It could be a Big Ten title. His team certainly has the talent. It could be making or hosting a super regional.

But to hear it from him, wins and losses and tournament berths aren’t exactly how he is going to measure success. He wants those things to be a byproduct of something much bigger.

“We have a vision for where we’re going…we have our steps along the way,” Vaughn said. “My goal has nothing to do with the end product. We spend so much time getting [the players] to buy into the process and trusting the results will take care of themselves. We want to play with freedom, unafraid to crash and burn. [Wednesday] night we got beat by a good William & Mary team, but it was one of those things where I thought the energy was great…we just didn’t execute.”

The loss evened Maryland's record on the young season after the Terrapins took two out of three in Knoxville against Tennessee last weekend, a statement series win for Vaughn to open with. Eight months after Szefc handed the ball to him, Vaughn got to hand the ball to Bloom to get the season rolling, a welcoming arm to get his head coaching career started. Bloom did nothing other than strike out nine Volunteers over seven scoreless innings and second baseman Nick Dunn pounded three home runs.

The non-conference slate doesn’t get any easier from here, with series against Bryant and East Carolina coming up, as well as games versus Coastal Carolina and No. 6 North Carolina. And the conference schedule includes Indiana, Michigan, Purdue, and Nebraska.

Vaughn said the most important thing he can do this season is build bonds with his guys, especially the pitching staff, who he hasn’t had a ton of contact with during his time in College Park. After that happens, things start to fall into place.

"I caught in college, I’ve caught professionally, I’ve caught my whole life, so I’ve spent a ton of time working with pitchers,” he said. "…knowing them on an intimate level, talking about things as a staff, knowing pitchers really well, that’s important. [I want to] spend a lot of time just hanging out with them, getting to know them, what makes each guy tick. that’s the root of everything."

It’s a lot to take on in year one for a 30-year-old head coach, but Vaughn is in a good position to succeed. He said himself before the season he wouldn’t have accepted the position if he had felt it wasn’t the right position to be able to succeed.

And so it’s so far, so good. But then again, it’s only the sixth inning for Vaughn. And we all know the later into a game it gets, the harder it is to get outs.

Webb's Words: The Big Ten is a worthy foe to the Pac-12

Chris Webb-

In the summer of 2013, I spoke to Erik Bakich on his experience over his first year in Ann Arbor. I asked whether the season had gone as expected, what the program needed to do to return to its past glory, the state of Michigan recruiting.

Each topic also reflected the state of the Big Ten. Meeting expectations was dependent on the team reaching the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2013 and how the Wolverines stacked up against their conference foes. Returning to the top of the conference would require Michigan bringing in players better than their conference peers. At the time, more and more Big Ten programs were gaining traction in recruiting and finding the right players to make

Indiana captured the attention of the country with their run to Omaha, and the Big Ten produced two NCAA Tournament teams that year, Illinois was the other, for a second straight year. Prior to 2012, the Big Ten only sent multiple teams to the tournament in twice of the previous six seasons.

The conference was getting better and Bakich spoke to how it was becoming a destination for top baseball players throughout the country. His sentiment was reflected in one bold statement, stating he believed the Big Ten not only could be a conference viewed as one of the best, but have a deserved place at the Power 5 table that one wouldn't bat an eye towards. Bakich alluded to the depth of the Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conferences and how they'll have a leg up, he previously coached within both conferences, but stated the Big Ten could and would hold its own against the Pac-12 and Big XII.

That time has come.

When it comes to placing teams in the NCAA Tournament, the ACC and SEC will always be 1-2 or 2-1. Geographically advantages will carry the day, less road games, more time outside in a natural practice element, the excess of state lotteries to aid recruiting, those are all advantages Big Ten programs will never have.

But for the other Power 5 conferences, the Big Ten can and has been an equal, if not better peer. Outside of the ACC and SEC, the Big Ten is the only conference to have at least five teams make in the NCAA Tournament in two of the last three years, sending 13 teams, from eight different programs, to a regional.

This weekend, for a second year in a row, the Big Ten - Pac-12 Baseball Challenge brings Nebraska and Ohio State together to take on #2 Oregon State and Utah, in Surprise, Ariz. In Nebraska and Oregon State, the respective reigning conference champions square off. In Ohio State and Utah, two 2016 conference champions can be found (Ohio State won the 2016 Big Ten Tournament, Utah were the Pac-12 champs.)

As the Big Ten looks to avenge a 2-6 showing last year, the eight games are just 21 games between the Big Ten and Pac-12 over the next two weeks. This year's Dairy Queen Classic doubles as another Big Ten/Pac-12 challenge, with Illinois, Michigan State and host Minnesota taking on #26 Arizona, #12 UCLA and Washington.

Next weekend, after they have their own game this Saturday against Arizona in the Town Gwynn Legacy, Michigan caps their spring break with a trip to Stanford for a four-game set in Palo Alto.

And about the Cardinal, Stanford is the storied Pac-12 program that Bakich declined a summer offer to become their next head coach, following the retirement of legendary coach Mark Marquess, opting to stay in Ann Arbor.

That's what Bakich saw five years ago, a conference going toe-to-toe with a conference like the Pac-12, coming out on top as the place to be.

What to watch for this weekend

Can Penn State and Purdue stay perfect?

Penn State and Purdue opened the season with perfect 3-0 records, respectively sweeping Elon and Western Michigan. The competition picks up in week two, with both heading to tournaments which features at least one tough test.

For Penn State, the Nittany Lions return to North Carolina, headed to Cary and the USA Baseball Complex for games against Maryland-Baltimore County, Monmouth, and St. John's. St. John's, enters the weekend the No. 27 team in the country, coming off a midweek win over  #8 North Carolina. It will be a tall task for Penn State to duplicate it's 3-0 weekend, but a strong showing in Cary will give further credence to a turnaround year in State College.

Like Penn State, Purdue will have an opportunity to showing their spotless opening weekend was a true sign of things to come 2018. In Alamo Irish Classic, hosted by Notre Dame in San Antonio, Purdue will take on Saint Louis, Incarnate Wood and the Irish, with a championship or consolation game on Sunday. Notre Dame is on the outside of this week's NCBWA poll, but the Irish took two of three from then No. 11 LSU in Baton Rogue last weekend. The Boilermakers aligned their rotation so ace Tanner Andrews will be on the bump Saturday against their in-state foe.

Who excels in regional-type field?

Penn State and Purdue aren't alone in preparing to take part in a quality tournament this weekend. Throughout the country, stout competition will put Big Ten teams to the test this weekend, resembling could be found in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

In Myrtle Beach, Illinois will see if it can match Indiana's 3-1 showing in a Coastal Carolina-hosted tournament. The Illini will play the Chanticleers twice, as well as face West Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth in the Brittain Resorts Invitaitonal.

In the All-State Sugar Bowl Baseball Classic, Iowa joins a four-team field alongside Ball State, New Orleans and Virginia Tech, looking to build off of their 3-0 weekend.

Out west, Michigan will face San Diego, Arizona and Cal Poly in the Tony Gwynn Legacy in San Diego.

Can Michigan State rebound?

Michigan State's first trip this season to California was a forgettable one. Last weekend, the Spartans dropped all four contests at Fresno State, three by one run. Michigan State returns to the Golden State this weekend for three games at Pepperdine (2-3), looking to reverse course on the young season. Junior right-handed pitcher Riley McCauley shined in his weekend debut, striking out 12 batters in six innings, allowing only one run off two hits. But timely hits alluded Jake Boss' club. Michigan State batted .203 for the weekend, leaving strong starts by McCauley and senior right-hander Ethan Landon (6.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 9 SO) fall by the wayside.

Burke Granger & Chris Webb-

The Big Ten’s top pitching prospect is set to be under a heavy scouting eye this weekend. Transitioning into the Friday starter role for Ohio State, junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Feltner will square off against #2 Oregon State in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge.

Splitting time between starting and reliever, Feltner was inconsistent in 2017, going 1-5 with a 6.32 ERA. Fortunes turned in the Cape for the 6’4, 195-pound hurler, as the Russ Ford Outstanding Relief Pitcher winner did not allow an earned run, recording eight saves in 13 appearances.

An above-average athlete with projectable frame, Feltner can sit 93-95 with a fastball that garners plus grades for its sheer velocity, though he has yet to show consistent command with it or any of his secondary offerings. As a Buckeye, Feltner has struck out 124 batters in 136.1 innings but has walked 61 batters. Thrown in the low-80s, his best off-speed pitch is a slider with sharp two-plane break, while a mid-80s changeup gives him a useable third pitch.

"His changeup is OK," said an longtime AL scout. "But he needs to get to it," he added, alluding to Feltner's trouble of locating his fastball and falling behind in counts.

While his in-game showings has caused some scouts to take an approach of wait-and-see, one NL cross-checker spoke to the things that are going to show up no matter what as reason to consider Feltner as a potential top-three round pick.

"You look at the body and the arm," the cross-checker said. "He's a good athlete, the arm works, it isn't impeded in his delivery, and the body can probably add on another 10 pounds, and think of what that will do to his ability to pitch with the velocity he has."

Oregon State features three potential top-two round draft picks, led by second baseman Nick Madrigal, who may be the most talented collegiate hitter in this class. A strong showing against the Beavers can cement Feltner’s place as a top prospect in his own right.

"Teams won't forget this game when debating in the draft room," the AL scout said. "If he does well, they'll use it to support why they should take him. If he does poorly, they'll use it to argue why they shouldn't."

10 Innings' Scouting Grades

FB- 60/65

CV- 35/45

SL- 40/50

CH- 45/55

Control- 35/50

 

All Session Big Ten Baseball Tournament Tickets on Sale

Omaha, Neb. –This spring some of the best college athletes in the country and their fan favorite teams will be welcomed back to TD Ameritrade Park Omaha for the return of the Big Ten Baseball Tournament.

All session tickets for the 2018 Big Ten Baseball Tournament are on sale. The tournament is scheduled to span five days, starting on Wednesday, May 23, culminating in a championship game on Sunday, May 27 at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.

Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com, by calling 1-800-745-3000, or by visiting the CenturyLink Center Box Office. All session ticket sales are priced as follows:

• Club Level – $55
• Reserved – $50
• College Student/18-under – $25
• Children two and under will not need a ticket

The Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority (MECA) and University of Nebraska-Lincoln are thrilled to co-host the Tournament this year through the year 2022.

Feb. 22 Power Rankings

The 10 Innings Power Rankings are back for 2018. But this year, instead of touching on where the team is or isn’t playing its best baseball, as we rank each team based on the quality of baseball they are playing at the present moment (not necessarily who is best 1-13, though over time they usually align), each week will have a theme where we share insights from each team on that particularly topic.

For week one, we highlight the aces around the Big Ten, noting how each team’s top pitcher opened the season, and how such a showing would impact the their team’s season if it were the norm.

Records through Feb. 20.

#1 Indiana (3-1)

In Indiana’s 6-3 loss to Oklahoma, junior right-handed pitcher Jonathan Stiever allowed six runs off eight hits in five innings, giving up three home runs. Last year, as IU’s Friday starter in 14 games, Stiever was struck for 10 home runs, showing there is a propensity to surrender hard contact. As much as IU has an offense that can bail him out, Stiever will need to curtail the loud hits, if he’s to be the ace that Indiana needs to have a long postseason.

#2 Purdue (3-0)

Purdue’s Tanner Andrews was dominant in his start against Western Michigan. In 6.2 innings, Andrews did not concede a run, scattering four hits without issuing a walk, striking out nine batters. Such a showing isn’t out of the norm for Andrews, he had four scoreless outings last year. But even with those four outings, Andrews finished with a 4.52 ERA, due to four outings where he allowed at least five earned runs. If the Andrews that pitched against WMU can be the Andrews Purdue routinely sees in 2018, last year’s turn-around is only the beginning.

#3 Maryland (2-1)

Andrews didn’t open the season with another weekly honor as that went to Maryland’s Taylor Bloom. Bloom edged out Andrews with a nine-strikeout, zero-walk showing himself, holding Tennessee off of the scoreboard over seven innings of five-hit baseball. Bloom thrives off of command and control, using location and deception to beat hitters. Outings like the one against the Volunteers can lead to back-to-back Big Ten Pitcher of the Year winners for the Terps, and a fourth regional in five years.

#4 Penn State (3-0)

Justin Hagenman nicely assumed the role of the Penn State ace, leading the charge in what ultimately was a sweep of Elon. Pitching to a 5.49 ERA over 80.1 innings in 2017, Hagenman opened his junior season with five innings of scoreless baseball against Elon, striking out seven batters, walking two, and giving up four hits. The .183 opponent’s average carried last year by ace Sal Biasi may be hard to duplicate, but his 3.18 is in reach with showings like Hagenman’s on Friday, which would go a long way in Penn State rebounding from a 18-37 season.

#5 Nebraska (3-1)

Take a bow, Mr. Alvarado. In Luis Alvarado’s first season as a collegiate pitcher, the Husker right-hander logged 10 saves and held a 1.76 ERA in 15.2 innings. Not bad. In Luis Alvarado’s first start as a collegiate pitcher, the Nebraska senior allowed one run off four hits, striking out nine batters in 4.2 innings. That also is not bad. Alvarado has the stuff to take Nebraska’s Friday role and run with it. He still only has 20.1 career innings under his belt, but if the flash of promise can last a starter’s workload, Nebraska will have more than a fighter’s chance to repeat.

#6 Ohio State (3-1)

It was a fairly typical outing for junior right-hander pitcher Ryan Feltner, which unfortunately isn’t what the Ohio State coaches need from their ace in 2018. Entering the season as the Big Ten’s top pitching prospect, Feltner had a 6.32 ERA over 62.2 innings last year, striking out 57 batters but walking 28. Feltner’s line against Canisius on Friday: 5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 6 SO. Feltner has the ability to power his fastball by batters, but needs to reel in his control and concede fewer hits if the Bucks are to rebound from last year’s 11th-place finish.

#7 Iowa (3-0)

Nick Allgeyer did not receive a decision in Iowa’s 4-3 victory against Toledo on opening day, but the showing by the junior lefty was a victory for Iowa. A year removed from Tommy John surgery, Allgeyer struck out seven batters in five innings, held Toledo to four hits, and walked three batters. After pitching to a 3.44 ERA in 36.2 innings in 2016, Allgeyer was inline to be a weekend starter last year. Now, as Iowa needs to replace its season-ending weekend rotation, Allgeyer is in a position to help the Hawkeyes sustain the program’s rising momentum.

#8 Michigan (2-1)

Any of Michigan’s three weekend starters could serve as the staff ace, but we’ll give the nod to righty Alec Rennard on seniority, and due to the senior being first out of the gate for Michigan. Army mustered only four hits off Rennard in five innings, going down on strikes four times without collecting a walk. Rennard is a strike-thrower, finishing the 2017 season with only 15 in 65 innings. The ability to keep free bases to a minimum will immensely help Michigan as the Wolverines settle in a lineup with six new starters in the field.

#9 Minnesota (2-2)

Moving from midweek starter to weekend headliner, Reggie Meyer gave Minnesota a solid start in their opener at Georgia Tech. Over four innings, Meyer allowed three runs to score, two earned, off four hits, walking a batter and punching out three. Pitching is the big question mark for the Gophers after losing their closer and weekend bookends. As he was on Friday, Meyer doesn’t have to be spectacular, just solid, to help Minnesota seek a second Big Ten title in three years.

#10 Illinois (1-1)

Illinois’ season opener occurred on Sunday, after a cancelled flight prevented them from heading to Texas as planned, then snow postponed an adjusted opener in St. Louis on Saturday. Ty Weber was on the mound when Illinois finally opened the season against South Dakota St.. But given the circumstances, who takes the ball this Friday may change. Weber or not, Illinois will ask more of the left-hander than what he showed last year, going 2-7 with a 5.51 ERA in 78.1 innings. Sunday’s start was a step in the right direction, holding the Jackrabbits to two runs in 4.2 innings, Weber did walk three while striking out three.

#11 Rutgers (1-2)

Senior John O’Reilly had the toughest opponent of any Big Ten pitcher this weekend, taking on Miami. But with 35 starts under his belt, few pitchers in the country have been called upon to start as many games as O’Reilly has. With his background, he knows the three-inning outing against Miami isn’t good enough to help Rutgers move up the Big Ten pecking order. O’Reilly walked three batters and hit another, and gave up five hits as the Hurricane scored seven runs, five earned, off the right-handed pitcher.

#12 Northwestern (1-2)

The lone Wildcat pitcher to make a start in every weekend in 2017, hopes are high in Evanston that Hank Christie can be a leading force in Northwestern sustaining the momentum created in the program last year. The first start to Christie’s sophomore season wasn’t favorable to that cause. In 3.1 innings, Omaha racked up six runs off seven hits. Northwestern will utilize a tandem-system, piggybacking pitchers at a predetermined mark, so Christie may not have the opportunity to put up eye-popping numbers, but with the ball in his hand to open the weekend, his outings can go a long way in setting the tone for the Wildcats throughout the season.

#13 Michigan State (0-4)

The Spartans left Fresno without a win, but their ace Riley McCauley did everything he could to start the season on the right foot. Making the transition from closer to start, McCauley punched out 12 Fresno State Bulldogs in six innings, allowing one run off two hits and two walks. A coach never knows what a pitcher will give him when he’s extended in a new role, Jake Boss will gladly take Friday night’s McCauley for the remaining 50 games of the season.

Week 1 Weekend Observations

The opening weekend is in the books, and it was a fair weekend for the Big Ten, as the conference went 27-16. In five opportunities, the Big Ten picked up wins over nationally-ranked programs, Indiana topped South Alabama and Rutgers wrapped up their weekend with a victory over Miami. Three teams went 3-0, Iowa, Penn State, and Purdue, while Maryland and Michigan won weekend sets, with the Buckeyes and Cornhuskers joined the Hoosiers in going 3-1.

Digging deeper, here’s the top observations from the weekend that was.

Billy Phillips provides the weekend highlight

The box score may not garner a second look, it was a scoreless inning of relief in a lopsided defeat, allowing one hit with one strikeout, but Maryland junior left-handed pitcher Billy Phillips provided the highlight in all of college baseball this weekend.

From Wilmington, Del., Phillips’ sixth inning appearance in the Terrapins’ weekend finale against Tennessee was the first career outing for Phillips, as the southpaw has missed the prior two seasons fighting, recovering and winning a battle against leukemia, dating back to his senior year of high school in 2015.

In a conference where from Ohio State left-handed pitcher Zach Farmer valiantly fought leukemia, as well as former Minnesota pitching coach Todd Oakes, we’re once again reminded of the resolve in humans and the character of the individuals who play and coach in the sport. And as we learned with Farmer and Oakes, nobody fights alone and we’re all there to support Phillips as his leukemia fades more and more into the distance.

Do not question their commitment to baseball

There’s been a noticeable increase in the level of commitment Big Ten baseball programs have seen over the last decade. The most obvious example of the uptick in commitment are the stadium renovations or completely new stadiums seen around the conference. Less noticeable signs of backing are increased salary pools for assistant coaches, more members to support staffs in the form of director of baseball operations and video coordinators, and increased recruiting budgets.

The latest sign of Big Ten programs doing everything they can to field a competitive team was on display this weekend as weather forced Illinois, Northwestern and Purdue alter their schedules.

All three teams were set to fly out of Chicago on Thursday, but each saw their flight canceled. Ultimately Illinois and Purdue had to cancel their trips to Texas. Northwestern did make it to their destination and played three of four games against Omaha, but not before every option was exhausted to ensure games were played.

Purdue ended up with three games in Georgia, Illinois saw their opening day pushed back twice, forced to settle for games against Austin Peay and South Dakota State in St. Louis on Sunday, Northwestern was considering incurring a cost of $30,000 to join Cincinnati and Miami on a charted plane to points out west.

Obviously, no team wants to bag their games on opening weekend. But it does take an administration to sign off on additional costs that come with a change of travel plans at the last second, find transportation, food and lodging for 40 people. That willingness is another testament to the importance of baseball around the Big Ten.

Hoosiers have the necessary experience

As great as a team may look on paper, you never truly know how a team will be once the season starts. Indiana returned a lot of players from their Lexington Regional team, and as reflected in the preseason conference coaches’ poll, were deserving of their near consensus preseason ranking. There will be more than a few home runs hit between Matt Lloyd, Luke Miller and Logan Sowers, already the trio have combined for five, but perhaps more important than the offensive production from the bats, or the scoreless innings Pauly Milto, Cal Krueger and Lloyd can toss on the mound, is the experience Indiana has as a club that’s been in two of the last three NCAA Tournaments and knows what is necessary to win at a high level.

Indiana finished the weekend with a solid 3-1 record, but it wasn’t a weekend full of ease for Chris Lemonis and staff.

Indiana jumped out to a 2-0 lead after their first at-bat in the season opener against Oklahoma, but ultimately lost 6-3. Indiana showed no hangover in cruising to a 5-0 victory over Kansas State on Saturday. On Sunday, IU rallied from 3-0 first-inning deficit to South Alabama in walk-off fashion, 8-4, and after Coastal Carolina grabbed a 5-3 lead with a four-spot in the fourth, answered with two runs in their at-bat in the fifth, before winning 6-5.

The ability to take a blow and respond, to stay composed in a final at-bat and throw away a poor performance will go a long way as Indiana looks to make a deep postseason run in June.

Michigan’s weekend rotation will carry the team

If you were following Michigan’s weekend series against Army you probably lost track of how many Wolverines made their Michigan debut this weekend. Between freshmen, JUCO transfers or players who have been in the program but buried due to the depth Erik Bakich has built up, it was almost a day-to-night change in the team Michigan fielded compared to the team that ended the 2017 season in the Chapel Hill Regional. But there was comfort to be found in the starting pitchers Michigan rolled out, a group that will likely carry the club in 2018 as fresh faces get accumulated and up to speed to the college game.

Using a weekend rotation of a senior followed by two sophomores, Alec Rennard, Tommy Henry and Karl Kauffman each pitched at least five innings and recorded a scoreless start. The Right-left-right trio combined to pitch 16 innings, scattering 11 hits with two walks, holding Army batters to a .189 batting average. Each pitcher was a significant factor out of the Michigan bullpen in 2017, with Rennard garnering a few starts, and now, as three of the few Wolverines who know what it takes to win in the Big Ten, as starting pitchers the rotation will go a long way in how Michigan fares this year.

The perfect script for Penn State

Penn State head coach Rob Cooper could not have asked for a better opening weekend for the Nittany Lions. In a three-game series at Elon, Penn State swept the Phoenix, opening the season 3-0 for the first time since 1980. Each victory provided Cooper and company with reasons to be optimistic in Penn State’s quest to reach the postseason for the first time since 2012.

In the opener, Justin Hagenman surrendered four hits and struck out seven batters as he takes over the of staff ace following the departure of Sal Biasi. In total, PSU pitchers racked up 15 strikeouts in the 2-1 win. Penn State’s offense lifted the team to an 8-6 win on Saturday to clinch the series, the team picked up two doubles and two home runs in their 10 hits, noteworthy as Penn State only slugged .329 last season. After missing the 2017 recovering from Tommy John surgery, Sal’s younger brother Dante made his PSU debut, keeping the game close, before closer Eric Mock recorded his second save of the weekend with a hitless, three-inning effort, helping Penn State secure the 3-2 win.

The pitching was there, more pop was on display and Penn State did not commit an error over the three games. All aspects clicked this weekend for the Nittany Lions.

A Year Two JUCO bump can help Bucks bounce back

It would be an understatement to say the 2017 season did not go as Ohio State hoped. Coming off of an appearance in the 2016 Louisville Regional, Ohio State finished 22-34 overall, 8-16 in the Big Ten to finish in 11th place. A big factor in Ohio State unable to duplicate their 2016 success was the loss of six draft pictures and a handful of other multi-year starters who graduated. Ohio State tried to fill the holes left in the lineup with JUCO transfer, but newcomers Bo Coolen, Tyler Cowles, and Noah McGowan respectively batted .230, .190, and .214 between 384 at-bats. It’s only one weekend, but the numbers put up in the first weekend may sure an their second season in Columbus may fare a bit better.

Earning Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week honors by Collegiate Baseball, McGowan batted .400 with a double, two home runs and a nation-leading 13 RBI, 12 coming with two outs. McGowan drove in 19 runs for the 2017 season. Cowles picked up four hits in 12 at-bats while Coolen added a pair of singles in five at-bats.

Ohio State will face a drastic jump in competition in the upcoming weekend, Oregon State and Utah and considerably better than UW-Milwaukee and Canisius, but the starts are encouraging for three players who struggled a year ago, a core that Ohio State has enough pieces surrounding to create a potent lineup if everything clicks.

 

Ohio State’s McGowan Named National Player of the Week

Columbus, Ohio — Noah McGowan, a senior on the Ohio State baseball team, was named Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week, announced Monday afternoon. McGowan, a native of Houston, Texas, becomes the first Buckeye since the 2016 campaign to be recognized as a national player of the week.

McGowan powered the Buckeyes to a 3-1 record at the Snowbird Classic last weekend in Port Charlotte, Fla. He collected 13 RBI, including 12 RBI with two outs, batting .400 with a double, two home runs, six runs scored and three walks. He had four-consecutive games with at least one RBI, including a career-high six RBI in the 2018 opener against Wisconsin-Milwaukee. By the end of the opening day doubleheader at Charlotte Sports Park last Friday, McGowan collected an impressive 10 RBI. McGowan had 19 RBI during the 2017 season. McGowan had the most RBI out of the nine national players of the week listed.

The Buckeyes (3-1) are set to play No. 2 Oregon State (3-0) and Utah (0-3) in a four-game set Thursday-Sunday at the 2018 Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge at Surprise, Stadium in Surprise, Ariz. The tournament will feature three of the nine national players of the week highlighted today by Collegiate Baseball.

The last Buckeye to be honored as a Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week: Jacob Bosiokovic, 2016.

Collegiate Baseball National Players of the Week
RF Trevor Larnach, Oregon State
LHP Trey Cumbie, Houston
Brett Brocoff, Utah
RF Eric Gilgenbach, Notre Dame
LHP Cody Bradford, Baylor
Chase Strumpf, UCLA
RHP R.J. Freure, Pittsburgh
RHP Micah Kaczor, East Tennessee State
Noah McGowan, Ohio State

The Weekend 10

Opening weekend saw its share of strong individual performances, from dominant starts for pitchers to a handful of players who collected multiple home runs on a single day. New this season to 10 Innings is the Weekend Top 10, taking a look at the most impressive individual weekend performances.

Here’s the opening weekend top 10, capped with the weekend’s top pitcher, player and freshman.

Purdue Sr. RHP Tanner Andrews

As Purdue sets out to show the program’s revival in 2017 was not a fluke, senior right-handed pitcher Tanner Andrews put together an opening-weekend performance that shows the Boilermakers have a true ace at their disposal. Andrews scattered five hits from Western Michigan batters in 6.2 innings of scoreless baseball, striking out nine batters without issuing a walk, leading Purdue to a 5-1 victory in their season opener.

Maryland Sr. RHP Taylor Bloom

On expected strength on opponent, and coming in a road win opposed to neutral site, Maryland’s Taylor Bloom squeaks by Andrews as this week’s top pitcher. Bloom had nearly an identical line to Andrews, striking out nine batters without a walk, but pitched seven innings, while scattering six hits, as the Terrapins knocked of Tennessee, 4-0, in the first game under new head coach Rob Vaughn.

Maryland Jr. 2B Nick Dunn

Where Bloom shined on the mound, teammate Nick Dunn provided a potent bat. Dunn connected on two home runs in Friday’s 4-0 victory in support of Bloom, then added his third home run of the weekend in the weekend finale. Helping Maryland take two of three from the Volunteers, Dunn went 4-for-10 with three home runs, four walks and four RBI.

Rutgers Fr. LHP Eric Heatter

A player gets only one collegiate debut, and boy did Rutgers southpaw Eric Heatter make the most of his. On the road at #24 Miami, Heatter tossed four innings of scoreless relief, surrendering only three hits while striking out eight Hurricanes against one walk. Heatter’s dominant relief outing helped Rutgers close the weekend with a 7-5 upset.

Minnesota Soph. INF/OF Jordan Kozicky

Minnesota’s Jordan Kozicky celebrated his birthday on opening day, and did so in grand fashion. Kozicky accounted for both of the Gopher runs in a 3-2 defeat at Georgia Tech, dialing up two home runs. After two games against Kennesaw State and a weekend capper against Georgia State, Kozicky finished the weekend with a .375 average, adding two doubles and a pair of walks next to the two home runs.

Michigan State Jr. RHP Riley McCauley

A coach never knows what exactly he’ll get out of a pitcher in moving him from closer to starter. What Jake Boss received from Riley McCauley is what every coach hopes. In six innings against Fresno State, McCauley held the Bulldogs to one run off two hits and two walks, striking out half of the 24 batters he faced.

Purdue Jr. 1B Jacson McGowan

A Terp edged out a Boilermaker for top pitcher, now it’s time for a Boilermaker to edge out a Terp for top player. Joining Dunn in recording three home runs over the weekend, Purdue’s Jacson McGowan is 10 Innings’ Player of the Week, after batting .538 and slugging 1.308 in Purdue’s three games against Western Michigan. McGowan added a double and three singles to record seven hits in 13 at-bats, posting an opening weekend OPS of 1.846.

Ohio State Sr. 1B Noah McGowan

A transfer from McLennan Community College, Noah McGowan drove in 19 runs last year in his first season as a Buckeye. He might eclipse that total in just two weekends this year. McGowan powered Ohio State’s 3-1 weekend in Port Charlotte with 13 RBI, batting .400 with two home runs.

Indiana Sr. OF Logan Sowers

Indiana faced tough competition in Myrtle Beach over the weekend, taking on two ranked teams in Oklahoma and South Alabama. The setting saw many scouts turn out, as those two opponents each feature a potential first-round talent in the outfield. Of course the Hoosiers have their own talented outfielder in Logan Sowers, who put on a show on his own, picking up two home runs in five hits over 12 at-bats.

Nebraska Jr. C Jesse Wilkening

Nebraska may have started the season cold at the plate, batting .202 over four games, but junior catcher Jesse Wilkening was swung a hot bat in Tempe. Wilkening paced the Huskers with a .429 average in 14 at-bats, picking up a double, a home run, two walks and driving in eight runs to propel Darin Erstad’s club to a 3-1 weekend.

Pitcher of the Week- Bloom

Player of the Week- J. McGowan

Freshman of the Week- Heatter

Illinois Alters Weekend Schedule

Champaign, Ill. — Due to canceled flights for nearly all of Thursday at Midway Airport in Chicago, the Illini were unable to get to Beaumont, Texas, for its series scheduled at Lamar. Instead, Illinois will travel to St. Louis, Missouri, to take on South Dakota State and Austin Peay at Saint Louis University.

Friday
1 p.m. – South Dakota State vs. Austin Peay

Saturday
11 a.m. – South Dakota State vs. Illinois
3 p.m. – South Dakota State vs. Austin Peay

Sunday
11 a.m. – South Dakota State vs. Illinois
3 p.m. – Austin Peay vs. Illinois

Purdue to Play Western Michigan in Georgia

West Lafayette, Ind. — After a canceled flight to Dallas led to the cancellation of Purdue baseball’s series-opening series at Baylor, head coach Mark Wasikowski was able to replace it with a three-game set against Western Michigan in Emerson, Georgia.

The Boilermakers and Broncos will square off in a neutral-site series at the Perfect Game Complex at the LakePoint Sporting Community. There are eight artificial turf baseball fields at the large venue located 35 miles north of Downtown Atlanta.

A season-opening doubleheader is set for Saturday at noon ET. Purdue and WMU will play again Sunday at 11 a.m. ET. Purdue Athletics is planning to offer GameTracker live stats and free internet audio for all three games this weekend.

Both teams had flights to Texas and series in the Lone Star State canceled Thursday. Western Michigan was scheduled to play at Houston Baptist. Baylor and HBU are now scheduled to play a three-game series in Waco this weekend.

Hundreds of flights were canceled at Midway on Thursday due to fog and poor visibility, including the Boilermakers’ 2:30 p.m. CT flight to Dallas. Purdue returned to campus via its team bus Thursday evening and the Baylor series was officially canceled during the trip back to West Lafayette.

Thursday’s events were reminiscent of the first few weeks of Purdue’s 2014 campaign. Four years ago, the Boilermakers’ season-opening series at Tennessee didn’t begin until Sunday after snowy weather delayed Purdue’s departure from campus. The season began with a doubleheader in Knoxville. Two weeks later, icy weather led to the cancellation of an entire Purdue-Missouri State series in Springfield. Instead, the Boilermakers took a bus to Birmingham, Alabama, to play both Samford and Butler in a Saturday doubleheader.

The Purdue-Western Michigan series dates back to 1938, but the teams have not played since 2006. The Broncos were scheduled to come to Alexander Field for a midweek game in March 2015 but the game was canceled.

The Boilermakers also opened their 2016 season in Georgia, taking on Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State and Georgia State at the Atlanta Challenge.