Chris Webb

Iowa Adds Missouri State to 2018 Schedule

Iowa City, Iowa — The University of Iowa baseball team has reached an agreement with Missouri State to play a March 14 neutral-field contest at the Kansas City Urban Youth Academy in Kansas City, Missouri. The game will begin at 4 p.m. (CT).

Completed just this winter, the Kansas City Urban Youth Academy is a 40,000-square-foot indoor training facility, coupled with four state-of-the-art diamonds at Parade Park near the legendary 18th and Vine District. The Academy’s goal is to serve approximately 800-1,000 youth per year, ages 6-18, providing free, year-round baseball and softball instruction and play, including hosting tournaments, coaching clinics and skills camps.

The Academy also aims to provide youth with access to tutoring programs, college prep classes, college and career fairs, financial literacy and internship programs, courses teaching math through the use of baseball statistics and MLB industry alternative career workshops. Youth will also have opportunities to be involved in drug resistance and gang-prevention programs and healthy lifestyle classes.

Visit http://www.royalsurbanyouthacademy.com/ for more information.

Admission to the Iowa-Missouri State matchup will be free and open to the public. Additional details about the contest will be available on hawkeyesports.com as they are finalized.

Iowa’s 2018 schedule now features a total of 54 games, including 27 home dates and matchups against five different 2017 NCAA Tournament teams. Fans can purchase their baseball season tickets through the Iowa Athletics Ticket Office at 800-IA-HAWKS or at hawkeyesports.com/tickets.

Stafford Elevated to Associate Head Coach for Ohio State

Columbus, Ohio — Ohio State baseball head coach Greg Beals announced the promotion of pitching coach Mike Stafford to associate head coach on Jan. 3. Stafford is entering his eighth season with the Buckeye baseball program.

“I am very excited to announce Coach Stafford’s new title of associate head coach,” Beals said. “Mike and I have been together for a long time and he has earned this promotion. Our entire staff is looking forward to collectively working towards another championship run in 2018.”

“I feel very honored and fortunate to have been named the associated head coach for the Ohio State baseball program,” Stafford said. “I want to thank Gene Smith, Shaun Richard and Coach Beals for their continued support. I also want to thank my wife, Chelsea, who has been with me throughout the ups and downs of the coaching process. This isn’t about me. It’s about all the guys from the past to the present that has made Ohio State what it is today. I’m honored to go to work every day at my alma mater.”

Stafford, who is the longest tenured pitching coach in the Big Ten, is set to begin his 15th season as Beals’ pitching coach. During his time as a Division I coach, Stafford has been known for developing his pitchers as 17 have gone on to play professional baseball.

In 2016, Stafford’s squad broke the school record for strikeouts in a season (495) during the team’s run to the Big Ten Tournament title. Tanner Tully was named a first team All-Big Ten selection. Both Tully and Michael Horejsei inked professional contracts with MLB organizations. The group led the Big Ten with a 2.63 ERA in conference play and ranked sixth in the country in strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.07) and walks allowed per nine innings (2.47).

In his first season at Ohio State, Stafford’s staff lowered its team earned-run average from 5.24 in 2010 to 4.94 in 2011. In addition, Josh Dezse earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors, senior right-hander Drew Rucinski garnered second team All-Big Ten laurels and freshman right-hander Greg Greve was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team. After his strong 2011 campaign, Rucinski signed a free agent contract with the Cleveland Indians in June 2011.

In 2012, Stafford helped the Buckeyes lower their team ERA down to 4.25 and guided sophomore Jaron Long to first team All-Big Ten honors. In addition, junior right-hander John Kuchno was selected in the 18th round of the MLB Draft.

In 2013, Stafford’s pitching staff finished fourth in the Big Ten with a 3.24 ERA and ranked second in the conference with 393 strikeouts. Under his tutelage, closer Trace Dempsey garnered All-America honors from the NCBWA, Louisville Slugger and ABCA/Rawlings. In addition, Brad Goldberg was selected in the 10th round of the MLB Draft by the Chicago White Sox and Brett McKinney was taken in the 19th round. Two months later, right-hander Jaron Long was signed by the New York Yankees after recording a 3.34 ERA in a pair of seasons with the Buckeyes.

In 2014, Stafford’s staff finished with a 3.61 team ERA highlighted by Big Ten Freshman of the Year Tanner Tully. Senior right hander Greg Greve, a third team All-Big Ten selection, was selected in the 29th round of the 2014 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft by the Miami Marlins.

In 2015, Stafford’s staff finished with a 3.53 team ERA guided by third team All-Big Ten selection Ryan Riga and All-Freshmen team honoree Adam Niemeyer. Riga set the program record for scoreless innings streak (30.2 IP), while Trace Dempsey also broke the OSU career saves record (33).

Stafford, from Canton, Mich., and Plymouth Canton High School, was a part of Ohio State teams from 1994-98 that won two Big Ten championships, three Big Ten tournament crowns and went to three NCAA tournaments. The 1997 team was also the first to play in Bill Davis Stadium.

Stafford starred for the Buckeyes out of the bullpen his final two seasons. He led the team in earned run average in both 1997 (2.27) and 1998 (2.54), posting a combined 9-4 record in the process. He appeared in 52 games and he was a second-team all-Big Ten selection in 1998.

Stafford spent four seasons in professional baseball after graduating from Ohio State. He was drafted in the 41st round of the 1998 MLB draft by Toronto and played for two years with the organization. He moved to the New York Yankees and pitched for the Tampa Bay Yankees in 1999 and 2000. He then spent parts of 2000 and 2001 playing in the Milwaukee Brewers’ farm system. Mike Stafford’s first coaching opportunity came with the Columbus Clippers. He spent the 2001-02 seasons working as bullpen coach, warming up relievers during games, throwing batting practice and catching bullpens.

One day in the fall of 2003, Stafford received a phone call from Beals, who had received glowing recommendations about Stafford. The two spoke for about an hour on the phone. A week later Stafford interviewed for an opening on Beals’ staff. The two have been together since. He resides in Sunbury, Ohio, with his wife Chelsea and her daughter, Abella and son, Mason.

Video Board Installations Set for Bart Kaufman Field

Bloomington, Ind. — Indiana Athletics today announced plans for new LED video boards at Bart Kaufman Field and Andy Mohr Field, set to be installed prior to this season’s home openers for Indiana baseball and softball.

“We are thrilled to have this vision of ours now become a reality,” said baseball head coach Chris Lemonis. “To have a video board at Bart Kaufman Field, one of the premier college baseball stadiums in the Midwest, will take our already great game day atmosphere – for both our fans and players – to the next level. I want to thank Fred Glass and all of our administration for their continuous support of Indiana baseball. I’m incredibly excited for our fans to experience a new era of Indiana baseball come our home opener on March 7th.”

“Andy Mohr Field is one of the top venues in college softball,” said softball head coach Shonda Stanton. “Adding this video board will only increase the experience for fans to enjoy a sport that is fast-paced and dynamic. I want to thank Fred Glass and all involved for making this become a reality for our program.”

The board at Bart Kaufman Field will measure 26.8 feet high by 48.7 feet wide. At Andy Mohr Field, the board will be 16 feet high by 27 feet wide.

Indiana will work with Anthony James Partners, Prismview and the University Architect’s Office on the installation of the boards. IU baseball opens its home schedule on March 7 against Cincinnati, while softball begins play at Andy Mohr Field on March 16 by hosting the Hoosier Classic.

Van Ameyde Returns as MSU Pitching Coach

East Lansing, Mich. — Michigan State baseball head coach Jake Boss Jr. announced on Dec. 14 that former Spartan assistant coach Mark Van Ameyde will be returning to Boss’ staff as the MSU pitching coach.

Van Ameyde was an MSU assistant coach from 2009-14, before becoming the Eastern Michigan head coach in 2015.

“We are all excited that Mark and his family have decided to come back to Michigan State,” Boss said. “Mark is an outstanding coach and did a great job at Eastern Michigan, leading them to the MAC Tournament championship game a year ago. Mark has done an awesome job with pitching staffs everywhere that he has been, including our 2011 Big Ten Championship and 2012 NCAA Regional appearance. We couldn’t be more excited that he and his family are back in East Lansing and a part of the Spartan family.”

At EMU, Van Ameyde posted a 70-106 record in his three seasons leading the Eagles. In 2017, Van Ameyde led EMU to a 27-35 overall record and a 14-10 Mid-American Conference mark, finishing third in the MAC standings before ending as runner-up at the MAC Tournament, which was the first time the Eagles reached the title game since 2008.

“It’s a little surreal; it’s very unexpected, certainly when I left a few years ago to take the head coach position at Eastern Michigan. You don’t think that you’d ever be back. It was really tough to leave when I left the first time,” Van Ameyde said. “I’m extremely grateful for all the good people at Eastern Michigan that I worked with. It was very hard to leave all of them.

“I have a lot of great memories from my time at Michigan State, I worked with a lot of great people and got to work with a lot of outstanding student-athletes and great teams. We did a lot of winning,” Van Ameyde said. “Mark Hollis and Shelley Appelbaum, and of course Coach Boss, were very supportive when I left, and I’m very grateful to all of them for the opportunity to come back. I’ve known Coach Boss for a long time, and I worked with Coach (Graham) Sikes for four years when I was at MSU the first time, and I coached Coach (Jordan) Keur, so I’m really comfortable with all of those guys, and I’ve won with them. So to get an opportunity to come back and work together again with a goal to win another Big Ten Championship like we did back in 2011, I thought ‘hey let’s go do it.’ I’m excited to work with the pitchers and that talented group. I’ve been at Michigan State more than I’ve been at any other school, so I sort of feel like a Spartan after being there for so long and winning a Big Ten title, even though I didn’t go to school there. I’m fired up, and my family and I are excited to rejoin the Spartan family.”

At Eastern Michigan, Van Ameyde coached five All-MAC honorees, including two in 2017 after two in 2016, marking the first time that EMU had multiple players selected for all-conference honors since 2011-12. Senior pitcher Sam Delaplane earned first-team All-MAC accolades in 2017, after leading EMU with a 3.27 ERA and a 4-3 record, with 92 strikeouts in 20 appearances. The 92 strikeouts ranked second in the MAC. Delaplane was selected in the 23rd round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners, becoming the first EMU player since 2012 to be drafted.

Off the field, 28 EMU players earned Academic All-MAC honors in the three seasons under Van Ameyde, with 10 accolades in 2017, the second-most in the MAC, including four MAC Distinguished Scholar Athletes.

During his six seasons at Michigan State, Van Ameyde was assistant coach for the 2009-11 seasons, before becoming associate head coach for the 2012-14 seasons. Van Ameyde was one of the key components to MSU’s success, including helping the program to its first Big Ten Championship in 32 years in 2011 and a berth in the NCAA Regionals in 2012. Under Van Ameyde’s tutelage, the Spartan pitching staff demonstrated significant improvement.

In 2014, the pitching staff ranked second in the Big Ten with a 3.09 ERA, which was also the 10th lowest in MSU single-season history.

In 2013, the Spartan pitching staff compiled a 3.22 ERA and held opponents to a .240 batting average, which tied for the best in the Big Ten. For the second consecutive year, MSU ranked in the top 40 nationally in walks allowed per nine innings (22nd at 2.73), WHIP (14th at 1.18) and ERA (36th at 3.22)

During the 2012 run to the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans had one of their best seasons in school history on the mound. MSU recorded 389 strikeouts, second most in program history. MSU led the Big Ten in opposing batting average (.249), saves (15) and pickoffs (12) while ranking second in strikeouts and third in ERA.

Prior to his time at Michigan State, Van Ameyde spent the 2008 season on Boss’ staff as an assistant coach at Eastern Michigan, helping the Eagles to the MAC West Division title and the MAC Tournament championship, while earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament. His pitching staff showed steady improvement throughout the season, as the Eagles won 25 of their last 40 games heading into postseason play. In conference games, Robert Wendzicki led the league in saves with seven, while Matt Shoemaker posted a perfect 3-0 record.

Before his first stint at EMU, Van Ameyde was an assistant coach for three seasons at Georgetown, including serving as the associate head coach in 2007. He guided the pitching rotation to numerous team records, including most strikeouts in a season, fewest walks in a season and the lowest team ERA in 23 years. In 2006, the Hoyas posted the most Big East Conference victories since 1985. He also served as recruiting coordinator for the Hoya baseball program, was responsible for recruiting trips, and ran the annual Georgetown Baseball Camp.

Prior to joining Georgetown, Van Ameyde spent four seasons as the associate head coach at the University of Detroit-Mercy. He led UDM to the top of the Horizon League in batting average as the team’s hitting instructor, in addition to serving as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator. From 1999-2000, Van Ameyde was the head coach at St. Mary’s College, where he was responsible for the implementation of the program. He led St. Mary’s College to the NSCAA World Series in 2000.

Van Ameyde earned two letters pitching for Detroit-Mercy, garnering all-conference and team MVP honors in 1994. He also pitched at Henry Ford Community College for two years and helped the team to a regional championship in 1991.

Van Ameyde graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication from UDM in 1996.

Van Ameyde and his wife, Melissa, have three sons: Chase, Cole and Cash.

Iowa Extends Heller through 2024

Iowa City, Iowa University of Iowa head baseball coach Rick Heller has received a contract extension through 2024, the announcement was made Thursday by Henry B. and Patricia B. Tippie Director of Athletics Chair Gary Barta.

“The progress this program has made in four seasons under Rick has been incredible,” said Barta. “Rick has changed the culture from day one with the win, graduate, and do it right principles at the forefront. We’re excited to be able to reward Rick with this contract extension to keep him in Iowa City for the foreseeable future.

“You can feel the excitement and buzz surrounding the program throughout the state. We are excited to continue building on that and are looking forward to the 2018 baseball season.”

“I am proud to be part of such an outstanding, team-oriented athletics department and university,” said Heller. “With the fantastic leadership of Gary Barta and President (Bruce) Harreld our baseball program has grown significantly in the last five years and we look forward to working together to keep it moving forward.

“I am humbled that Gary and Bruce have given me the opportunity to be a Hawkeye for a long time. It’s a privilege to go to work each day with such an amazing group of coaches, staff, and student-athletes.”

Heller has injected life into the Hawkeyes since taking over the program in 2013. He has led Iowa to its best four-year stretch in program history, winning 140 games, advancing to two NCAA Regionals, and claiming the first Big Ten Tournament title in program history.

Under Heller’s watch, Iowa has advanced to the postseason in four consecutive years for the first time in program history, he has coached five All-Americans, a unanimous Big Ten Player of the Year, and at least one first-team All-Big Ten selection each season. Iowa has had 15 Major League Baseball Draft picks in four seasons — the most in a four-year stretch all-time.

Heller has also given the Hawkeyes an international flavor, taking the team to the Dominican Republic in 2016 and Taipei, Taiwan, as the United States representative at the 2017 World University Games. Heller led USA to a silver medal, as the team became the first American squad to medal in Universiade history.

The Eldon, Iowa, native became the 20th head coach in program history in 2013 — his fourth stop as a collegiate head coach. He has enjoyed stints at Iowa (2014-present), Indiana State (2009-13), Northern Iowa (1999-2009), and Upper Iowa (1987-99), leading all four schools to NCAA postseason play. He is one of nine coaches all-time and one of five active coaches to lead three different Division I programs to NCAA Regional play.

Heller guided Iowa to an at-large berth into NCAA Regional play in 2015 — a first for the program since 1990 — and the team posted the school’s first NCAA Tournament win since 1972. It wasn’t a fluke; in the two seasons since, Iowa was runner-up at the 2016 Big Ten Tournament before claiming the program’s first tournament title in 2017 to lock up the school’s second NCAA Regional appearance in three seasons.

Iowa made just three NCAA Tournament appearances in its history prior to Heller’s arrival.

On the recruiting trail, Heller has turned the Hawkeyes into a major player on the national recruiting scene by keeping the best in-state players at home. Iowa had the top-rated class in the Big Ten — and 18th-best nationally — in 2015, and the 2016 class was ranked third in the league.

In 30 seasons as a head coach, Heller owns a career record of 830-654-4. He is one of two Iowa head coaches to lead the program to the NCAA Tournament.

Around the Horn: Minnesota

This fall, 10 Innings will supplement its fall updates with a question-and-answer series: Around the Horn. Around the Horn will present four questions to a coach, player or local media, getting an inside perspective on the team heading into the offseason.

Winning 36 games for a second consecutive season, Minnesota led the Big Ten in hitting for a second straight year, doing so with the fewest strikeouts in the conference. Overseeing Minnesota’s .306 team average since the start of the 2016 season is assistant coach Pat Casey. Casey was Minnesota’s volunteer assistant from 2014-2016 before being elevated to a full-time assistant position in September 2016. In addition to being the Minnesota’s primary hitting coach, Casey oversees Gopher catchers, a group which has produced the last two All-Big Ten first-team selections at that position, Austin Athmann and Cole McDevitt.

Here’s Casey on the team’s 2017 success, how they define success, the Gophers’ ability to excel with two strikes, touching home with what the Gophers are currently working on to get better.

10 Innings: The team batted .297 last year, with a .370 on-base percentage and .412 slugging mark, scoring 5.8 runs a game. How do you view last season’s offensive production in terms of it being a successful season or not at the plate for the Gophers?

2017 was a good year for us. I wouldn’t call it a ‘great year’ based on the way we performed in March and certain spots throughout the year, but our goal at the beginning of last season was to lead the Big Ten in hitting and that group of guys accomplished it and they deserve all the credit for their hard work, dedication and commitment they’ve put into being a strong offensive unit. We had our up’s and down’s, but ultimately whenever you finish atop of the Big Ten in hitting you’ve got to be pleased. I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that those hitters aren’t satisfied with the way things ended in the Big Ten Tournament (regardless of how well they hit), they feel like they have more to show and more to prove going forward into 2018.

Looking back at the season as a whole, you’ve got to be impressed with how they responded after March and losing Micah Coffey and Alex Boxwell to injury. That group put together a pretty incredible run in April and May while finishing first in the league in least amount of strikeouts and leading the league in average — you can’t not be impressed with the accomplishments of that group.

10 Innings: What benchmarks, or what are the standards established to determine a successful at-bat, a successful game at the plate and ultimately a strong offensive season?

The benchmark for success lies within the tradition of the program itself. Minnesota has always had very potent offensive lineups, going back to the 2000’s, 1990’s and 1980’s, John (Anderson) and Rob (Fornasiere) have always had teams that could hit and execute fundamentally. Our hitters today take a lot of pride in the players who came before them, wore the uniform before them and what those teams accomplished, we (all) have something to live up to in this program with the rich tradition and history of excellence that Golden Gopher Baseball has.

In terms of our own personal ‘benchmarks’ that we use for success — we do a lot of work with analytics, metrics and sabermetrics but our standards ultimately come down to quality at-bats, well-hits and execution in two-strike counts. There’s a lot that goes into our ‘offensive approach’ and gameday planning, but what it all really gets down to is focusing on “are you having quality at-bats and hitting the ball hard”. Baseball is the ultimate game of failure and the only certainty that you can count on is that your going to fail more times than not, especially as a hitter — so how can we go about managing that. You focus on the controllables.

Quality at-bats and hitting the ball hard aren’t failing in our eyes. We try to reward that and focus on the positives, when a hitter moves a runner, executes a pro play, battles in two-strike counts; those are not seen or taken as failures in our offense. We track everything and at the end of every week we go through it and look at ways we can improve and get better as a unit, the mindset is to never be satisfied, always try to grow, learn and develop. If we do those things and stay connected to our values, our approach and our philosophy we’ll have a good year.

10 Innings: Last season, every batter, one through nine, seemed to possess an uncanny ability to foul off pitches until there was a pitch that could be barreled up. What is the foundation of a good two-strike approach?

In my opinion there are three parts to a good two-strike approach: mentality, emotional state and physical adjustments.

Mentally you have to be prepared, and that comes from constant repetition in practice with our pitch recognition training, velocity sequencing, mechanical and video analysis while putting in the work to study your opponent and yourself (you’ve got to know how he’s trying to get you out and understand your own limitations as a hitter).

Emotionally you’ve got to change your thinking to “I don’t want to strikeout” to “I have one more pitch to accomplish my goal,” you’ve got to let go of the fear and welcome the challenge of hitting behind in the count.

And finally, physically, you must make physical adjustments with your body –move up or off on the plate, choke up, more upper-body spine bend to get your eyes closer to the plane of the pitch, restrict lower/upper body movement. Young hitters need to understand that with two strikes a lot is going against you and the numbers (at any level) in those counts are brutal.

I’ve long said that a strikeout isn’t just like any other out, it’s momentum changing, kills rallies and feeds the confidence of a pitcher — how can the best thing for a pitcher not be the worst thing for a hitter? Don’t get me wrong, we’re still trying to hit the ball hard with two strikes but we’ve got to make sure we fine tune that approach and be ready for the challenges.

10 Innings: With eight returning starters back, has there been an overall area of focus this fall with the hitters, where there may not be a lot to teach, but perhaps fine tune things so the team takes the next offensive step?

Stay healthy and look for ways to continually improve, they all need to have a ‘never be satisfied mindset’ and continue to hold each other accountable every single day, on and off the field.

It might sound cliche’ but Boxwell said it best a few days ago, “you never really figure it out” — your always constantly learning and growing as a hitter. Nobody has all the answers and there’s no one way to teach hitting, we all have to be open to learning and challenging our way of thinking. You look at the greatest hitters in Major League Baseball, they’re all still working and searching for ways to improve mentally, emotionally and physically on a daily basis, nobody says “I want to stay the same today.”

Our motto in Gopher Baseball is take every day to get 1% better, step outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself. As far as the lineup goes, we don’t just need to be strong one-through-nine, we need to be strong one-through-17 (with how many hitters we have), we’re only as strong as our weakest link and that’s the expectation among every hitter in our program.

Last year we had a lot of players have great individual years, this year we need to expand on that and take the next step to improve as a unit. With that being said I’m very excited for this years group (both hitters and pitchers alike), we’ve got a lot of experience coming back and a very talented offensive team on hand for the 2018 season.

This is a special group of men capable of great things but rest assured it won’t come easy, the Big Ten is going to very, very good this year and our non-conference schedule will be even more challenging. I’m excited to watch these guys take the next step and accomplish special things as a team next spring.

Fall Update: Minnesota

Getting started

Head coach: John Anderson, 37th season at Minnesota

2017 record: 36-20 overall, 15-8 in Big Ten, third

Key losses: RHP Toby Anderson, LHP Lucas Gilbreath, RHP Brian Glowicki, OF Jordan Smith

Key returners: Sr. OF Alex Boxwell, Sr. 3B Micah Coffey, Sr. OF/INF Toby Hanson, Soph. INF/OF Jordan Kozicky, Jr. C Cole McDevitt, Jr. OF Ben Mezzenga, Jr. RHP Reggie Meyer, Sr. INF Luke Pettersen, Soph. RHP Brett Schulze, Jr. INF Terrin Vavra

New name to know: Fr. RHP/INF Max Meyer

Minnesota rundown

In defense of their 2016 Big Ten championship, Minnesota stormed out of the gate in conference play, sweeping its opening two series, at Ohio State and Michigan State. But the Gophers dropped their next three series, falling to Indiana, Nebraska and Illinois. Minnesota rebounded with 5-0 run against Penn State and Rutgers, to be in control of its destiny entering the final weekend, but a 1-2 showing against Purdue saw Minnesota finish one and one-half game behind the champion Cornhuskers. The series defeat to the Boilermakers was the fifth home series Minnesota lost at home, finishing the season 17-14 between US Bank Stadium and Siebert Field. With the weighted-RPI formula, ironically created to help northern programs who often travel and do not play more than 30 home games, Minnesota finished with an RPI of 72, and did not garner a second consecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament.

For many programs, it was a good season, 36 wins, 13 against the RPI top 100, and a third-place finish. But for the Gophers it wasn’t good enough. Those in Minneapolis are determined to return the program to the glory days of the 1990s and early 2000s, where John Anderson had Minnesota routinely atop the Big Ten.

Once again Minnesota will have a chance to bring home the trophy.

Minnesota returns eight players who recorded at least 100 plate appearances in 2017, bringing back every starter around the horn, and losing only Jordan Smith in the outfield. As a team, the Gophers batted .297 on the season, and returns the top four hitters: Pettersen (.354 AVG, .411 OBP, .395 SLG, eight XBH), Coffey (.340, .396, .493, 21), Kozicky (.325, .421, .476, 16), Hanson (.319, .350, .477, 23). Offensively there are few questions for Minnesota this offseason.

In absence of finding who can fill voids, the coaching staff has moved players around seeing who can take on greater roles, creating versatility where lineup maximization can occur. During the team’s scout day, Hanson saw time at first and left field, Coffey played both corner spots in the infield, Pettersen can play either middle infield spot, so too can Vavra, while Kozicky showed his versatility last year, stepping into third base when Coffey went down with a sprained ankle, but also playing in the outfield, at short stop. Minnesota even has depth behind the plate with sophomore Eli Wilson has had a strong fall, giving the coaching staff confidence he can fill in in a pinch for junior Cole McDevitt, the first-team All-Big Ten selection at catcher last year.

Where known commodities litter the field, on the mound Minnesota has a pair of significant holes to fill. Friday starter Lucas Gilbreath and closer Brian Glowicki were respective seventh and tenth round draft picks after outstanding seasons. Gilbreath finished his junior season with 92 strikeouts in 81.1 innings, pitching to a 2.66 ERA. As a senior, Glowicki reset Minnesota’s singles-season saves record with 16, a Stopper of the Year finalist with 39 strikeouts against seven walks in 32.2 innings.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Brett Schulze (4-3, 5.50 ERA, 70.1 IP) is set to return to the weekend rotation, after holding the Saturday role in his debut season, with the coaching staff excited to see him take the next step in his development, Schulze has worked 89-93 this fall, keeping his fastball velocity inline with his spring showings. It will be a boon for Minnesota have junior right-handed pitcher Reggie Meyer pick up where his 2017 season left off. In an elimination game against Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament, Meyer pitched eight innings, surrendering three runs off four hits with seven strikeouts against the eventual tournament champions. For the season, Meyer went 5-1 with a 3.18 ERA, making seven starts in 19 appearances.

Relievers Jeff Fasching, Nick Lackney, Fred Manke and Jackson Rose return, with Lackney a potential starting option to give Minnesota a left-hander in the rotation. A potential key contributor, sophomore Nolan Burchill will be lost for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, following an injury last May against Georgia Southern. But the aforementioned four relievers will be joined by multiple freshman pitchers, a group Anderson believes is his most talented class in a long time, to fill out the pitching staff.

Headlining the freshman haul are right-handers Joshua Culliver and Max Meyer. Culliver arrives in Minnesota from Omaha, a good athlete with a fast arm and loose delivery, albeit a bit raw, where he mechanically can get out of sync. Over his career the staff expects Culliver to blossom and be a star. Meyer has the present stuff to compete now and is expected to contribute in the back of the bullpen. Meyer shows an above-average slider with spin rates in line of the best in MLB, that is a true out-pitch. Complimenting his slider with a commandable fastball and hockey player mentality, Meyer, a two-way player, is likened to Fiedler, a player who has all conference-potential and can step up in tense moments. Left-handed freshman Danny Kapala and Ryan Duffy have also shown flashes this fall.

Minnesota missed opportunities to reach an NCAA Tournament by dropping home series to Long Beach State, Missouri State and Nebraska, all regional teams. This season, Minnesota has a series against TCU, a program with four consecutive College World Series appearances, and host a Big Ten/Pac 12 Challenge, where Arizona, UCLA and Washington come to town. Those, along with playing in a conference where another handful of teams can be expected to be in regional contention, will give Minnesota an opportunity to play itself into the NCAA Tournament. After falling shy last year, the team with 15 upperclassmen, have made it a mission this fall to advance the program to its first Super Regional and continue the process of restoring Minnesota baseball to past prominence.

One lingering question

Who steps in as the closer?

As mentioned, the two biggest voids Minnesota needs to fill are Friday starter and closer, with the latter the tougher to pencil in. Reggie Meyer did finish with a pair of saves last year, but with his feel for secondaries, command and just average fastball velocity (88-91) he is better suited to start. Manke, a senior right-hander, also recorded two saves, doing so over 15 innings in 12 outings, but issuing 12 walks, 7.2/9 innings, to counter his stellar .180 batting average against with just a double as his lone extra-base hit conceded. Max Meyer has shown flashes of possessing the stuff to close, but it is a tall task to do so as a freshman, more so if Meyer is to see time in the field as a two-way player. With Glowicki, Minnesota had a weapon at the back of the bullpen, a bulldog who could give six outs if needed, pounding the strikezone with little fear. Glowicki was everything a staff could dream of as a closer, but in being such leaves the biggest hole for the Gophers to fill.

 

Huskers Announce 2018 Schedule

Lincoln, Neb. — Head Coach Darin Erstad and the reigning Big Ten regular-season champion Nebraska baseball team announced its 2018 schedule on Friday, which includes 27 home games at Hawks Field.

Nebraska opens its season with eight neutral-site games during two trips to Arizona. NU’s season opener is set for Feb. 16 at the Husker Classic in Tempe, Ariz. The teams competing at the Husker Classic are UC Riverside and Washington State. NU will play four games from Feb. 16-18, including a doubleheader on Feb. 17.

The Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge is set for Feb. 22-25 at Surprise Stadium in Surprise, Ariz. Nebraska faces 2017 College World Series participant Oregon State on Feb. 22 and 24, and battles Utah on Feb. 23 and 25.

The Huskers visit Wichita State, March 2-4, for the first three of 21 true road games during the season. The two teams last met in 2016 at Hawks Field, with NU taking two of three from the Shockers.

March 8 marks the first home game for the Huskers in 2018, and the beginning of a nine-game home stand for the Big Red at Hawks Field. A four-game set against Cal Poly begins on March 8 and ends with a doubleheader on March 10. Nebraska then hosts Northern Colorado for the 15th consecutive season when the Huskers and Bears square off on March 13 and 14 at Hawks Field. The first home stand finishes with a three-game series against Northwestern State from March 16-18 at Hawks Field. NU has faced the Demons on three occasions, with the previous meetings taking place in 2000, 2001 and 2004.

Nebraska visits Oral Roberts for a two-game set, March 20-21, before returning home to begin Big Ten play against Minnesota at Hawks Field, March 23-25. The Golden Gophers, who finished third in the conference last season, took home the regular-season title in 2016. The Huskers won two of three over Minnesota on the road last year. In 2018, Nebraska has 24 conference games and 32 non-conference games scheduled.

The Huskers will face intrastate rival Creighton three times during the 2018 campaign, with the first meeting set for March 27 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb. The Huskers host the Bluejays on April 24 at Hawks Field before wrapping up the season series on May 8 in Omaha. NU also has a season series with the Omaha Mavericks. The first matchup is scheduled for April 3 at Werner Park in Omaha, Neb., before NU hosts the Mavericks on April 18 at Hawks Field.

Nebraska’s road conference slate commences March 30-April 1 at Ohio State. After playing 18 games in March, the Huskers have 20 games in April. Nebraska also visits Michigan State (April 6-8), Rutgers (April 20-22) and Illinois (May 17-19) during conference play.

The Huskers have two midweek games scheduled against former conference foe Kansas State in April. NU travels to Manhattan, Kan., on April 10, before hosting the Wildcats on April 17. Nebraska ends the month of April with a three-game series against Nevada, set for April 26-28. The Huskers and Wolfpack previously met in 1986, 1987, 1992 and 1994.

In addition to the Minnesota series at home, NU will host three additional Big Ten series at Hawks Field. 2017 NCAA Tournament qualifiers Iowa (April 13-15), Maryland (May 4-6) and Indiana (May 11-13) come to Hawks Field during the 2018 season. The Hawkeyes, who also visited Lincoln last season, captured the 2017 Big Ten Tournament crown.

The Big Ten Tournament is scheduled for May 23-27 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb. The Huskers have qualified for the Big Ten Tournament during each of the last six seasons since NU joined the conference before the 2012 campaign. Nebraska took runner-up honors at the Big Ten Tournament in 2013 and 2014.

In addition to capturing the Big Ten regular-season crown in 2017, the Huskers qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the last four years. Erstad, who was named Big Ten Coach of the Year, led NU to a 35-22-1 record overall, which included a 16-7-1 mark in conference play.

New season tickets for the 2018 season can be purchased starting on Saturday, Oct. 7 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.

The Huskers close fall practice with the Red-White Series at Hawks Field. Game 1, consisting of six innings, is set for Friday, Oct. 13 at 6 p.m. (CT). Games 2 and 3 (five innings each) are scheduled for Monday, Oct. 16, starting at 6 p.m.

 

Michigan Baseball Welcomes Top-10 Recruiting Class

Ann Arbor, Mich. — — After an appearance in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, a successful draft, and active summer ball, the University of Michigan baseball team is back and starting practice in preparation for the 2018 season with 15 new players.

The 2017 MLB draft, in which 11 Michigan players were selected in the biggest draft class of the year and in Wolverine history, left the program with gaps on the field, in the lineup and on the mound. With five starting position players and six pitchers selected in the draft, the incoming 2018 class will likely make an immediate impact on the field. This incoming group of 15 is ranked No. 10 in the nation by both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, which marks the highest ranking a Big Ten class has ever earned. With eight of Perfect Game’s Top 400 Incoming Freshman, this crew promises to bring a lot of excitement to Ray Fisher Stadium.

The well-rounded group of 13 freshmen and two junior transfers includes five new pitchers, four outfielders, five infielders and a catcher. The Wolverines return 21 players, including one redshirt freshman, eight sophomores, seven juniors and five seniors.

Coach Erik Bakich, who is entering his sixth season with the Wolverines, has the program moving in a positive direction and his experience recruiting quality players is evident by the team’s recent success, as well as this incoming class. In the 2017 season, Bakich guided the team to its first 40-win season since 2008 and saw a program-record eight players named to All-Big Ten teams. After missing the NCAA Tournament in 2016, the 2017 team made its 23rd NCAA appearance, receiving its first at-large berth since 2008.

The complete list of newcomers:
Blake Beers | Fr. | RHP | California
Jack Blomgren | Fr. | IF | Wisconsin
Jeff Criswell | Fr. | RHP | Michigan
Joe Donovan | Fr. | C | Illinois
Ben Dragani | Fr. | LHP | Wisconsin
Jesse Franklin | Fr. | OF | Washington
Jordan George-Nwogu | Fr. | OF | Michigan
Blake Nelson | Jr. | IF | Washington
Isaiah Paige | Fr. | RHP | California
Logan Pollack | Fr. | IF | California
Zack Semler | Fr. | IF | New York
Matthew Schmidt | Jr. | IF | Colorado
Angelo Smith | Fr. | LHP | Illinois
Cameron Tomaiko | Fr. | OF | New York
Danny Zimmerman | Fr. | OF | California

Buckeyes Announce 2018 Schedule

Columbus, Ohio —  The Ohio State baseball team released its 2018 schedule Tuesday. The Buckeyes will play 26 home games at Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium, while 13 contests are against 2017 NCAA Tournament teams.

“Once again we have put together a demanding schedule to accomplish two main objectives: prepare us to play for a Big Ten championship and drive our RPI into a position to qualify for the NCAA tournament,” head coach Greg Beals said. “I believe this schedule and this team has the ability to earn an at-large bid. We are excited to continue our development throughout the fall and winter. We will be ready to compete and make a championship run in 2018.”

Ohio State opens the 2018 season Feb. 16-18 at the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla., with contests against UW-Milwaukee and Canisius. The Buckeyes will then travel west for the second year in a row to Surprise, Ariz., for the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge to face Utah and Oregon State. Last season, the Buckeyes posted a 6-1 upset over the Beavers, who finished the year with a 56-6 overall record. The Buckeyes start the month of March at the Cox Diamond Invitational in Pensacola, Fla., with games against Nicholls, Southern Miss and Virginia Tech March 2-4. The squad will then spend spring break on the coast of the Carolinas for six non-conference games. Ohio State will play four games March 9-11 at the Coastal Carolina Tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C., with two games against High Point and two contests against the Chanticleers, the 2016 national champions. The team will then travel up the coast for a two-game road series at UNC-Wilmington March 13-14.

The Buckeyes open the 22nd season at Bill Davis Stadium with a 12-game homestand. The 2018 home opener is set for March 16 as the Scarlet and Gray host a three-game, non-conference series against Cal-State Northridge in Columbus. After a midweek game vs. Eastern Michigan March 21, Ohio State welcomes Georgetown for a three-game set March 23-25. Toledo makes a trip to campus March 28 before the Buckeyes open up Big Ten play against Nebraska March 30-April 1. The team wraps up the homestand with an in-state battle vs. Kent State April 4. Ohio State hits the road to Iowa City, Iowa, April 6-8. After a home game vs. Ohio April 10, the team continues its road conference slate at Penn State April 13-15.

Ohio State will then begin an eight-game home swing, opening with Miami (Ohio) April 17 and Youngstown State April 18. The team will host back-to-back Big Ten series against Indiana April 20-22 and Minnesota April 27-29. The Buckeyes begin the month of May on the road with a matchup at Ball State May 2 and three-game series at Illinois May 4-6. Ohio State welcomes Campbell for the first time to Columbus May 8-9 before wrapping up the home schedule May 11-13 against Purdue. The Buckeyes will travel south for a final midweek game at Cincinnati May 15 and will conclude the regular season with a three-game series at Michigan State May 17-19.

The 2018 Big Ten Tournament is back at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., May 23-27. The Buckeyes claimed their ninth Big Ten tournament championship last time out in Omaha during the 2016 campaign. The Scarlet and Gray return 23 letterwinners, including 11 position players and 11 pitchers that saw significant playing time in 2017. Beals and his staff welcomed 10 newcomers, including two junior college transfers and seven true freshmen this fall.

NOTES ON THE 2018 SCHEDULE
• The Buckeyes shortest trip of the early non-conference schedule is to Coastal Carolina (580 miles), while the longest trip is to Surprise, Ariz. (1,927 miles).
• The Scarlet and Gray are 113-68 (.624) at home under eight-year head coach Greg Beals.
• The Buckeyes return 12 players, including five key pitchers, which were a part of the 2016 Big Ten tournament title and NCAA Tournament team.
• CANISIUS – Finished 35-22 overall and 16-9 in MAAC play a year ago.
• OREGON STATE – Tallied a 56-6 overall record, the best mark in program history. A College World Series participant, Oregon State’s season-ending winning percentage of .903 was the NCAA’s best since Texas posted a .908 winning percentage in 1982.
• SOUTHERN MISS – Advanced to Hattiesburg Regional and finished with a 50-16 overall record.
• VIRGINIA TECH – Led by first-year head coach John Szefc, who led Maryland to three NCAA appearances and a 180-122 (.596) overall record.
• COASTAL CAROLINA – Won the 2016 NCAA College World Series. The Buckeyes went 1-1 against the Chanticleers during the 2016 campaign in Conway, S.C. Coastal has played in eight NCAA Regionals and three NCAA Super Regionals over the past 10 years.
• CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE – Will be making its first trip to Columbus in program history.
• NEBRASKA – Posted 35 wins and made its third NCAA Regional in the last four seasons.
• IOWA – Won the Big Ten Tournament title for the first time in its history and advanced to its second NCAA Regional appearance in three seasons with a 39-22 overall record.
• OHIO – Fell to Indiana in the Lexington Regional after claiming its third MAC tournament title in school history.
• INDIANA – Advanced to the Lexington Regional with a 34-24-2 overall record.