Chris Webb

Midweek wrap

The Big Ten went 9-2 over midweek games as more and more action returns to Big Ten campuses around the conference. From Michigan State and Penn State winning home openers to Purdue continue to show offensive mite at the plate, here’s a recap of the week’s midweek games.

Terps split at UNC-Wilmington behind Smith

Maryland junior shortstop Kevin Smith is starting to swing the bat in a way many expected him to. Entering the season as the Big Ten’s top 2017 MLB Draft prospect on lists from Baseball America and D1Baseball.com, the 2016 Cape Code League all-star has enjoyed a power surge over the last week.

The Terrapins were on the road for a pair of midweek games at UNC-Wilmington. On Tuesday, eight runs over the first three innings by the hosts were too much for Maryland to overcome. Making his first career start, senior right-handed pitcher Mike Rescigno allowed six runs, four earned, off four hits and a pair of walks, only recording four outs.

As Maryland tried to climb out of the early hole, Smith homered in the fifth and sixth innings, two of Maryland’s three home runs, with sophomore right fielder Marty Costes added a home run in the fourth. Though Maryland out-hit UNC-Wilmington 10-9, two Terrapins errors lead to four unearned runs for the Seahawks.

After taking the Tuesday loss, Maryland bounced back on Wednesday, with Costes and Smith again at the charge.

For a second consecutive game, Costes hit a home run, with Smith launching his fourth and fifth home runs of the year in a 10-6 win. With the victory, Maryland improved to 13-7 on the year in advance of Big Ten play and UNC-Wilmington fell to 9-10.

The second game of the two-game midweek set saw the roles reverse with the Terrapins jumping out to an early lead. Following a one-out single, Costes pulled his fourth home run of the year over the left field wall. UNC-Wilmington aided the Maryland effort with a fielding error and balk leading to a third run of the inning for the visitors as Smith picked up an RBI on a grounder. Maryland added four runs in the seventh, powered by a three-run home run from Smith. Smith’s second home run of the game came in the eighth, a solo shot to left field, before the teams traded two runs in the ninth.

UNC-Wilimington’s turn on Tuesday, Maryland won the game despite being outhit, 9-8, with four Seahawk errors providing a helping hand. Costes and Smith each went 2-for-5 with Costes driving in two runs and Smith dialing up a five-RBI day.

Grand slams send Iowa past Bradley

Hawkeye catcher Tyler Cropley and right fielder Robert Neustrom each connected on grand slams as a pair of six-run innings powered Iowa (11-8) past Bradley (6-12) Wednesday evening, 12-1.

In the bottom of the first, with already two runs in and the bases loaded, Cropley sent a ball over Duane Banks’ left field wall for his second home run in three games and Iowa’s second grand slam of the season. It didn’t take long for Rick Heller’s club to pick up its third grand slam of the season.

Responding to a Bradley run in the top of the third, a leadoff single and a pair of two-out walks loaded the bases in front of Neustrom. Entering the game as the Big Ten’s leading hitter with a .408 average, Neustrom’s third home run of the year was an opposite field home run to left, to make Iowa the second Big Ten team with a pair of grand slams this year, following Ohio State’s 15-10 win on Feb. 18 against Delaware. The Hawkeyes added two more runs in the frame to close the game’s scoring.

Seven Iowa pitchers head the Braves to one run off four hits, led by freshman right-hander Grant Judkins pitching three innings, allowing one run on one hit with three strikeouts.

Boilermakers continue streak

Riding their longest winning streak since a 10-game run in April 2012, Purdue (11-8) picked up a sixth consecutive victory with a 16-4 dispatching of Ball State (11-10), Wednesday afternoon in Muncie, Ind.

Mark Wasikowski saw his leadoff batter reach base in seven of Purdue’s first eight at-bats, as the Boilermakers scored in five of the first six innings, each a multi-run inning.

Purdue started the scoring with three runs in the top of the first, an inning highlighted by a steal of home from sophomore left fielder Nick Dalesandro. Dalesandro filled up the box score with a 3-for-4 game, picking up a walk, scoring four times and driving in two runs.

But Dalesandro wasn’t alone in have a propensity to reach base with 11 Boilermakers safely reaching base in a 21-hit attacked. Purdue’s three run first inning was matched by a trio of runs in the third and sixth innings, a five-spot in the fourth and two more runs in the fifth added up to 16 runs for Purdue, playing its first game in its home state.

Freshman right-handed pitcher Jack Dellinger was the beneficiary of Purdue’s offensive onslaught, improving to 1-1 on the year with a five-inning start, allowing three runs, one earned, off four hits and a walk, striking out three batters. Freshman center fielder Skylar Hunter went 3-for-3 with five RBI and classmate Mike Madej added a pair of hits in three at-bats, driving in three runs.

Elsewhere

Rutgers (6-14) fell to Rider (7-10) on Tuesday, 7-2. In the loss, sophomore center fielder Jawuan Harris stole three bases to run his season total to a Big Ten-leading 13 steals. The three swipes moved Harris into RU’s all-time top-10 list, with 50 career stolen bases, equaling the mark of former Scarlet Knight and big leaguer David DeJesus. At the plate, Harris was 2-for-3 with a pair of walks and senior first baseman Mike Carter added two hits in four at-bats, but RU pitching couldn’t slow down a Rider attack that collected 16 hits.

Six Illinois (6-12) pitchers combined to hold Illinois State (5-13) to four hits in a 7-1 victory on Tuesday. Illinois scored two runs in the bottom of the first on two-out RBI-singles from DH Casey Dodge and second baseman Michael Massey. Massey lead Illinois with three hits on the day, joined be first baseman Pat McInerney and center fielder Doran Turchin, both with two, as Illini recording multi-hit games. Freshman right-handed pitcher Cyrillo Watson received the start and pitched three hitless-innings, striking out two batters.

All nine batters recorded at least one hit as Michigan State (12-5) recorded 16 hits in a 11-2 victory over Central Michigan (8-12), on Tuesday, in the Spartans’ home opener. MSU scored three runs in the first, fourth and eighth innings, lead by a dominant top of the order. Michigan’s State’s first four batters combined to go 9-for-17 with eight runs scored, led by sophomore first baseman Alex Troop’s 3-for-4 day. Seven Spartan pitchers saw action in the matinee, combining to strikeout 11 Chippewa batters, conceding one earned one.

Ohio State (9-11) scored in each of its first six trips to the plate, finishing with runs in seven of eight innings, to knock of Youngstown State (2-15) 12-8. The Buckeyes used a big day from freshman second baseman Noah West, who went 2-for-4 with a double and one of OSU’s three triples in the game, scoring four runs. Tre’ Gantt and Noah McGowan each picked up a triple in a two-hit game. Sophomore catcher Jacob Barnwell picked up three RBI, while battery mate lefty Connor Curlis pitched three innings of one-hit baseball in a scoreless-start.

Penn State (7-11) made the most of six hits over 10 innings on Tuesday night, defeating Bucknell (8-9), 4-3 in walk-off fashion. Sophomore second baseman Conlin Hughes recorded half of PSU’s six hits, his final one opened the bottom of the 10th with a single. Moving to second after a hitter batter, Hughes scored on an errant throw down the right field line following a sacrifice bunt attempt by Willie Burger. Nittany Lion freshman right-hander Eric Mock pitched four innings, allowing just one hit without yielding a run, striking out five batters.

A four-run fourth inning spurred Michigan to a 6-4 win over Western Michigan (9-8) to run the Big Ten’s best record to 16-4 on the year. WMU broke through first, scoring three runs on four hits in the top of the second off Wovlerine Jayce Vancena, but it would be the only blemish on the five-inning line of the junior right-hander, holding the Broncos to four hits while striking out four without issuing a walk. In U-M’s big inning, a Harrison Wenson two-run double to left field was the big hit, with Jonathan Engelmann adding a sacrifice fly and Ako Thomas picking up an RBI-single. Michigan added a run in the fifth, before the team’s trading runs in their final at-bats. Thomas, left fielder Miles Lewis and DH Nick Poirier each recorded two of Michigan’s 10 hits.

The fourth inning was also the decisive frame in Indiana’s 3-2 victory over Cincinnati on Wednesday. IU (10-8-1) used a bunt single from freshman first baseman Matt Gorski to open the inning, and quickly two Hoosiers were on base following a single from senior right fielder Craig Dedelow. A double down the left field line from sophomore third baseman Luke Miller scored Gorski, with Dedelow and Miller scoring one batter later on a single by freshman catcher Jake Matheny. Six Indiana pitchers combined to hold Cincinnati (10-10) to a run in the fifth and eighth, with Tim Herrin tossing four innings of one-run baseball.

The 10 Spot: Breakout performances

 

With the start of Big Ten play this weekend, already one-third of the 2017 college baseball is behind us. With five weeks of action to reflect upon, we’re at the point where impressive numbers have weight, a hot streak simply doesn’t last nearly 20 games, that’s consistent performance.

As such, here’s a look at ten players, outside of freshmen and transfers, who have shown early-season success isn’t a fluke, they’re ready to help their team fight for a Big Ten championship.

*Stats through March 21

Nebraska Soph. INF Angelo Altavilla

As Nebraska weathered a 3-6 start, sophomore Angelo Altavilla was doing everything possible to make sure the Husker boat didn’t sink. With head coach Darin Erstad looking for a lineup he could trust, Altavilla played second base, shortstop and third base, providing much needed versatility. While most of the Husker lineup was in an early-season slump, Altavilla was not, showing a hot stick from the start, batting .400 through the first three weekends. Nebraska now sits 9-9 on the season, with its team average up to .262, performing as expected. And Altavilla has continued to swing it. Altavilla leads Nebraska with a .365 average and .464 on-base percentage. A year ago, Altavilla picked up four hits in 19 at-bats. His total hit output has already been trumped solely by his six doubles.

Michigan Sr. SS Michael Brdar

Michigan has been the Big Ten’s most consistent team in 2017. With 15 wins in 19 games, the Wolverines are also the Big Ten’s lone nationally-ranked team. Senior shortstop Michael Brdar has been the most consistent Wolverine, performing at a high-level from his number three-spot in the lineup and in the heart of the diamond for all 19 games. Brdar’s .333 average leads U-M, dialing up a .419 on-base percentage on the strength of 11 walks and just three strikeouts in 75 at-bats. A year after batting .250 with eight doubles, a triple and a home run, Brdar is also seeing an uptick in power numbers, collecting five doubles and three home runs. For good measure, Brdar has only committed two errors while adding nine stolen bases.

Penn State Soph. OF Jordan Bowersox

Penn State is still searching for its collective stroke at the plate, with the Nittany Lions’ .219 batting average is the conference’s worst mark. But Penn State does boast one of the conference’s top hitters thus far in sophomore outfielder Jordan Bowersox. Serving as an occassional leadoff batter for Rob Cooper, a year after batting .244 over 42 games, Bowersox has upped his average by more than .100 points, sporting a .353 hitting clip. Thanks to six doubles and a home run, Bowersox is second on the team with a .485 slugging percentage, and leads PSU with a .413 on-base percentage.

Purdue Soph. C/OF Nick Dalesandro

The season Nick Dalesandro is having may be less a surprise and more that of a player coming into his own. Dalesandro arrived in West Lafayette with much fanfare an attention, a ballyhooed recruit with the expectations of being the leader in reviving a dormant program. Dalesandro had a good freshman year, batting .277 with a .653 OPS, seeing time in all three outfield spots, on the mound and behind the plate. His second season for the Boilermakers has not seen him step on the mound, but he has again played all three outfield spots and behind the plate. This time doing it with a bat that cannot be removed from the lineup. Dalesandro is batting .324 through 18 games, connecting on his first two career home runs, adding five doubles and five stolen bases for a very productive first season.

Ohio State Jr. CF Tre’ Gantt

There were big holes to fill in the Ohio State outfielder with Ronnie Dawson and Troy Montgomery selected by MLB teams following their junior season. Dawson, an All-American, and Montgomery, a preseason All-American heading into the 2016 season, helped lead Ohio State to the Big Ten Tournament title and the program’s first NCAA Tournament since 2009. A lot of production was lost. A lot of production is coming from Gantt’s bat. Just like the two aforementioned Buckeyes, Gantt is a left-handed hitting outfielder with speed and is now showing a bit of power. Gantt paces Ohio State with a .365 average, six doubles, a pair of triples, a .581 slugging percentage and .467 on-base percentage. Gantt’s 10 extra-base hits, which match his output over the last two seasons, are second in the Big Ten, with his 43 total bases ranking third.

Minnesota Sr. RHP Brian Glowicki

Brian Glowick has faced hitters in 38 official at-bats this year. One batter recorded a home run off of the Gopher right-handed pitcher, another reached second a double. Two have players have singled off of the senior. Nobody else has recorded a hit. Appearing in nine games for Minnesota, Glowicki has been as close to a lock-down closer as there is. With only one run on his accord in 11.1 innings, Glowicki holds a .79 ERA with 13 strikeouts and one walk. Leading the Big Ten with six saves next to a 1-0 record, Glowicki has matched his saves total from his prior three seasons in Minneapolis where a 4.52 ERA in 85.2 inning.

Indiana Sr. OF Alex Krupa

With Indiana returning four players who saw playing time in the outfielder, how the Hoosiers lined up in the grass was question and perhaps good problem for Chris Lemonis to have. Senior Alex Krupa has put his best foot forward to make sure he’s in the lineup. A year ago, transferring to Indiana from Iowa Western, Krupa had a good year, batting .281 with a team-best 14 stolen bases. But with only three doubles a triple, Krupa slugged .313, leading to an sub-.700 OPS at .676. This year, Krupa’s ability to record a base hit is coming at a better rate, as is his power. Through Indiana’s 18 games, Krupa leads the Hoosiers with a .356 average. Matching his 2016 extra-base tallies with three doubles and a triple, Krupa also has a pair of home runs to slug .600 through the first third of the season.

Maryland Soph. RHP Andrew Miller

It’s reasonable to claim no player has made as big of a jump from 2016 to 2017 as Maryland sophomore right-handed pitcher Andrew Miller. A year ago, Miller was a highly-touted freshman who turned down offers from the New York Yankees, before scuffling to a 11.57-ERA campaign. The 2017 version of Miller is what many expected from the Stratford, New Jersey native. In his first 10 appearances, Miller did not surrender a run in 10.1 innings. Leading the Terrapins with three saves, Miller used 10 strikeouts to hold opponents to a .097 batting average in 31 at-bats. Miller’s scoreless inning streak snapped on Thursday, surrendering a two-run home run in Maryland’s 10-6 win over North Carolina-Wilimington. But it doesn’t look like Miller will stop having success at the back up the Terp’s pen.

Michigan State Soph. RHP Nathan Witt

Unlike the other sophomores on the list, 2017 hasn’t been breakout year building up past performance for Nathan Witt. The Michigan State right-handed pitcher redshirted in 2015 and wasn’t on the 2016 35-man roster. But it’s hard to keep a player off of a team when they possess a 95-MPH fastball, which is what Witt has showed the Michigan State coaching staff in the offseason and continues to have at his disposal, becoming an integral part in the Spartan bullpen. With nine innings under his belt, Witt has a 0.00 ERA, holding 31 batters to just four singles and a double. In seven appearances, Witt has struck out nine batters and walked one. Any doubt of Witt being a fluke was erased on March 8, when he struck out four in 2.2 innings of scoreless relief against nationally-ranked Clemson.

Illinois Soph. CF Jack Yalowitz

Take a look at the Big Ten individual stat leaders and you’ll see Illinois sophomore Jack Yalowitz among the top hitters. And sluggers. And run producers. With a .389 average, .653 slugging percentage, 18 runs, 28 hits, 22 RBI, a pair of triples, 47 bases and even three sacrifice flies, Yalowitz is among the top three players in the Big Ten in eight different offensive categories. Yalowitz hasn’t only broke through in a big way after a freshman season where he hit .227 and posted a .291 slugging percentage, the center fielder is bursting out, providing the Illinois with one of the most potent 1-2 punches alongside senior first baseman Pat McInerney. At 5-12, Illinois’ every-other-year NCAA Tournament streak looks to be in jeopardy, but Yalowitz is putting together a season to continue the Illini’s odd-season stranglehold on the Big Ten Player of the Year honor.

 

March 16-19 Weekend review

 

In the final weekend before Big Ten play begins, teams continued the conference’s strong showing in California, going 6-1. Back in the Midwest, a trio of teams held their home opener with mixed results. Across the country, from the mid-Atlantic to the Bay Area, outstanding starts with big strikeout totals were founds. Here’s a recap of the weekends highlights and look back on the marquee matchup.

Boilermakers steam past Santa Clara for best start in five years

For the first time in five years Purdue will enter Big Ten play above .500. At 10-8 on the season, the Boilermakers are riding a five-game winning streak, the latter four coming in a weekend sweep over Santa Clara.

As first-year head coach Mark Wasikowski looks to rebuild the Purdue program and return the Boilermakers to level of annual conference championship contender, Purdue’s weekend in California was one not seen in a while. The four-game sweep over the Broncos acheived this list of first:

• Swept a doubleheader on an opponent’s home field for the first time since March 2012 at Ohio State
• Swept a series of at least three games for the first time since May 2013 vs. Southern Illinois
• Won a four-game series on the road for the first time since February 2011 at Morehead State
• Swept a four-game series for the first time since April 2008 vs. Minnesota
• Swept a four-game series on the road for the first time since April 2001 at Northwestern

The Thursday through Saturday series opened with a convincing Purdue victory, 12-4. Collecting three triples in a game for the first time in seven years, the Boilermakers pounded out 16 hits to score in all but three innings. Purdue’s 1-2-3 hitters, Harry Shipley, Mike Madej and Nick Dalesandro combined to go 9-for-13 with seven runs and six RBI. Madej picked up a double and a triple in a seven-base game.

Pitching reigned supreme in the second game of the series. Right-handed pitcher Tanner Andrews put himself in consideration for a third Big Ten Pitcher of the Week performance with a strong start, leading Purdue to a 3-0 win. The junior tossed 7.2-shutout innings, scattered three hits, walked three batters and struck out 10. Andrews became the first Boilermaker to reach double-digits in strikeouts since March 2012. Run-scoring doubles in the third inning by Shipley and Dalesandro would be all Andrews and the team needed on the afternoon.

Closing out the perfect run in South Bay, Purdue swept a Saturday doubleheader. Turning back the Broncos 8-7 in the opener and cruising to a 10-5 triumph in the closer. Santa Clara took the first lead of the day, jumping out in front 3-0, in bottom of the second. Purdue evened the scored with a trio of runs in the fourth, to kick-start a back-and-forth contest. The Broncos regained the lead with a tally in the fourth, before Purdue grabbed the lead with two in the fifth. The lead again switched hands with a pair of Santa Clara runs in their half of the fifth. Scoring a run in each of the final three innings, Purdue landed the final punch to move above .500 on the year. Jacson McGowan led the Boilermaker attack with three RBI and in a 3-for-4 day.

The nightcap didn’t make Wasikowski sweat it out, as Purdue erupted for seven runs in the middle three innings. McGowan’s big day continued with two hits, including his third home run of the season. Skylar Hunter, the Big Ten Freshman of the Week, added three RBI in a 2-for-3 game and starting pitcher Mike Kornacker allowed three runs, one earned, in four innings, striking out four batters.

Purdue started their California spring break with three losses to Cal State-Northridge, before winning the series finale en route to winning the final five games of their Golden State run.

Power surges

Sunday was quite the day for power hitters in the Big Ten. Two players hit three home runs in a game, another added a two-home run effort, while yet another had two over two games to cap a three-home run weekend.

Michigan third baseman Drew Lugbauer’s third-inning grand slam was the big hit in a seven-run fourth inning that powered the Wolverines to a 7-4 victory over Northern Illinois. The junior wasn’t done tormenting the Huskies. Lugbauer hit a three-run, walk-off home run to give Michigan another 7-4 victory over NIU in the first game of a Sunday doubleheader, then added a solo shot in Sunday’s second game.

Ohio State’s Jalen Washington saw Lugbauer’s two-home run day, and raised him with a two-home run game. In a 5-4 loss to Xavier, Washington connected twice against the Musketeers. And that wasn’t even the top Ohio State performance of the day.

Buckeye second baseman Noah McGowan one-upped his teammate to tie a school record with three home runs in a game, picking up a pair of solo home runs and a three-run round-tripper to account for all five runs in Ohio State;s 6-5 loss to Xavier.

And yet, that still wasn’t the most impressive offensive performance of the weekend.

Iowa junior first baseman Jake Adams is showing no problem in adjusting to Division I baseball. A transfer from Des Moines Area Community College, Adams was a JUCO All-American last year after hitting 25 home runs, a single-season school record, to end a two-year stay in Iowa’s capital with 42 home runs, also a school record. Adams is right on pace to match his DMACC performance for the Hawkeyes. Adams hit three home runs in an 7-RBI day to lead Iowa to a 12-11, 10-inning win, salvaging a weekend series at Kansas State. With eight home runs on the year, Adams leads the Big Ten and is one off the NCAA lead in home runs, sitting fifth in the country with .44 home runs per game. Only eight batters in the country are driving in more runs per game than Adams’ 1.5 mark.

Ohio State’s late-game struggles continue

Ohio State head coach Greg Beals has time and time again reiterated his belief in his team’s ability to compete. The team’s character will surely be tested in how the three-game, split-site series against Xavier unfolded.

Weather postponed Ohio State’s home opener to Saturday. In a game where little fanfare was to be found, from the dreary low-40 degree weather, to miscues by the Buckeyes, Ohio State dropped its first home opener since 2004, a 3-2, 13-inning loss.

Musketeer starting pitch Zac Lowther allowed two runs, one earned over six innings, striking out 11 Buckeyes. Lowther allowed just one hit, as Ohio State mustered only four on the day. After the reigning Big East champions scored in each of the opening two innings, Ohio State tied the score with a two-out third. Neither team scored again for 10 innings. Xavier struck in the top of the 13th, aided by Ohio State not covering first on a sacrifice bunt attempt which gave Xavier the extra out it needed to eek out the win.

Playing two games in Cincinnati on Sunday, extra innings weren’t needed, but, still, the Buckeyes were struck with heartbreak. Twice.

Xavier grabbed an early lead with three runs in the bottom of the second off OSU starter Ryan Feltner. A single and a pair of walks loaded the bases, before a sacrifice fly, bunt single and single to center field plated three Musketeers. Ohio State cut into the deficit in the top of the third with a leadoff home run to left field by Tyler Cowles. A leadoff home run by Washington in the fourth, inched Ohio State closer and the Buckeyes took their first lead of the series with a two-run home run by Washington in the fifth. Xavier struck for a run in the seventh to chase Feltner, leveling the score, 4-4. In the bottom of the ninth, OSU reliever Kyle Michalik hit the leadoff batter, with Nate Soria moving into scoring position one batter later on a bunt. After an intentional walk and single loaded the bases, a fly ball to center field by Mitch Gallagher was deep even to plate Soria and give Xavier the weekend win.

Another fly ball doomed Ohio State in the nightcap, as the Buckeyes again wasted a multi-home run game. McGowan’s big game started with a first-pitch solo home run to left in the third inning, giving Ohio State the initial lead. Xavier responded with a run in their at-bat in the third, tying the game 1-1. The score held until the seventh. His second home run of the game, McGowan drove in three runs on a homer to left center. Xavier’s Connor Grammes responded with a leadoff home run of his own, trimming Ohio State’s advantage to 4-2. Xavier knotted the game, 4-4, in the eighth, but it was OSU’s turn to answer the bell. With two outs, McGowan connected on his third home run of the game, putting the Bucks back in front.

But the final swing of the game made it a long drive back to Columbus. Closer Yianni Pavlopoulous plunked the first batter his faced, before giving up a game-winning, two-run home run on his next pitch, as Joe Gellenbeck homered to right center for a sweep-clinching hit.

Sending Ohio State to 8-11 on the season, Xavier (10-10) becomes the first in-state team to sweep a series of at least three games against Ohio State since 1975.

Quick hits

Nebraska received three quality starts in its weekend sweep of the College of Charleston. Outscoring the Cougars, 22-4, the Husker weekend rotation was sterling. Jake Honhensee (6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R), Derek Burkamper (6.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R) and Jake Meyers (6 IP, 4 H, 0 R) were more than good enough for a team that collected 29 hits against CoC pitching. The three victories, 10-1, 6-1 and 6-2, allowed the Huskers finish a weekend with a record above .500 for the first time this season.

Sophomore center fielder Jack Yalowitz had a monster weekend at the plate for Illinois. But it wasn’t enough as the Illini (5-12) went 1-3 in a weekend round robin against Southern Illinois and Toledo. Hosting the Salukies and Rockets, the Illini opened the weekend with a 11-5 win over Toledo. Yalowitz collected three RBI, in a 3-for-5 afternoon where he picked up a double and a home run in the victory. But Illinois lost twice to SIU, 8-5, 3-1, before Toledo split their contests with a 10-5 victory. Yalowitz went 8-for-17 with a double, triple and a pair of home runs on the weekend, driving in nine batters.

Penn State received two outstanding starts on Saturday in a doubleheader against Delaware. But with losses of 6-1 and 5-0, the terrific efforts were for naught. Junior right-handed pitcher Sal Biasi struck out 11 batters over 5.2 innings, scattering three hits in allowing just one unearned run. In the second game of the twinbill, sophomore right-handed Justin Hagenman struck out 10 batters, in six innings, allowing two runs, both unearned off five hits. But Penn State could only claw out seven hits on the day against the Blue Hens.

Maryland held Princeton to two runs on the weekend, earning a three-game sweep to run their record to 12-6. Knocking off the Tigers, 4-0, 6-2, 2-0, the weekend showing for the Terrapins was bookend by a pair of award-winning efforts. Junior right-handed pitcher Brian Shaffer struck out 10 batters in eight innings, allowing just three hits, to earn this week’s Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honor. For a second straight week, freshman right-hander Tyler Blohm is the Big Ten’s top freshman. The rookie pitched seven scoreless innings, conceding on two hits in an eight-strikeout game.

It wasn’t the most dominant weekend on the field, but Indiana (9-8-1) returned from Hawaii with three victories in four games. Three of the four games were decided by one run, with the other decided in 11 innings. IU held on to win the opener, 7-6, and rallied for a 4-3 win in game two, scoring three runs over their final two at-bats. The Hoosiers were victorious, 8-5, in the 11-inning game, pounding out 15 hits as eight or nine batters recorded a hit. The Rainbow Warriors grabbed the weekend finale, 11-10, matching IU with a five-run eighth, before two in the ninth provided a walk-off win.

Andrews, Biasi, Hagenman, Shaffer and Michigan State’s Alex Troop, with 10 in five innings against Campbell, gave the Big Ten five pitchers this weekend with double-digit strikeouts in a start. Minnesota’s Lucas Gilbreath was one punchout shy with nine in six innings.

Krupa Named Big Ten Player of the Week

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana Baseball senior outfielder Alex Krupa has been named Big Ten Player of the Week, the conference office announced on Monday.

Krupa started all four games in the leadoff spot for Indiana, as the Hoosiers won the series at Hawaii, three games to one. The Greenwood, Ind. native hit .533 (8-for-15) on the week with two doubles, a triple, three RBI, five runs scored and a stolen base. The senior tallied at least one hit in all four games, with three of those games being multi-hit contests.

Over his last six games in which he has started, Krupa is hitting .500 (11-for-22) with two home runs, two doubles, a triple, five RBI and seven runs scored. He has posted an OPS of 1.511.

Purdue’s Hunter Named co-Big Ten Freshman of the Week

ROSEMONT, Ill. (www.purduesports.com) – After driving in the go-ahead run in three of Purdue baseball’s five wins on the spring break trip, Skyler Hunter has been named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week.

As the Boilermakers’ starting center fielder in all five games last week, Hunter put together 14 productive plate appearances in his 23 trips to the dish. He was 7-for-16 with two doubles, two walks, a hit by pitch, three sacrifice flies and a sac bunt. He hit safely in all five games, scored four times and drove in eight runs for the week. With a runner on third base and less than two outs, he drove in that runner in all six of his opportunities.

Hunter joins Tanner Andrews (two-time Pitcher of the Week) as Boilermakers to be recognized by the Big Ten conference office this season. Andrews was another strong candidate for Pitcher of the Week after striking out a career-high 10 over 7 2/3 shutout innings in Purdue’s game two win at Santa Clara.

Hunter is the first Boilermaker to win Big Ten Freshman of the Week since Harry Shipley was recognized in May 2015. Hunter shared the award with Maryland’s Tyler Blohm this week. Blohm struck out eight over seven shutout innings vs. Princeton on Sunday.

An infielder as a high school state champion at Hood River Valley in Oregon, Hunter has made the transition to center fielder at Purdue. He really hit his stride on Purdue’s eight-game spring break trip in California, playing flawless defense in center while batting a team-best .444 (12-for-27). Last week, he delivered the go-ahead RBI in Monday’s win at Cal State Northridge and in both games of Saturday’s doubleheader sweep at Santa Clara.

Hunter put together a long at-bat and eventually broke a 7-7 tie with a sac fly in the ninth inning of the game three win at Santa Clara, which clinched Purdue’s first series victory in a four-game set since February 2011. In the nightcap, he delivered a three-run double with the bases loaded in the fourth inning. He also broke a 2-2 tie with a sac fly in the sixth inning of Monday’s win at CSUN.

Hunter has hit safely in every game of each of Purdue’s three four-game series this season. Four-game series have not been as common since the Big Ten switched from four- to three-game conference weekends beginning in 2009, but he’s the first Boilermaker to accomplish the feat since 2008 nonetheless.

Hunter enters the week ranked third in batting average (.392) and 11th in on-base percentage (.443) among the Big Ten leaders. Teammates Dalton Parker (.133 batting average against), Evan Warden (14 hit by pitch) and Andrews (4 wins) lead the league entering the first weekend of conference play.

Maryland’s Shaffer, Blohm Pick Up Big Ten Honors

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Junior right-handed pitcher Brian Shaffer and freshman left-handed pitcher Tyler Blohm earned Big Ten weekly plaudits, the conference announced Monday. Shaffer was named the conference Pitcher of the Week, while Blohm nabbed Co-Freshman of the Week honors for the second consecutive week.

Shaffer was spectacular in his Friday starter against Princeton, tossing eight innings of shutout ball while allowing just three hits and setting a new career high of 10 strikeouts. The Pylesville, Md., native at one point retired 17 consecutive Tigers.

The win marks Shaffer’s second career Big Ten Pitcher of the Week award. His start against Cal State Fullerton that earned him the award in 2016 came a year ago today. He is ranked first in the Big Ten in strikeouts (38) and innings pitched (33.2), and is second in ERA (1.65).

Blohm continued his recent run of dominance on Sunday against the Tigers, striking out a career-high eight batters over a career-high seven innings. The Severna Park, Md., native took a no hitter into the fifth and has gone 13 and two thirds consecutive innings without giving up a run.

Blohm is the first player in Maryland history to win a conference weekly honor in consecutive weeks. He shared the award with Purdue’s Skyler Hunter. The freshman has the third-best ERA in the Big Ten (1.78) and is tied for the conference lead in wins (4).

Penn State-WVU postponed

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The non-conference baseball game between Penn State and West Virginia scheduled for Wednesday night in Medlar Field at Lubrano Park has been postponed due to forecasted temperatures and wind chills, head coach Rob Cooper announced Tuesday.

Penn State and West Virginia will seek to make the game up on a mutually agreeable date later in the season.

The Nittany Lions’ home opener against Bucknell will be played as scheduled today (Tuesday) with first pitch at 6:30 p.m. The Lions are then slated to open a four-game series against Columbia Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Season, flex and single-game ticket options for the 2017 Penn State baseball season in Medlar Field at Lubrano Park are now on sale by clicking here or by calling the Medlar Field at Lubrano Park ticket office at 814-272-1711. Ask about the hospitality suite option for season ticket holders.

Check back to GoPSUSports.com for continued updates on Penn State Baseball. Follow on Twitter at @PennStateBASE and Facebook at Penn State Baseball.

Weekend Preview March 16-19

The final weekend of action before Big Ten play begins is here. Action will take place on six Big Ten campuses, from College Park to Lincoln, as baseball slowly makes its way back from points south and west and into the Midwest.

Here’s a look at premier series of the week and storylines from around the conference.

Buckeyes look to find stride after tough road run

Ohio State has shown it can play with anyone in the country. The Buckeyes are responsible for the lone loss on the 14-1 record of the second-ranked team in the country, Oregon State.

But Ohio State has also showed when it gets ugly, it’s ugly. The night before they beat the Beavers, Ohio State was blanked 12-0 by Utah. This past weekend, after blowing a five-run, ninth-inning lead Friday night at Florida Gulf Coast, Ohio State was whipped 13-1 by the Osprey on Saturday.

The Jekyll-Hyde nature of the Ohio State season turned again, on Sunday. The 2016 Big Ten Tournament champions salvaged the weekend at FGCU with a 5-4 victory over the #24 team in the country. The victory was the start of a three-game winning streak to bring the Buckeyes level on the season at 8-8. Heading into the final weekend before the start of Big Ten play, for head coach Greg Beals, the hope is a tough non-conference slate allowed the Scarlet and Gray to show its true colors and be the team they’re capable of over the final 40 games.

“We’re on a three-game winning streak, so we feel good about that, but we’re certainly not happy being 8-8,” the seventh-year head coach said. “We’ve had opportunities to get a couple of games we didn’t get, but we did win a couple of big games and beaten some strong opponents.”

Ohio State’s strength of schedule is rated as the 20th-toughest in the country as of March 16 by Warren Nolan. With two games each against Oregon State and Utah, the latter the 2016 Pac-12 champions, plus three at Florida Gulf Coast, albeit early, Ohio State has a top 40 RPI on the strength of playing seven top-50 teams. Looking to reach consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time since 2002-03, Beals hopes the experience of playing a tough schedule starts to reap benefits come May with a conference title and NCAA regional in sight.

“Our strength of schedule at this point in the season is really really strong. I think that bodes well for our preparation entering conference play,” Beals said. “I think it’s critical these guys get that top-level experience. Playing the teams we have played will help us be ready to go come conference time.”

There are signs Ohio State is rounding into form. At the end of the Big Ten – Pac-12 Baseball Challenge, the Buckeyes were 3-5 on the year, now the team has won five of its last eight. Through two weekends the team had a .230 batting average and .947 fielding percentage. With twice as many games under its belt, Ohio State sports a .250 hitting clip and the fielding percentage has improved to .954.

For a green team, Ohio State lost six regulars from its Louisville Regional team, Beals has seen a maturation throughout March.

“They’ve struggled a bit, but it’s a natural thing for them to go through as they get their feet wet at this level,” Beals said of the five first-time starters which include three JUCO transfers, a freshman and a sophomore. “We definitely have matured through this season.

“We still have to get better, no question about it, but we’re finding our way. We’re learning how this year’s Buckeye team is going to do it.”

One player who the Buckeyes have been able to rely on from the start is junior Tre’ Gantt. Moving to his natural position of center field, after playing right field for his first two seasons, Gantt is blossoming into a standout all-around player. Leading Ohio State with a .345 average, .451 on-base percentage and .552 slugging mark, the fleet-footed left-handed hitter has been the consistency force Ohio State has needed to tread water as players around him round into form.

“It’s as simple as he’s coming into himself,” Beals said, while also alluding to Gantt having a full year of health and preparation going into the season. “He’s just comfortable with where he is and who he is, which is allowing him to go out and compete and allowing his athleticism and skill to come out for us.”

And for the rest of the team, after four weeks on the road, the comforts of home may be what the team needs to take off.

A look at the opponent

Xavier is set to take on the second of three Big Ten opponents they will see this season. In week two, the Musketeers split a four-game set against Penn State, in Cary N.C., and Scott Googins’ team will be the bye week opponent for Indiana when they step outside of conference play, May 5-7.

Through 17 games, XU’s 7-10 record comes with a .225 team average and 4.93 ERA. Xavier does not boast a batter with an average of .300 or better, but junior Rylan Bannon is a player to keep an eye on. The third baseman leads Xavier with a .284 average, his five doubles and four home runs also team highs. As a team, the Nashville Regional runners-up have stolen 22 bases in 26 attempts, and have a .972 fielding percentage, besting the Buckeyes in both areas.

On the mound, junior left-handed pitcher Zac Lowther entered the season as the top draft prospect in Ohio, according to Baseball America. The southpaw led the Cape Cod League in strikeouts last summer, and so far has been racking up the punchouts. Lowther enters the weekend with a 2-2 record, 2.61 ERA and .171 opponent’s batting average, dialing up 25 strikeouts against 10 walks in 20.2 innings.

Last year, Ohio State defeated Xavier, 11-6, on a March 22 meeting in Columbus. This year’s two-site series has been adjusted with the potential of snow moving through Columbus on Friday. The two will play one game in Ohio’s capital city on Saturday, before wrapping up the weekend with a Sunday doubleheader in the Queen City.

Home sweet home

Along with Ohio State, Illinois and Michigan are set to open their home slate. Being March in the Midwest, weather forced changes throughout the weekend, with teams scrambling to fill the final weekend before Big Ten play begins. One scramble resulted in Penn State canceling the first two games of a four-game split-site set against Delaware. Postponing their home opener, the Nittany Lions will now play three games at Delaware.

For the Illini, Dan Hartleb’s team is set to host Southern Illinois (9-7) and Toledo (2-14) for two games against each. Illinois (3-9) has shown flashes of promise, taking down the defending national champions, Coastal Carolina, last weekend, but the Illini’s youth leads to up-and-down play. Illinois is best in the Big Ten with 15 home runs while batting a respectable .268 average. But on the mound, 85 walks issued by Illini pitchers in 111 innings have contributed to a 7.14 ERA, the second-worst mark in the conference. With underclassmen accounting for 88.3% of Illinois innings on the mound, 98, Illinois lists sophomore Cole Bellar (1-1, 9.24) and freshman Ty Weber (1-0, 2.82), as the weekend’s 1-2, the latter two starts to be determined. Weber carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning of Saturday’s first game against CCU, a doubleheader opener the Illini lost on back-to-back home runs. A year ago, Illinois averaged 1,310 fans per home game, the second-highest season total in Illinois Field’s 29-year history.

The Big Ten’s top team after four weekends will look to continue their winning ways back home. Michigan (12-3) welcomes Northern Illinois (3-12) to Ann Arbor for four games, set to play a single game each day, Thursday through Sunday. Ranked in this week’s NCBWA poll, checking in as the #22 team in the country, the Wolverines have won 10 of their last 11 games. The Maize and Blue have stymied the opposition by way of a deep pitching staff. With 17 pitchers already seeing action on the mound this year, Erik Bakich has a deep pitching staff. And a good one, too. Pitching to a Big Ten-best 2.96 ERA, Michigan leads the conference with 138 strikeouts and in opponent’s batting average at .230. When they are at the plate, Michigan’s .258 batting average rests in the middle of the conference, but their 35 stolen bases in 39 attempts are second to none, with nine errors in the field the fewest committed by a conference team. Michigan has a 109-78 record at the Wilson Baseball Complex, the home of Ray Fisher Stadium since 2008.

Familiar foes

Ohio State isn’t the only team to take on an opponent which has already had a series against a Big Ten team. The weekend series between the Buckeyes and Musketeers is one of four such matchups.

Ohio State’s most recent weekend opponent, Florida Gulf Coast, is set to host Rutgers for three games in Fort Myers. FGCU, ranked #24 in this week’s NCBWA poll, is one of the country’s hottest teams, going 11-2 over its last 13 contests, all games against teams which played in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, including taking two of three games at home against the Buckeyes. But Rutgers enters the weekend with a little momentum of its own. Though the team lost a midweek contest at Florida Atlantic, Rutgers took two of three games on the road last week at North Florida.

It will be the first meeting between Purdue (6-8) and Santa Clara (4-12), with the four-game series an opportunity for the Boilermakers to return home with a .500 or better record. Purdue is looking to rebound from a 1-3 start to their California swing, only able to take Monday’s contest against Cal State-Northridge in the extended weekend set. Purdue will be the third Big Ten team Santa Clara squares off against. On Feb. 26, Michigan defeated Santa Clara, 10-3 in the Jack Gifford Tournament, a week before the Broncos split a four-game set at home against Northwestern. Catcher/outfielder Nick Dalesandro looks to continue a strong run, the sophomore is batting .400 over his last 10 games, picking up four doubles and two home runs to slug .650 alongside a .442 on-base percentage.

Purdue will be joined in northern California by Minnesota, who has a three-game set at Sacramento State. The Gophers are looking to follow the ways of Penn State, as the Nittany Lions took two of three games against the Hornets, two of the teams three losses in 10 games at home. Sacramento State’s 9-6 record is spurred by a pitching staff which has a 3.19 ERA and tossed two shutouts against Northern Kentucky, after opening the season with a weekend victory of Washington State. Minnesota (9-7) will look to right the ways of its pitching staff. Holding a 4.81 ERA, Minnesota has allowed at least seven runs in each of the last three games.

Around the conference

The Big Ten is 15-11 in games played in California this year, with seven more on the docket. But even further west, Indiana has a four-game series at Hawaii. Six hours behind their home Eastern Time Zone, IU opened the series with a Wednesday night victory, used two runs in the third and sixth innings, with three in the seventh enough to fend off the Rainbow Warriors., 7-6. The Hoosiers enter Thursday action at 7-7-1 on the season, hoping 25 runs in their last three games are enough to jump start an offense with a .352 on-base percentage, tied for 10th in the conference.

Iowa (9-6) heads into a weekend at Kansas State (12-5) on the heels of bad news. On Friday, the team announced junior right-handed pitcher C.J. Eldred will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery on Wednesday to repair a partial tear of his UCL. Limited to one six-inning start, Eldred allowed two runs in the season-opening series at South Florida. As Iowa reached 30 wins for a third consecutive season, Eldred tossed a team-high 94.1 innings in 2016. Eldred’s absence is compounded by Iowa missing Friday start Nick Gallagher for the weekend due to arm discomfort. Rick Heller will rely more on an offense which is second in the Big Ten in batting (.289) and slugging (.429).

At 6-8, Nebraska is still looking to get in gear following a season which ended in the NCAA Tournament. Not playing a midweek game, the last time out for the Huskers ended in a 10-0 victory. Junior left-handed pitcher Jake Meyers pitched a shutout against Western Carolina, with every batter recording a hit. Darin Erstad hopes the latter is a sign of the team turning the corner, with Big Red holding a .246 batting average on the season. This weekend, Nebraska continues an eight-game homestand with a three-game set against the College of Charleston (8-9). The two teams met last year to open the season, with the Husker starting the new campaign with a 4-0 win. But the Cougars bounced back to capture the series with victories of 13-5 and 7-3. For the first time this season, Nebraska’s weekend rotation is the same as the last time out, Jake Hohensee, Derek Burkamper and Jake Meyers to toe the rubber in that order.

Required reading

Hartleb, Illinois baseball happy to be home– Thomas Polcyn, The Daily Illini

Brdar, Thomas spark Wolverines as potent infield combo– Jacob Shames, The Michigan Daily

Luis Alvarado holds off on pros to pitch in for the Huskers– Evan Bland, The Omaha World-Herald

Assistants Anonymous: Championship Culture

 

In our latest edition of Assistants Anonymous, a Big Ten championship winning assistant coach speaks on program culture. What exactly is a program’s culture? How does a program create a championship culture? He breaks it down.

 

There’s a lot of talk these days about culture. Before we dig in, how do you define a program’s culture?

A program’s culture is all about the values set forth and the accountability that takes place throughout the entirety of a team’s system. In order for the right culture to flourish everyone needs to be on the same page and working towards the same goals. You’ll run into a bad culture when you have groups of individuals who want to do their own thing and the coaches want something else — culture has to be about cooperation, unity and understanding between all members.

A small piece of building a winning culture is all about getting the players, and staff, to understand the process and what goes into success. No program in the country can control wins and losses, as much as anyone would like to say otherwise, it’s just simply not possible. Baseball is the ultimate game of failure and more often times than not we are all going to fail our fair share and the players need to understand that.

So it becomes more about the process then the results, you break it down by it’s smallest parts and it starts at the very beginning; going to class, getting into the weight room, being on-time, respecting each other and the people you come into contact with, showing up to practice every single day with energy, having a positive and open attitude and having an attitude of gratitude.

Then you break it down each game by your approach to each inning and each at-bat — did we achieve our goals in throwing strikes, having a quality at-bat, having a solid approach —- If we do that, and break everything down to it’s core and focus on doing everything right, then we can look back on our process (and our culture) and realistically be in a no lose environment and that’s what you want the kids to understand.

Eliminate the rewards, forget about the score, focus on the process and your growth and the game is fun. 

 

If everyone would create a championship-winning culture, they could do it. In your opinion, what part of a culture where championships prosper is controllable?

It sounds easy on paper but it’s one of the most difficult aspects to achieve inside a locker room, if it was easy everyone would do it but when you have 35 players and 4 coaches not everyone is going to agree on absolutely everything.

Not everyone buys into a certain philosophy and some simply cannot hold up to their end of the accountability factor. Controlling that is hard because you don’t know what’s going on inside of everyone’s head — but you can try and detect patterns of body language, mood changes, attitude, adversity to failure, etc. Noticing and being aware of those signals allows you to see what’s really going on inside people’s heads and thus you can attempt to make adjustments through mental and emotional training and try to solve some issues before they become problems.

Conclusively, you cannot control results or players but you can help get them away from focusing on the external aspects and get them focusing more on helping the people around them be successful, that’s where the accountability factor comes into play. Preach the right values, have a strong systematic approach to focusing on the process and continue to teach and educate these young kids as much as possible.  

When there is a roster of 35 players, a coaching staff of four, not everyone will see eye-to-eye. When there is an a player whose behavior doesn’t reflect what’s best for the culture, is it a one-on-one matter to handle between coach and player, is it something where the other teammates are to step in? What’s the best way to proceed?

In this type of a matter it’s best to be handled in stages.

First, you as the assistant might try to step in and give your insight into the matter and/or problem and see if the player responds — if that’s unsuccessful perhaps the team (as a group) takes it upon themselves to sit the player down, in a players only meeting, and give their thoughts and/or expectations of what they perceive is the issue.

Finally, the head coach steps in and has a closed door meeting with the player and lays out the ultimatum. At the end of the day you cannot have players that are cancers or behavior problems on your team, that’s just simply unacceptable. Getting players to buy into a philosophy and getting them all on the same page (mindset-wise) is one thing but having guys acting out and becoming problems is something that’s inexcusable and will not be tolerated. 

In today’s world, coaches are forced to recruit future student-athletes who may be upwards of four years away from stepping foot on campus. When you strive to have a certain culture, is there concern that the recruiting cycle has accelerated to the point it’s hard to maintain consistency in the type of player a program brings in, having the right fit?

The ultimate question facing our game today and there’s no good answer for you.

Early recruiting is absolutely out of control in college athletics and there’s no solution on the horizon. So, ultimately, the question your left with is how much are you willing to swallow ethically? There’s no way of knowing for sure if a high school freshman, four years away from graduation, is going to continue to develop physically and/or academically. There’s no way of knowing what type of a kid he’s going to be by his senior year, what type of interests, personality, attitude, ethics or even sports he likes by the time he’s 17 or 18 years old —- everyone who makes theses commitments to these kids are guessing.

You see the talent, you see the potential, you risk losing them if you don’t offer within a certain time frame and you find yourself right in the middle of the early recruiting game. So what happens if it doesn’t work out, the kid doesn’t develop and his grades don’t pan out, then what? Do you take away the scholarship offer, do you stay committed to the kid, what if someone you planned on getting drafted doesn’t get drafted and you have no roster room available?

These are all tough questions that you’ve got to face when going into the early recruiting cycle. Like most of us, we want to try and keep the best players in the state, and when southern schools (or other Power 5 schools) come calling your forced with the dilemma of losing potentially high valued talent by not offering or you put your morals and ethics aside and jump into the mix. There’s no easy answer, for anyone. Coaches and prospective student athletes are both in a bad situation until the NCAA decides to step in and change something. 

At the end of the day, can championships and games be won with players just showing up? Is a team culture instrumental to success?

For most of us in the Big Ten — there’s no way we can just show up and play and expect to win, I don’t believe you can do that in any facet in competitive athletics regardless of how talented you are. You can have 35 of the best players on the planet and if they don’t play together, have no roles and have no feel for each other it’s 35 individual players all doing their own thing, all trying to accomplish their own personal goals instead of one unified team goal.

Maybe this is why a lot of all-star teams repeatedly fail, they rely solely on the talent of the individual versus the collective efforts from the group. Baseball is the ultimate team game, for as individually complex as it can get at times, you simply cannot beat the game all by yourself. You need to sacrifice, play defense, move runners, hit with two strikes, have different guys out of the bullpen who offer a variety of ways to execute.

For a perfect example of this all you need to do is look at Coastal Carolina last year, by far and away the most unified team in Omaha — they all had roles, all bought into a philosophy and all played for each other….the ultimate team won the ultimate team game.  

Midweek wrap

Settling into mid-March, the Big Ten has reached the part of the college baseball season with midweek games litter the calendar. For those in the Midwest, cold and wintery weather across Big Ten country cancelled games in Champaign and Iowa City, but for teams on spring break, taking to parts south and west there was action to be found.

Buckeyes take two in Port Charlotte

The second of two pre-Big Ten trips to Florida, Ohio State returns to Columbus riding a three-game winning streak after winning a pair of midweek games in Port Charlotte.

On Tuesday, Ohio State topped Lehigh, 7-3. The Buckeyes wasted little time scoring, crossing home twice in the opening inning, with senior DH Zach Ratcliff providing a big hit with an RBI-double. Lehigh responded with a run in their at-bat, but the Buckeye bats weren’t done, matching Lehigh with a run of their own in the bottom of the second.

OSU plated another run in the third, to take a 4-1 lead, but Lehigh cut the deficit to one run with two runs in their fourth-inning at-bat. But, again, Ohio State answered the bell. Junior center fielder Tre’ Gantt connected on his second home run of the season and Ratcliff added a sacrifice fly to give the Buckeyes breathing room and a 6-3 lead, OSU added an insurance run in the seventh to close the scoring.

Leading the team’s 12-hit attack, second baseman Noah McGowan, first baseman Bo Coolen and right fielder Dominic Canzone each picked up two hits in four at-bats. Left fielder Tyler Cowles matcher Ratcliff with two RBI. After freshman right-handed pitcher Jake Vance pitched 3.2 innings in hist first career start, Austin Woodby, Joe Stoll and Curtiss Irving combined to pitch 5.1 innings of three-hit, scoreless relief, striking out seven batters without issuing a walk.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Buckeyes reached .500 on the year, turning back the Bucknell Bison, 5-2, to even their record at 8-8.

The game was scoreless at its mid-point before the Buckeyes broke through with a two-run bottom of the fifth. With two outs, sophomore catcher Jacob Barnwell singled through the left side and moved up 90 feet when Gantt reached on an infield single up the middle. Senior shortstop Jalen Washington provided Ohio State with the game’s first lead, driving an opposite-field double down the right field line scoring Barnwell and Gantt. An unearned run in the bottom of the sixth provided the Buckeyes with further cushion.

Sophomore left-handed pitcher Connor Curlis twirled a gem in his first career start. Curlis struck out eight batters in 5.1 innings of work, holding Bucknell to four hits and one walk. The Bison did strike for two runs in the top of the seventh, but Ohio State leveled the inning’s scoring with two runs of their own, with Gantt picking up a RBI-single then later scoring on a wild pitch.

Running his batting average to a team-best .345, Gantt led Ohio State with a 2-for-4 afternoon from his leadoff position, scoring a pair of runs. Sophomore third baseman Brady Cherry added two hits in four at-bats.

Terps fall to Tar Heels on the road

Maryland’s eight-game winning streak came to an end Tuesday night, falling at #13 North Carolina, 9-2.

Allowing two runs in the bottom of the first, sophomore Right-handed pitcher Hunter Parson was the victim of two unearned runs in the bottom of the second, before exiting after 1.2 innings of work. The two-inning production would be enough for the Atlantic Coast Conference club in the battle against its former conference peer. Maryland was kept off of the scoreboard save a two-RBI single in the third inning, off of the bat of sophomore second baseman Nick Dunn. Dunn’s hit, Maryland’s lone base hit on the evening, halved the Terrapin deficit, but an UNC four-spot in the fourth put the game away.  Tar Heel pitchers struck out 12 batters on the night, only once allowing a runner to second base after the third inning.

Elsewhere

Winning the final two games of a three-game set at North Florida, Rutgers was unable to carry its momentum as the team headed south. Taking on Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton on Tuesday, the Scarlet Knights were downed by the Owls, 14-2. FAU scored in five of their eight at-bats, crossing home 10 times between the fourth and sixth innings. Rutgers could only muster four hits off Florida Atlantic pitching, two coming from Mike Carter, whose on-base streak stretched to 18 games.

Minnesota was held to one run and three hits in a 7-1 loss to Cal, Tuesday evening. Returning to California, after opening the season in Orange County with a weather-shortened weekend at UC-Irvine, the Gophers were quickly on the board. Right fielder Alex Boxwell tripled to right center and scored one batter later on a sacrifice fly from Luke Pettersen. But Minnesota’s scoring ended two batters in. Cal scored three runs in the bottom of the third to take a lead they would not relinquish, striking Minnesota pitchers for 13 hits on the day.

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