Chris Webb

March 15 Power Rankings

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

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

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

Don’t worry, we did the math for you.

Previous power rankings: Week 1Week 2, Week 3

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

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

#2 Illinois (9-4) LW: 3

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

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

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

#4 Rutgers (9-6) LW: 12

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

#5 Nebraska (10-7) LW: 8

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

#6 Minnesota (12-7) LW: 5

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

#7 Maryland (8-7) LW: 6

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

#8 Purdue (9-6) LW: 2

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

#9 Iowa (8-6) LW: 4

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

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

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

#11 Michigan (4-11) LW: 9

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

#12 Northwestern (5-7) LW: 13

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

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

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

BTN Releases 2018 Television Schedule

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

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

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

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

Illinois at SIU Schedule Changed

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

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

Quarter point review

Did you blink? Just like that we’re already a month into the season, reaching the quarter point of the 16-weekend NCAA college baseball schedule. The Big Ten has compiled a 98-81 record through the first four weeks, sitting fifth in conference RPI, for whatever value that holds at this point.

The Big Ten garnered headlines for taking five or nine games against the Pac-12 in the Dairy Queen Classic, led by a 3-0 showing from Illinois, leading to a split of 24 games against the Pac-12. Indiana has not fallen from the polls, in fact the Hoosiers’ positioning has improved across the board from their preseason pencilings. Mark Wasikowski continues to build up the Purdue program, Rutgers is off to its best start in a decade, while things aren’t as rosy from the two programs from Michigan.

All of that said, what has 10 Innings taken from the first month? Here are the thoughts of Blake Dowson and Chris Webb.

*All stats through March 12

Biggest Surprise

BD: Since we’re looking at “Biggest Surprise” as a good thing, I’m going to go with the Fighting Illini. Dan Hartleb and his squad has gotten off to better starts in the past (they’re 8-4 right now), but the blue bloodedness of the teams they have beat this year can’t be ignored: Coastal Carolina, UCLA, and Arizona have all fallen to the Illini, and all three of those teams have won national titles since 2012.

CW: The Ohio State offense. Last year, the Buckeyes finished 10th in the conference with a .260 average, ninth with a .395 slugging percentage, and eighth with a .356 on-base percentage. Through 15 games, those numbers are up to .301, .450 and .388. The offensive turn-up also hasn’t come against second-rate competition, either. The Buckeyes put up eight runs in a game against Oregon State, 15 in two games against Coastal Carolina, and nine against Southern Miss. With six regulars batting at least .300, the Buckeyes have averaged 6.6 runs and 10.6 hits in five games against ranked reams.

 

Biggest Disappointment

BD: Michigan has done nothing to disprove the notion they are one of the better teams in the Big Ten, but its start is less than inspiring at 4-10. Losing three of four to Stanford is excusable, losing two of three to Lipscomb is not.

CW: Top pitching prospects. Using Baseball America’s preseason top 2018 MLB Draft prospects list, it hasn’t been the best month for pitchers drawing the most scouting attention. Baseball America ranked the top prospects as Ryan Feltner, Brady Schnauel, Jonathan Stiever, Riley McCauley and Will Tribucher. Their seasons thus far:

Feltner- 1-0, 7.50 ERA, 20.2 IP, 10 BB, 20 SO

Schnauel- 2-2, 4.24, 17.0, 14, 19

Stiever- 1-1, 4.81, 24.1, 8 32

McCauley- 0-2, 4.71, 21.0, 8, 27

Tribucher- 0-2, 4.76, 5.2, 5, 8

 

Pitcher of the Month

BD: Purdue needs to get some love on this list. Tanner Andrews gets the nod here. He is two outs away from leading the league in innings right now (he’s at 27.1), and sports a 0.99 ERA through four starts. He’s also fourth in the league in strikeouts.

CW: Where the top pitching prospects have underwhelmed, Andrews has pitched himself into being a very good senior sign, a potential top-10 round draft pick. Undoubtedly, the conference’s top pitcher, Andrews has pitched at least six innings in every start, while allowing just three extra-base hits. With Andrews pitching the way he has, Mark Wasikowski can feel confident on Fridays going into every weekend.

 

Player of the Month

BD: This is tough between Jacson McGowan and Noah McGowan. And no, these two aren’t related. I’ll give the nod to Noah for what he has done to propel the Buckeyes. His .404 average with 12 extra-base hits to go along with a league-leading 24 RBI are right in the middle of an Ohio State order that has absolutely exploded.

CW: McGowan v. McGowan is shaping up to be the toughest POY race since 2013 when Kyle Schwarber and Justin Parr went head to head. The offensive numbers between the two first baseman are equally impressive.

Jacson: .408/.508/.837, 3 2B, 6 HR, 20 RBI,

Noah: .410/.486/.787,  6 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 24 RBI.

I’ll give the edge, barely, to Noah, as he can play first, second, and the outfield, adding an element of versatility, and being a bit more valuable, that beats out. Fortunately we have a May series between the two teams in Columbus, where they can decide this head-to-head on the field.

 

Best Team

BD: The consistency at Indiana is impressive. The Hoosiers are the highest-ranked team in the Big Ten in polls and in my mind. They sit at 11-4 with impressive wins over Kansas State, South Alabama, Coastal Carolina, three against San Diego, and two against Pacific.

CW: I think Illinois has played the best baseball thus far. The Illini are getting it done at the plate, with Ben Troike, Michael Massey and Bren Spillane, and figure to be a team nobody wants to see once Zac Taylor and Jack Yalowitz get going. The weekend rotation has settled in with newcomers Quinn Snarski and Andy Fisher leading the way, while Joey Gerber at the back of the bullpen has shown flashes of brilliance. Oh, and the team is fielding at an insane rate. Illinois has made a strong case to be the most complete team.

 

Most Impacting Injury

BD: It’s been tough for Iowa to ride any sort of momentum from last season’s Big Ten Tournament title without the Big Ten Tournament MVP, Chris Whelan. Besides the tournament, Whelan hit .309 overall last season with 25 RBI. An elbow injury has kept Whelan out of the middle of Iowa’s order this season, but he’s scheduled to debut this weekend.

CW: Chad Luensmann. Especially with how many pitchers Nebraska has lost since he went down in the offseason. As they start to get out of their annual early season slump, the Huskers should have on of the Big Ten’s top lineups, that will be title-defense worthy. Luis Alvrado has nicely stepped into the ace role, the same for Jake Hohensee as the team’s closer. But the Huskers are hurting in depth, where the junior right-hander had the ability to either be a long-inning reliever, lockdown down closer, or spot starter.

 

General Summation

BD: Through the first few weekends, the Big Ten looked like it was going to surprise a lot of people throughout college baseball. Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan State all made statements at the DQ Classic. Purdue won six of its first seven, including a win over Notre Dame. Iowa won eight of its first nine games.

But things have slowed down a bit since. That same Iowa team has now lost four in a row,

Michigan has won two of nine, Michigan State is two for its last seven, and Northwestern squandered a big opportunity in Austin by losing three of four to the Longhorns.

Now comes time for Big Ten teams to start beating up on each other, meaning the conference as a whole can’t rise up too much. If one team is bolstering a resume, it came at the expense of another Big Ten team. Now is when we start to see who the contenders and pretenders are.

CW: It’s been a solid non-conference run for the Big Ten. There hasn’t been anything truly eye-catching, Indiana has held serve, as the top team should, and the showings of Illinois and Purdue aren’t that surprising, the teams had three and five respective 10 Innings’ preseason all-conference picks.

The conference had the potential to really make a statement with splits, but Ohio State saw Oregon State score six runs in their last at-bat and a walk-off three run home run prevented Michigan from splitting with Stanford. Iowa being swept by UNLV, Michigan’s o-for-Tony Gwynn Legacy, Nebraska dropping the series at Wichita State, and Michigan State being swept by Fresno State, are sore spots.

But Ohio State beat Southern Miss and split with Coastal Carolina, Rutgers is 8-6, Northwestern has road wins at Kansas and Texas, and the aforementioned Indiana series at San Diego, and Illinois’ perfect Dairy Queen Classic are certainly bright spots.

All in all, it’s been a month where a good, but not truly great conference, has shown depth and ability. With Indiana, the Big Ten has a likely regional host if the season ended today, joined in the field by Illinois and Ohio State, who both likely with multiple resume-highlighting wins. Maryland and Minnesota have done enough to head into two very important weeks, with Iowa, Nebraska, and Purdue beating who they should have beat to hang around enough. With only a week to go before conference play begins, it appears everything is inline for another half-dozen Big Ten teams to be in the mix for a regional bid.

Penn State Home Opener Postponed

University Park, Pa. — Due to forecasted cold temperatures, Penn State’s non-conference baseball game scheduled for Tuesday evening at 5 p.m. against Mount St. Mary’s on Medlar Field at Lubrano Park has been postponed, Penn State head coach Rob Cooper announced Tuesday afternoon.

The game has been rescheduled for Tuesday, April 17 at 6:30 p.m.

Fans with tickets for the Mount St. Mary’s game can redeem them at the State College Spikes box office for any other 2018 Penn State baseball game.

Penn State’s home opener is now scheduled for Friday at 5 p.m. against NJIT, which will also open a three-game series against the Highlanders. Schedule posters for the 2018 season will be given away at all three games, while Saturday (1 p.m.) will feature a “Luck of the Lions” prize raffle to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The series is set to conclude Sunday starting at noon with youths ages 12 and under who wear their Little League Jersey able to receive FREE admission and then all kids can run the bases postgame.

Season, flex and single-game tickets for the 2018 season, presented by Family Clothesline, are available online at GoPSUsports.com or by calling the Medlar Field at Lubrano Park ticket office at 814-272-1711.

Week 4 Weekend Observations

The fourth weekend of the college baseball season is in the books. Yes, just like that, a month has already passed. With each team having a dozen games under their belts, any rust for winter practices confined to indoor facilities should be gone by now. As conference play grows nearer, the cream is starting to rise from the crop. And here’s what was observed from the past weekend as the picture becomes more and more clear as to the form teams really are.

Illini aren’t going away

Checking in at No. 24 in this week’s Baseball America poll, Illinois becomes the second team in the Big Ten to be ranked this year. The number next to their name comes on the heels of a seven-game winning streak that was stopped Sunday by Michigan State. Before the Spartans picked up a 4-2 win, Illinois had been clicking on all cylinders.

Between Feb. 24 and March 4, Dan Hartleb’s team had a run of six consecutive games without committing an error. Over the seven game winning streak, which included a sweep of the Dairy Queen Classic field, Illinois scored less than five runs just once, while allowing more than five runs just once.

A rotation of Quinn Snarskis, Andy Fisher, and Ty Weber holding a combined ERA of 3.19, a team doing a bit of everything offensively with a triple-slash of .261/.366/.438 with 17 stolen bases, and the Big Ten’s top fielding unit, Illinois hasn’t showed a true weakness. That’s a scary thought for future opponents as Jack Yalowitz (.222) and Zac Taylor (.189) have yet to get going.

Scarlet Knights make a statement

It might not have been the most attention-grabbing weekend, no ranked teams were defeated, wins weren’t gathered in a hostile environment, and there wasn’t a no-hitter or outrageous score were to carry the headline. But Rutgers’ weekend should make some take notice.

Rutgers played Army in Fort Myers, Fla., the third Big Ten opponent the Black Knights have faced this weekend. After splitting the first six games, going 1-2 against Michigan, a week before picking up a pair of wins at Maryland, Army was unable to grab a victory in three games against Rutgers. With the weekend sweep, Rutgers is off to a solid start at 8-6, a record which includes a pair last-inning stunning defeats to Boston College and St. Bonaventure.

When considering a close 7-6 loss to Indiana, and Rutgers’ run differential against Army of 17, compared to nine for Michigan and -1 for Maryland, more and more evidence is gathering that Rutgers will be in the mix for a spot in the Big Ten Tournament, that the desired offseason culture change is taking place.

Maryland remains a mystery

It’s been a season of streaks for Maryland. The Terps opened the season winning their first two games before dropping the next four. That skid was followed by a five-game winning steak. Maryland’s winning ways were stopped by back-to-back defeats, before picking up consecutive wins to grab the home series against Bryant. At 9-6, Maryland’s up-and-down season hasn’t derailed postseason dreams, but it has made it tough to gauge how good Rob Vaughn’s team is.

Is Maryland the team that 14 runs in its first two games at Tennessee, or closer to the team that scored 13 over the next four? Maryland beat Ball State 13-1, to run their winning streak to five games, then came up flat, falling 7-1 to Delaware. Mirroring the up/down nature of Maryland’s season is the performance of the expected top two contributors.

Junior second baseman Nick Dunn is batting .358 with five doubles and five home runs, pacing the club. Classmate outfielder Marty Costes, is off to a .151/.309/.264. As was the case this weekend, Dunn can carry the team to victory. But he can’t continually do it all by himself at the plate, getting Costes going will surely stabilize the Terrapins.

Indiana’s depth shows

The Hoosiers may have only scored eight runs in their 2-1, series victory over Pacific, but a detailed look at the box scores shows why Indiana is the Big Ten’s top-ranked team and favorite to win the conference title.

On Friday, in a 2-1 loss, Indiana received a 4-for-4, three-double game from first baseman/second baseman Matt Lloyd. On Saturday, each of Colby Stratten’s two hits were doubles. Then, on Sunday, Logan Sowers had a 3-for-4 day with three doubles, driving in three runs. Three different players with multi-extra-base games, which didn’t include top hitter Logan Kalthea or Luke Miller, who are 1-2 in slugging percentage at .577 and .574, respectively, shows how much of a headache the Indiana lineup can be.

Then, Indiana throws a very deep bullpen at opponents. Hoosier relievers combined to toss nine innings without allowing an earned run against Pacific, as four relievers who have appeared in at least three games continue to have a spotless 0.00. The depth at the plate and options on the mound backs up head coach Chris Lemonis’ assertion this is his deepest Indiana team.

Ohio State: Very Good O, Very Bad D

If you’re eighth-year head coach Greg Beals, there’s a lot to like about the 2018 Ohio State outfit. But there is also a very concern area.

After a .295/.364/.541 weekend at the Chanticleer Classic, Ohio State has a season triple-slash of .301/.388/.450. The Buckeyes’ slugging percentage is tops in the Big Ten, spurred by a conference-leading 16 home runs. Of the team’s 15 games, the Bucks have scored at least six runs 10 times, averaging a Big Ten-best 7.53 runs per game. Seniors Tyler Cowles and Noah McGown give Beals a potent 1-2 punch in the heart of the lineup.

The best in the Big Ten at plating runs, the Buckeyes are the worst in the field, helping the opposition score more unearned runs than any team. With 28 errors and a .951 fielding percentage, the Buckeye nine is the conference’s worst fielding unit, one that has allowed 26 unearned runs, almost two a game, to score. Ohio State has had only one error-less game, while 10 contests have seen the Bucks commit at least two errors. Most damaging, the Buckeyes allowed Oregon State, the top-ranked team in the country, to score six unearned runs on Feb. 23, in a 10-8 loss, before allowing #28 Coastal Carolina to score three unearned runs on Saturday, in another 10-8 defeat.

Minnesota can’t cash in at U.S. Bank

The construction of U.S. Bank Stadium, the home of the Minnesota Vikings, and use of the facility to play baseball games was to give Minnesota an asset. Instead of traveling to all parts of the country over the first month of the season, Minnesota could play games at home, in Minneapolis. Unfortunately the Gophers showing inside of the home of Super Bowl XVII have been troublesome than rewarding.

Through 10 games, Minnesota is 6-4 at home. Considering two of the four losses are to UCLA and Washington, the record isn’t that bad. But Minnesota’s offense has produced only four games where the team has scored more than three runs. Before Sunday’s 15-1 triumph over Creighton, the team averaged 3.1 runs per game, while allowing four runs per contest to the visitors.

The next eight games for Minnesota come on the run, including three at No. 11 TCU and three at reigning Big Ten champion Nebraska. The stretch of eight games will go a long way in determining Minnesota’s postseason fate, and considering the team’s struggles inside spacious U.S. Bank Stadium, it may be beneficial they come on the road, especially with the weight RPI formula.

Illinois Home Opener Moved to Wednesday

Champaign, Ill. — The Illinois baseball team’s home opener against Milwaukee has been moved to Wednesday at 3 p.m. The game was originally scheduled for Tuesday.

Illinois is off to an 8-4 start and has won seven of its last eight games. The Illini own wins over top-25 ranked opponents UCLA and Coastal Carolina.

The Weekend 10

Big Ten play is around the corner, giving teams just one more weekend to tune up and fire on all cylinders before the race for the conference championship beings. Who’s showing their in peak form? This week’s Weekend 10 has a few repeat standout pitchers.

Here’s the rundown.

 

Nebraska Jr. INF Angelo Altavilla

In a weekend where Nebraska scored 47 runs, Altavilla was at the forefront of the Husker attack. Picking up seven hits in 13 at-bats, for a .538 batting average, Altavilla scored eight runs and drove in five teammates. Using six walks, the junior posted a .624 on-base percentage.

Nebraska Sr. RHP Luis Alvarado

After a 14-8, series-opening loss to Cal Poly dropped Nebraska to 6-6 on the season, their ace delivered a leading performance. Spurring a three-game winning streak to take the weekend series, Alvarado pitched seven innings of scoreless baseball, scattering five hits, surrendering one walk, and striking out eight batters. Earning Nebraska’s first 10 Innings weekly honor, the pitcher of the week lowered his season ERA to 2.08, while leveling his record to 1-1.

Purdue Sr. RHP Tanner Andrews

Purdue ace Tanner Andrews continues to have a stronghold on Big Ten Pitcher of the Year honors. Andrews’ latest gem came Friday night at Tulane, where the right-hander scattered four hits over 7.2 innings, allowing one run. Andrews’ ERA rose to 0.99 on the year, in his seven-strikeout, two-walk effort.

Rutgers Jr. OF Luke Bowerbank

Rutgers was able to do something conference peers Maryland and Michigan were unable to: sweep Army. A big part of the Scarlet Knights’ sweep of the Black Knights was the play of outfielder Luke Bowerbank. In three games, Bowerbank went 6-for-12, scoring four runs, driving in five runs, picking up a double and stolen base.

Ohio State Sr. OF Tyler Cowles

Cowles helped a high-powered Ohio State offense split two games against both, Coastal Carolina and High Point, with a memorable weekend. Over 16 at-bats, Cowles collected a pair of singles, three doubles and two home runs, to bat .500 with a 1.063 slugging percentage. Cowles’ five RBI led the Buckeyes on the weekend and the senior added two walks and a stolen base.

Maryland Jr. 2B Nick Dunn

As a Cape Cod All-Star, much was expected of Dunn entering his junior season. One of the Big Ten’s top draft prospects, Dunn’s production has justified the hype. Leading the Terps to a series victory over Bryant, Dunn picked up seven hits in 13 at-bats, collected a pair of doubles, drove in five runs and crossed home five times. The big weekend has Dunn’s average up to .358 this season.

Michigan State Fr. RHP Mason Erla

For a second time in three weeks, Erla is 10 Innings’ Freshman of the Week, logging another scoreless start, this time against a conference foe. Bringing Illinois’ seven-game winning streak to a halt, Erla allowed just one hit, and worked around five walks, to hold the Illini to one run over 6.1 innings. With five strikeouts, Erla moved to 2-0 on the year in Michigan State’s 4-2 victory.

Nebraska Sr. 2B Zac Repinski

Repinski was responsible for nine of Nebraska’s 51 hits against Cal Poly, posting a .529 average. Behind three doubles, Repinski matched Alvarado with five RBI, while leading the Huskers with 10 runs. Repinski added a stolen base and sacrifice fly, to fill up the weekend stats next to his .571 on-base percentage and .706 slugging mark.

Indiana Jr. RHP Jonathan Stiever

Stiever did not record a decision in Indiana’s Friday content against Pacific, but the Hoosier turned in his best performance of the season and kept IU in a tight contest throughout his start. Over eight innings, Stiever allowed just one run off five hits, all singles, striking out 12 batters against two walks. Pacific earned the 2-1 win with a unearned run in the ninth inning.

Illinois Jr. OF Doran Turchin

Earning 10 Innings Player of the Week honors, Turchin found his way on base early and often in Illinois’ three games. Recording 15 plate appearance, Turchin picked up five hits and drew seven walks. With two doubles and a home run, the junior batted .625 and slugged 1.250, next to a whopping .800 on-base percentage. Turchin struck out just once, and did this:

 

 

March 8-11 Weekend Preview

Big test awaits Iowa out west

(The lights of Las Vegas will be the backdrop of this weekend's marquee series)

Blake Dowson-

Before the season started, Iowa-UNLV wasn’t circled as a weekend series to watch by many people. But as the Hawkeyes heads west to Las Vegas this weekend, plenty of eyes will be on Earl Wilson Stadium, as two teams garnering votes in the most recent USA Today Coaches Poll square off.

Iowa head coach Rick Heller has been tasked with replacing much of the production in his order this year, but the Hawkeyes haven’t skipped a beat.

Despite all that, the Hawkeyes have shot out to a 8-2 start, their best since 2015. On top of that, Heller said his team hasn’t played its best ball yet.

But the Hawkeyes haven’t played anyone the caliber of UNLV thus far, although they might not have expected for their series in Las Vegas to be a marquee matchup this early in the season.

“Things have gone well overall from the start,” he said. “We’re still searching for our identity offensively. We had two really big losses [Jake Adams and Mason McCoy], so we knew we were going to be a different team. We haven’t really hit our stride yet offensively...As a team, our best days are down the road.”

Although Iowa has been without many of its contributors from last year, it did get one key contributor back from an injury, that being Friday starter Nick Allgeyer.

The lefty underwent Tommy John surgery after the 2016 season and missed all of 2017, but is back as the ace of Iowa’s staff. Through three starts (all wins), he’s logged 18.2 innings while serving up an ERA under 1.00.

Allgeyer did good work for the Hawkeyes in 2016 before the injury with a 3.44 ERA in 36.2 innings, but it was mostly out of the bullpen. His three starts this year have tripled the number of career starts he had made at Iowa. With a number of rotation spots up for grabs this year, Allgeyer cementing himself as a reliable arm early in the season does wonders for Heller’s confidence.

The Hawkeye head coach said Allgeyer isn’t unlike the rest of the team, in the fact that he’s not yet at his best. That’s to be expected from a guy returning from major surgery.

“Having Nick on Friday, you know you’re going to get a quality start,” he said. “He’s a tough guy. He’s really going to battle. His command has been solid. Everything that we had hoped for with him coming back has come true so far. But he hasn’t been his best yet.”

Allgeyer will have to deal with a revamped UNLV lineup, one that boasts six guys hitting over .300 and two - Kyle Isbel and Max Smith - hitting over .400 through 13 games.

The Rebels have hit .315 as a team as they have bulldozed their way through their early schedule, sweeping Fresno State and picking up a win against Oregon. That Fresno State team has logged a four-game sweep over Michigan State and three wins against Houston Baptist, and is still receiving poll votes.

On top of the offensive outburst, the Rebels have cut their team ERA in half, from 6.54 a year ago to 3.13 this season.

In the two schools’ first-ever meetings last year, Iowa swept UNLV in Iowa City, though those three games were decided by a total of five runs. That was sort of the theme of UNLV’s season in 2017, Heller pointed out. In total, the Rebels lost 11 games by two runs or less. This season, they have already won five games by two runs or less.

“All of us felt like they [UNLV] were close last year. They could’ve won all three games last year [in Iowa City], and they ended up losing all three,” Heller said. “They’ve got two starting pitchers back, a lot of quality pitchers, and they’ve added talent to that team. They lost a couple hitters, but they’ve got four or five guys back that maybe weren’t their main guys last year...They’re well coached, and they play hard for Coach [Stan] Stolte. They’ve been rolling.”

This series didn’t look like much before the season started. It definitely didn’t look like a matchup that would be between two teams with a combined 19-4 record and NCAA implications on the line.

Both teams now have an opportunity to bolster their resume early in the season against a quality opponent.

The atmosphere will be plenty hot in the desert this weekend.

 

Required reading

Spillane leads Illini to hot start  -Gavin Good, The Daily Illini

Phillips returns strong from cancer -Walter Villa, D1Baseball.com

Jahn given chance to reset with Ohio State -Colin Gay, The Lantern

What to Watch For

Familiar foes

Around the Big Ten, action will to take place where the two opponents are quite familiar with the Big Ten.

Ohio State's two games against Coastal Carolina marks the fourth consecutive weekend the Chanticleers will take on a Big Ten opponent. So far Coastal Carolina is 1-3 against the conference, splitting two games against Illinois, and losing to Indiana and Maryland.

Army is 3-3 against the Big Ten thus far, and has three more games against a conference club. The Scarlet Knights of Rutgers will take on the Black Knights, in a three-game series in Fort Myers.

To keep an eye on for future reference, Penn State's desert opponent, Grand Canyon, will travel to Illinois in April. And Michigan's competition in the Music City, Lipscomb, will travel to West Lafayette in two weeks.

And for good measure, Illinois and Michigan State, after participating in the Dairy Queen Classic, square off for two games in Greenville, South Carolina, as the two do not meet during the conference season.

Taking care of business

More games are starting to pop up on Big Ten campuses. As such, the need to secure victories become more crucial.

This weekend, Indiana hosts Pacific, Minnesota welcomes Creighton, Bryant travels to Maryland, and Nebraska takes on Cal Poly in Lincoln. The four are teams that figure to be in the hunt for a regional berth, a group that needs to make sure they take care of business this weekend.

Each of the four Big Ten teams should be viewed as the favorite in their respective series. Wins will not only push them towards the magical 40-win mark, but they avoid the costly home loss which is weighted in the RPI formula. None of the four opponents figure to give the respective Big Ten club a boost in strength of schedule, so it is important they control the portion of the RPI formula they can control: winning. For the Big Ten to continue to be a three, four, five, potential six-bid conference, these weekends are just as important as weekends like last week, where Indiana took down San Diego, Illinois swept through the Dairy Queen Classic and Ohio State knocked off a ranked Southern Miss club.

Heavy workload ahead

A handful of Big Ten universities are set to begin spring break, meaning heavy workloads are on deck for a few baseball teams. Here's a look at is set to start a week of baseball, baseball, and more baseball.

Indiana, Minnesota, and Purdue- Eight games over the next 10 days.

Nebraska- Nine games over 11 days.

Ohio State- Nine games over the next 10.

 

By the numbers

.994- Illinois leads the Big Ten, and sits second in the nation, with a .994 fielding percentage. In 340 chances, the Illini have committed only two errors.

1.000- Purdue's Jacson McGowan leads the Big Ten with a 1.000 slugging percentage, meaning the junior first baseman has as many total bases on the season as official at-bats: 38. McGowan ranks in the top three in: average, on-base percentage, slugging, home runs, RBI, and total bases.

14- Iowa's Big Ten-leading 2.73 ERA is a result of holding the opposition to just 14 extra-base hits on the year. By comparison, every other Big Ten team has surrendered at least 14 doubles.

March 8 Power Rankings

Several teams across the conference picked up big victories over the weekend. From Illinois going 3-0 in the Dairy Queen Classic, to Indiana taking three out of four games against San Diego, the weekend saw Big Ten teams garner national attention with impressive performances.

With only two weekends left before Big Ten play begins, conference teams are half-way through their non-conference weekends. And for some, keeping the Big Ten bye week in mind, there are still noteworthy out of conference games to come. This week’s power rankings takes a look at each team’s most important non-conference showdowns.

Previous power rankings: Week 1, Week 2

#1 Indiana (9-3) Last Week: 1

IU’s series at San Diego is the highlight of their non-conference slate. Left for the Hoosiers on non-Big Ten weekends are series at home against Pacific, Northern Illinois and Butler. Anything less than a 7-2 showing over those three weekends would be a shock, neither of the three teams should pose much a threat. As Indiana positions itself for a potential regional bid, avoiding bad series defeats will become important. Of the three, a series loss to Northern Illinois would be the worst, making it the most important remaining non-conference schedule for Indiana.

#2 Purdue (8-2) LW: 2

Purdue heads down to Tulane this weekend for three games against the Green Wave. Although their record stands at only 6-7, three losses have been to Ole Miss with another two against Cal State-Fullerton. Tulane’s record should improve as they head into American Athletic Conference play, potentially creating a quality non-conference weekend opponent, which is the only thing missing from Purdue’s strong start.

#3 Illinois (6-3) LW: 7

If Illinois’ five-game winning streak, which included victories over two currently ranked teams, is a sign of what’s to come for the Illinois, Dan Hartleb has a team capable of ending a two-year NCAA Tournament drought. For that to happen, Illinois will need to avoid dropping games against teams that can sink their RPI. During their Big Ten bye week, Illinois hosts Grand Canyon, April 20-22. Grand Canyon has struggled to a 3-8 start in their first season as a Division I program, and could be a late-season dream killer if Illinois overlooks the Antelopes.

#4 Iowa (8-2) LW: 4

Iowa has racked up eight wins over their first 10 games, kicking off Rick Heller’s fifth season in Iowa in good form. But the quality of wins hasn’t quite matched the quantity. That will change soon. A three-game set at 12-2 UNLV kicks off the back-half of Iowa’s non-conference slate, but that still isn’t the series to circle. Between May 4-6, the Hawkeyes take on Oklahoma State during their Big Ten bye week. The Cowboys are the type of strong, non-conference opponent that can add a bullet to a postseason

#5 Minnesota (10-4) LW: 3

The marquee matchup for the Gophers may be the Big Ten series of the year. Minnesota heads down to TCU for three games against the four-time reigning College World Series participant. Minnesota has a team capable of appearing in a second regional in three years, and a series victory over the Horned Frogs will carry a lot of weight come May on whether John Anderson’s team is included in the field of 64.

#6 Maryland (7-4) LW: 8

With a series victory against traditional power North Carolina under its belt, East Carolina figures to be a tough opponent for the Terps. Maryland welcomes ECU to College Park, March 16-18, in a series that can help Maryland regain some of the attention the club garnered in the preseason. An uneven start has seen Maryland follow a four-game losing streak with a current five-game run, if their strong showings continue against the Pirates, finishing in the top half of the Big Ten should keep Maryland in the NCAA Tournament picture.

#7 Ohio State (7-4) LW: 5

To this point, the non-conference portion of Ohio State’s schedule can be considered a push. Ohio State dropped two games against No. 2 Oregon State, allowing a six-run last at-bat to decide the fate of the first, before rebounding to game a victory over a ranked Southern Miss team last weekend. This weekend, Ohio State has two more games against a ranked team, taking on Coastal Carolina. This weekend presents the last golden chance for the Bucks to bolster a regional resume with wins over a top team.

#8 Nebraska (6-5) LW: 6

Nebraska welcomes Nevada to Lincoln, April 26-28, during their conference bye week. The Wolfpack may not be the toughest foe, but the series comes before Nebraska finishes the season hosting Maryland and Indiana in back-to-back weeks, then ending with a series at Illinois. Based on how national pundits view the Terps, Hoosiers and Illini, that may be the toughest in-conference stretch a team faces. One that could push Nebraska to a fourth regional in five years or shut down their title defense hopes. Getting a little momentum and picking up expected wins can set May’s tone.

#9 Michigan (3-8) LW: 11

There isn’t a non-conference opponent remaining on Michigan’s schedule in the quality of Stanford. But after Michigan went 1-3 in Palo Alto, the Wolverines have only three wins in 11 contests this. This weekend’s three-game series at Lipcombs is important for U-M to start to turn the tide, rebound from a 2-7 stretch and gather momentum as they start their home slate and soon after conference schedule.

#10 Michigan State (3-8) LW: 10

Michigan State has faced stiff competition over the first three weeks of the season. With the exception of two games against in-conference peer Illinois this weekend, the non-conference slates winds down with lesser competition dotting the schedule. But that doesn’t make the games against less important. If MSU can go on a run, the team’s strength of schedule may help boost their RPI. If so, it is imperative the Spartans take care of Niagara in a four-game set, March 15-18, to avoid RPI-killing defeats.

#11 Penn State (4-5) LW: 9

The Nittany Lions host Xavier during their Big Ten bye week, May 10-12. The Musketeers have appeared in back-to-back regional championships, making the NCAA Tournament in three of the last four seasons. Stepping outside of the Big Ten in the penultimate weekend, and taking on a solid opponent, may allow Penn State to enter its final series at Iowa with the needed focus to reach the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2012.

#12 Rutgers (5-6) LW: 12

Army, Rutgers upcoming weekend opponent, has given the Big Ten fits; the Black Knights grabbed a game in their season-opening series against Michigan, then took two of three at Maryland. But it’s Florida Gulf Coast, Rutgers’ final weekend opponent before Big Ten play begins, who hosts the Scarlet Knights in a series worth watching. The Osprey are coming off of an NCAA Tournament season, and a hot start has them in position to do the same in 2018. Rutgers’ weekend in Fort Myers will provide a good barometer of the club in Joe Litterio’s fifth season.

#13 Northwestern (3-7) LW: 13

For the Wildcats, they don’t occur over one weekend, but the Wildcats have a road game at Notre Dame on April 11, before hosting the Irish on May 15. If Northwestern’s program continues to build under Spencer Allen, an Irish-Wildcat I-80 rivalry can blossom into one of the region’s best inter-conference matchups.