Chris Webb

Ohio State’s McGowan Named National Player of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

The Weekend 10

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

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

Purdue Sr. RHP Tanner Andrews

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

Maryland Sr. RHP Taylor Bloom

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

Maryland Jr. 2B Nick Dunn

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

Rutgers Fr. LHP Eric Heatter

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

Minnesota Soph. INF/OF Jordan Kozicky

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

Michigan State Jr. RHP Riley McCauley

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

Purdue Jr. 1B Jacson McGowan

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

Ohio State Sr. 1B Noah McGowan

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

Indiana Sr. OF Logan Sowers

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

Nebraska Jr. C Jesse Wilkening

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

Pitcher of the Week- Bloom

Player of the Week- J. McGowan

Freshman of the Week- Heatter

Illinois Alters Weekend Schedule

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

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

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

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

Purdue to Play Western Michigan in Georgia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb. 16-18 Weekend Preview

Webb's Words: Hoosier look to leave their mark in Big Ten history

(Photo courtesy Indiana Athletics)

Chris Webb-

The 2018 season marks my tenth year covering Big Ten baseball, 14th overall attending Big Ten games. Since 2005, when I was a freshman at Ohio State, I guess you can say I've seen quite a bit of Big Ten baseball. To sum up how much Big Ten baseball I've seen, there's been 21 different coaches lead a Big Ten program since 2009, with the latest being Maryland's Rob Vaughn.

I've seen stadiums transformed, like Michigan's Ray Fisher Stadium and Minnesota's Siebert Field. Incredible stadiums constructed in Purdue's Alexander Field and Indiana's Bart Kaufman Field. The conference has grown by 30% with Nebraska, Maryland, and Rutgers joining the conference. The conference tournament is no longer on the campus of the conference champion, in fact the conference set an NCAA record with an attendance of 19,965 for the 2014 Big Ten Tournament title game. The winner, Indiana, became the first Big Ten national seeds, then the conference needed one year for its second national seed in the form of Illinois. Oh and a program reached the College World Series ending the conference's 30-year drought.

The too long; don't read version: Big Ten baseball has experienced quite the transformation since 2009.

Now, about that College World Series team...

It was 2008 when Indiana showed signs of becoming a budding program. The Hoosiers reached the Big Ten Tournament in Tracy Smith's third season, ending the regular season sixth in the conference standings after four consecutive last place finishes. Just one year later, the Hoosiers put the end to another postseason drought, extending their season by a weekend. Winning the 2009 Big Ten Tournament, the Hoosiers were in the NCAA Tournament for just the third time in the program's history, the first time since 1996.

Following the 2009 season, do you know how many years it would take for Indiana to rack up three more NCAA Tournament appearances? Six years. By the eighth season, Indiana had played in a regional for the fourth time since the 2009 breakthrough. Oh, and it was Indiana, in 2013, who became the Big Ten's first team to play in Omaha since Michigan in 1984.

The 2013-14 Indiana teams will go down as one of the best dynasties in Big Ten baseball history. Don't forget, the 2012 club finished second in the conference, only one game behind Purdue, or it would have been three straight Big Ten titles, a feat that's been accomplished only by Michigan (2006-08), Ohio State (1993-95), Illinois (1906-08) and the University of Chicago, yes they fielded a mighty Big Ten program winning the conference 1896-99.

At the end of the 2014 season, Smith became the head coach at Arizona State, the program saw the graduation of Dustin DeMuth and Joey DeNato after the respective third baseman and pitcher re-wrote the IU record book, and the drafting of Kyle Schwarber and Sam Travis, the famed Bash Brothers who were the respective first and second round draft picks of the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox.

If there was to be an end to Indiana's reign as the dominant Big Ten program, it was to happen with the historical turnover.

But it didn't.

From the second Smith left Bloomington for Tempe, Indiana administrators knew who they waited to take over the program. They didn't have to go far, barely reaching across the Ohio River, to name Louisville assistant Chris Lemonis as the program's new head coach. Though once-a-generation talent had moved to the professional ranks and the architect of the program relocated out west, Indiana didn't miss a beat. In Lemonis' first year, Indiana became the first Big Ten program since Michigan in 2005-08 to reach three straight NCAA Tournaments, appearing in the 2015 Nashville Regional.

Indiana did return to the pack in 2016, although they still finished in a tie for third in the conference, missing the NCAA Tournament. But now the Hoosiers are again coming off of an NCAA Tournament appearance after participating in the Lexington Regional as the No 2 seed.

With a core of players led by Matt Lloyd, Luke Miller, Logan Sowers and Jonathan Stievers, Indiana returns much of its 2017 club and enter the 2018 season as the conference favorite in the eyes of coaches and media alike. Named the coaches' preseason favorite, Indiana has preseason rankings of No. 19 by Baseball America, No. 24 by the NCBWA, and earned the 27th-most points in the USA Today/Coaches preseason poll. It's expected Indiana will again be back in the field of 64, if not hosting if they finish the season near the position Baseball America penciled them in.

If that were to happen Indiana will join exclusive company. The Big Ten programs that have played in five NCAA Tournament in six years are the who's who of dominant eras in Big Ten baseball history. Minnesota reached six regionals in seven years between 1998-2004. Ohio State appeared in six regionals in seven years between 1992-1997. Michigan made seven straight NCAA Tournament appearance between 1983-87. No other programs as Big Ten members will have enjoyed the level of sustain success as Indiana will have.

It may be easier in today's game for such runs of success to take place, and we may see continued runs of NCAA Tournament trips occur regularly, after all the Big Ten has placed 13 teams in the NCAA Tournament over the last three seasons, one more than the combined total of the seven years prior. Even so, if the season unfolds as many expect, what Indiana will have accomplished. It will be a run of sustained success between two coaches, a program lifted by generational talent, but kept at a high standard with an entirely new cast of characters, a program elevated to a level of national esteem.

From someone who's seen a little bit of Big Ten baseball, Indiana and the conference are in a new day, with no signs of going back.

 

New look Huskers ready to reign

(Photo courtesy Indiana Athletics)

Blake Dowson-

The expectations have changed in the Big Ten Conference. Although there were no teams in super regionals in 2017, a record number of teams from the conference made the NCAA Tournament. Recruiting has ramped up, bringing in more talent. Athletic departments are putting more money into baseball programs. There’s momentum here.

But it can’t stop at just getting teams into the NCAA Tournament. The next step is the supers, and ultimately the College World Series.

The two Big Ten team closest to the home of the College World Series, Nebraska, took a step forward last season as the conference champions, reaching the NCAA Tournament for a third time in four years. In a sport where your best talent typically leaves each year and in a conference that makes it difficult to reload each year, Nebraska’s Darin Erstad has work to do in 2018 with a new look squad.

“I don’t roll seasons over,” Erstad said at Nebraska’s media day. “It’s a whole new set of circumstances coming into this year.”

Erstad is tasked with replacing All-American Jake Meyers and Derek Burkamper in the Husker rotation, two who combined to eat up over 150 innings for the Huskers last season. But Erstad isn't without a pitcher coming off of an impressive 2017 season. Senior right-hander Luis Alvarado is back in Lincoln after being drafted in the 13th round last year after a solid year as Nebraska’s closer. He’ll be stretched out after totaling 15.1 innings last year, taking the ball on opening day as Nebraska's Friday night starter. Jake McSteen will be the Saturday starter after being leaned on heavily out of the bullpen last year, nearly reaching 40 innings. Nate Fisher and Creighton transfer Matt Warren will fill out the rotation.

Of Alvarado starting, Erstad said they would adjust as they go.

“You’re going to be patient,” the seventh-year head coach said. “And looking long term as far as building their pitch counts up…I’m sure there will be some bumps there. We want our best arm going out there right out of the gate and let him do his thing.”

Nebraska starts this season without the services of Ben Miller, Meyers, and Jake Schleppenbach, respective multi-year starters at first base, center fielder and second base. Those three combined to make 163 starts and over 600 at-bats.

Luckily, two-time first-team All Big Ten selection Scott Schreiber is back for his senior season. Schreiber hit .330 last year with 55 RBI. His production will be key in Nebraska building on last season’s success, along with All-Big Ten players Angelo Altavilla and Jake Hohensee.

Altavilla, Alvarado, Hohensee, and  Schreiber, along with the likes of third baseman Luke Roskam and left fielder Mojo Hagge gives Erstad a collection of players who have enjoyed success in college baseball. But with sizable holes to fill and expandad roles for many, what we will learn in the coming month is which newcomers will make an impact and who is ready to embrace a bigger role for the reining Big Ten champions, what kind of team Nebraska will be in 2018.

“I think they’re going to be annoying to face,” Erstad said. “We’ve got a bunch of grinders. They’ve had a taste of winning and they want more.”

What to watch for this weekend

Who plays?

Inclement weather saw flights cancelled throughout the Midwest on Thursday, leaving Illinois, Purdue and Northwestern stranded at airports, scrambling for last minute options for travel options and potential new weekend opponents on the eve of the college baseball season. For teams who have reached their destination, weather doesn't look favorable in the southeast, with Maryland's series at Tennessee potential impacted, although Minnesota with a weekend in Georgia against Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State and Georgia State look safe for now. It's the return of the college baseball season, and the return of schedule uncertainty.

Who takes the field for Michigan?

Weather won't be a factor for Michigan when they take the field in Port St. Luice for four games against Army. But there is mystery around the Wolverines this weekend with it being up in the air as to who will start for Erik Bakich. After 11 players were picked in the MLB Draft, Michigan experienced quite the turnover from its Chapel Hill Regional team. Michigan's game notes this week lists five potential starters for the four games, and two options at every position in the field. Illness and injuries have played a role in some of the uncertainty for Michigan, but for Bakich, who likes the depth of the team, it may take a week or two to figure out who gives Michigan the best shot to reach the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years.

Can Feltner become Ohio State's ace?

Ohio State has high expectations for junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Feltner. The Buckeye staff will give the highly-touted prospect, who held a 0.00 ERA as a closer in the Cape Cod League to earn an all-star nod, every chance to show he can succeed as a starter. So far in his career, the result have been unever as a Buckeye, holding a 5.14 ERA over 131.1 innings. To rebound from a 10th-place finish a year ago, Ohio State needs Feltner to harness his stuff, he has a four-pitch arsenal which includes as fastball that can reach 99, and be the pitcher who enters the season as one of the Big Ten's top prospects. If Feltner can be the aces Greg Beals and company hopes he can, Ohio State has the bullpen depth and experience in the weekend rotation to be a contender if the offense takes a step forward.

(Photo courtesy Rutgers Athletics)

Burke Granger & Chris Webb-

A two-sport athlete, Jawuan Harris shines on both the gridiron and the diamond for Rutgers.

As a freshman, he led the Scarlet Knights in receiving, hauling in 39 passes for 481 yards and three scores before transitioning to safety last season. He enters the spring as one of the more intriguing MLB Draft prospects in the conference.

"He's an unique athlete that you typically don't see in college," said a long-time National League scout. "The athleticism can take over the game and match up with anyone in the country."

At 5’9” and 190 pounds, Harris has a compact frame with an athletic, well-proportioned build that offers minimal projection. Though he’s on the smaller end of the scale, Harris displayed power last spring when he led the team in home runs with eight. There is some swing and miss to Harris’ game that he needs to tighten up, evidenced by his career 26.2% strikeout rate.

"The swing-and-miss will cut down with reps," said the scout, noting he believes Harris has the athleticism and aptitude to make the appropriate adjustments.

"He hasn't committed to baseball full-time ever in his, it's exciting to think of the possibilities."

Harris does well to mitigate that deficiency by taking more than his fair share of walks, drawing a free pass 12.74% of the time where he can get on base and showcase his carrying tool. A disruptive and efficient base stealer, Harris has utilized his top of the scale speed to steal 60 bases over the past two seasons while being caught just 14 times.

"It's elite speed," said the vertran scout. "He profiles at center field with the speed, it's a matter of if he's a top-of-the-order bat, by cutting down-on-the-swing and miss."

Harris will attempt to set the table for Rutgers this weekend against what could be his toughest competition of the year in Miami as the Hurricanes are expected to have one of the best pitching staff’s in the ACC.

10 Innings' Scouting Grade

Hit- 35/50

Power- 45/50

Run- 80/80

Throw- 50/50

Field- 55/70

Each week 10 Innings will have a coach step into the batter's box for a round of rapid-fire questions. First up is Penn State pitching coach Josh Newman.

A former All-Big Ten selection at Ohio State, Newman appeared in 14 MLB games between the 2007-08 seasons as a Colorado Rockie and Kansas City Royal, before returning to Ohio State as a volunteer assistant from 2011-13. Now, the ex-big leaguer is looking to help the Nittany Lions find the glory he experienced in Columbus as part of three NCAA Tournament teams.

Now that you're back in the Big Ten, what's the biggest difference since your days on the bump at Ohio State?

I have always held this baseball conference to high regard (this is my 8th year in this conference — four as a player and this will be four now as a coach) but it is now deeper than ever. The Big Ten has evolved into one of the premier baseball conferences in the country.

When Coach Cooper approached you over the summer, what stuck out about the opportunity to be on staff at Penn State?

I have always admired the body of work Coach Cooper has accomplished throughout his coaching career. Coach Cooper exemplifies everything I strive to be — both professionally and personally. His passion for the game and leadership qualities are infectious. The opportunity to join his staff and to do it at such an elite institution like Penn State, is a dream come true to my family and I.

What have you taken from your MLB experience that you've tried to have your pitchers learn from?

This game is extremely difficult. It will humble you in a heartbeat. However, I want our guys to respect that part of it but also I want them to enjoy their time here at Penn State and beyond. There have been so many incredible people that have helped me along my journey in this game and I owe to those people to continue to pay it forward.

The keys to Nittany Lion success on the mound in 2018 are...?

We must take care of today. Today is the most important thing that matters. These guys have fully embraced the expectations of excellence and have made tremendous strides thus far. We must continue to grow every single day.

Three words you want to have your pitching staff describe as?

Prove them wrong!

By the numbers

Last NCAA Tournament appearance

Illinois: 2015

Indiana: 2017

Iowa: 2017

Maryland: 2017

Michigan: 2017

Michigan State: 2012

Minnesota: 2016

Nebraska: 2017

Northwestern: 1957

Ohio State: 2016

Penn State: 2000

Purdue: 2012

Rutgers: 2007

10secondary

Preseason Notebook

After nearly eight months of offseason, college baseball is back. From the 10 Innings preseason All-Big Ten teams, to the newcomers to know and areas of strength and concerns for clubs, it’s time for games to be played and everything on paper rendered meaningless. Before the first pitch is thrown, here’s a rundown of news and notes from around the Big Ten as teams prepare to play ball.

Iowa’s Whelan ahead of schedule

Iowa junior outfielder Chris Whelan suffered an elbow injury during the team’s scout day in October, injuring the UCL in his right arm, requiring surgery. Without Whelan in the field, Iowa will turn to a left-to-right outfield of Ben Norman, Justin Jenkins and Robert Neustrom. But the nature of Whelan’s injury kept the door open that he could be used as a DH this season, with Rick Heller and staff hoping they could insert the 2017 Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player into the lineup at some point. Just this week Whelan was cleared to swing a bat, his rehab ahead of schedule with the door open for a return in mid-to-late March. Iowa is enjoying a run of unprecedented success, seeking a fifth consecutive 30-win season and a third trip to the NCAA Tournament in four years. Having Whelan’s bat in the lineup will be a boon for the program.

Northwestern to utilize tandem system

After finishing a victory shy of the NCAA Tournament, Northwestern is looking to sustain the momentum captured during the second season of the Spencer Allen tenure. As they do so, the Allen will utilize a tandem system for his pitchers to start the season, allowing each pitcher to know his specific role and maximize the depth of the Wildcat staff. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hank Christie will open the season for Northwestern, with senior hander Tommy Bordignon viewed as Friday’s reliever, ideally pitching the last three innings. Freshman right-hander Ryan Bader and classmate southpaw Quinn Lavelle look to round out the rotation, with a respective relief pairings of sophomore left-hander Sam Lawrence and senior right-hander JR Reimer.

Minnesota young guns show promise

Minnesota returns a deep and talented lineup, but enters the season with questions marks throughout the pitching staff. John Anderson must replace Friday starter Lucas Gilbreath and closer Brian Glowicki, both All-Big Ten selections, as well as Sunday start Toby Anderson and key reliever Tim Shannon. The burden of replacing three significant cogs has lessened with the promise a group of freshman have shown in the preseason. left-hander Ryan Duffy and right-handers Josh Culliver, Max Meyer and Sam Thoresen make up a group of rookie hurlers that is considered the best group of incoming talent Anderson and staff have seen in a long time. Each pitcher can reach 90 MPH with their fastball with Meyer and Thoresen able to reach back and hit 94 and 95, respectively. Minnesota has a daunting schedule that will challenge the freshmen, but if the Gophers get through March with momentum, a second Big Ten title in three years is in the picture.

Illness setbacks back Michigan freshmen

Jack Blomgren and Joe Donovan have bright futures ahead of them in Ann Arbor, but both may be just a step back to start this season after mononucleosis infected both this winter. A catcher from Westmont, Ill., Donovan is one of four Wolverines in a heavy battle to take over behind the plate following the graduation of Harrison Wenson. A fall teammate of Donovan on the Chicago Scouts Association scout team, Blomgren is Michigan’s shortstop of the future and is expected to run with the role. In Blomgren’s absence, Ako Thomas, a preseason All-American at second base has filled in. Alongside Thomas, a healthy Blomgren should form one of the Big Ten’s top defensive middle infields.

Ohio State left-hander Seth Lonsway ineligible for the season

Ohio State left-hander Seth Lonsway, one of the Big Ten’s top recruits, will miss the 2018 season, ineligible due to an academic matter from high school. How a course registered with the NCAA Clearinghouse did not meet the conditions needed to establish Lonsway’s initial eligibility. On the first day of preseason practice, Ohio State head coach Greg Beals alluded to Lonsway having no issue in his current courses in Columbus. The university appealed Lonsway’s ineligibility to the NCAA but it was denied. Beals has seen a pitcher sit out a year previously due to academic matters stemming from arrive prior to Ohio State. Former All-Big Ten pitcher Brad Goldberg sat out two seasons after transferring from Coastal Carolina, the first the standard sit-out period, the second due to some credits not aligning with his major at Ohio State. Goldberg helped Ohio State to a second-place finish in 2013 and debuted with the White Sox in 2017, four years after being a 10th-round draft pick.

Bechina ready to go

Michigan State junior third baseman Marty Bechina suffered a broken leg in the fall, but the rehab of the Cape Cod League home run derby participant has been faster than expected. Head coach Jake Boss says Bechina will start the season at the hot corner for Michigan State in a four-game set at Fresno State. How Bechina is used the rest of the weekend will be determined on a day-by-day instance, but having Bechina ready to go from day one is big for the hopes of Michigan State who seek to end a five-year NCAA Tournament drought. Also of note, Bechina’s teammate at St. Rita in Chicago, and in East Lansing, Danny Gleaves is fully healthy after having hip labrum surgery last year.

Indiana Tabbed as Coaches’ Preseason Favorite

Rosemont, Ill. — Indiana was voted the preseason favorite to claim the 2018 Big Ten Baseball Championship as voted on by the conference coaches and announced on Wednesday. The coaches voted on the top six teams and also selected three students from their own squads to a Preseason Honors list. The Hoosiers were followed in the preseason poll by Nebraska in second place, No. 3 Minnesota, Maryland in fourth place, No. 5 Michigan and Iowa in sixth place.

Indiana accumulated a 34-24-2 overall record a year ago and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. Among the Hoosiers’ preseason honorees are Academic All-Big Ten honoree Luke Miller and second-team All-Big Ten selections Matt Lloyd and Logan Sowers. Miller tied for third in the Big Ten in runs (52), tied for eighth in home runs (10), and was 11th in total bases (109) last season. Lloyd was Indiana’s primary closer, tying for fourth in the conference in saves (9), while Sowers led the Big Ten with 19 doubles, was third in total bases (127) and fourth in home runs (13).

The Cornhuskers return as the defending Big Ten Champions. Nebraska posted a 35-22-1 record last year and are led into 2018 by preseason honorees right-handed pitcher/outfielder Luis Alvarado, left-handed pitcher Jake McSteen and outfielder/first baseman Scott Schreiber. Last season, Alvarado saw time in the outfield as well as on the mound as the Huskers’ co-closer with Chad Luensmann, while ranking third on the team in runs scored (39). McSteen played in 22 games as a reliever and posted a 4-0 record for the Cornhuskers to go along with a 2.04 ERA. Schreiber led the Husker offense in most statistical categories, including batting average (.330), slugging percentage (.494), hits (77), RBIs (51), home runs (7) and doubles (15) to earn first-team All-Big Ten recognition.

The Golden Gophers posted a 36-20 record last year and are led into 2018 by preseason honorees infielder Micah Coffey, first baseman Toby Hanson and infielder Luke Pettersen. Coffey, a second-team All-Big Ten honoree, appeared in 51 games for the Gophers, hitting .340 with 69 hits and 46 RBI. Hanson started all 57 games at first base, posting a .319 batting average and leading the team with 57 RBIs, earning him third-team All-Big Ten honors. Pettersen appeared in 56 games in 2017 and led the Gophers with a .354 batting average with 69 hits.

Maryland finished the season with a 37-22 record last year. The Terrapins return junior outfielder Marty Costes, who started all 61 games. Costes, a returning first-team All-Big Ten selection, hit .322 on the year, tied for the team lead with 13 home runs and notched a slugging percentage of .548. Also representing Maryland on the Preseason Honors list are junior infielder Nick Dunn, who batted .261 with a career-high five home runs last season, and sophomore left-handed pitcher Tyler Blohm, who made 16 starts, posting a 3.48 ERA in 75.0 innings pitched a year ago.

The Wolverines finished 2017 with their 23rd NCAA Tournament appearance and a 42-17 overall record. Junior outfielder Jonathan Engelmann ended the 2017 season with a .339 slugging percentage and a .341 on-base percentage, scoring 33 runs and adding 30 RBI. Junior outfielder Miles Lewis started all 59 games in left field for the Wolverines and finished the season with a team-leading 14 doubles. Ako Thomas, a junior infielder for the Wolverines and 2017 first-team All-Big Ten selection, led the team with a .994 fielding percentage and a .354 batting average.

The Hawkeyes claimed their first Big Ten Tournament title last season, finishing the year with a 39-22 overall record. Among Iowa’s preseason honorees are Tyler Cropley, a second-team All-Big Ten and All-Tournament selection who hit .268 with 41 runs and 36 RBIs in 2017, along with right-handed pitcher Zach Daniels, who went 7-3 on the year with a 3.22 ERA in 24 appearances. Outfielder Robert Neustrom, a second-team All-Big Ten honoree who started all 61 games and hit .310 with 79 hits, 41 runs, and 55 RBIs, rounds out the list.

The 2018 Big Ten baseball season is set to begin on Friday, Feb. 16. The preseason poll, featuring the top six teams, and the complete Preseason Honors list can be found below.

2018 BIG TEN BASEBALL PRESEASON POLL (top six teams)
1. Indiana
2. Nebraska
3. Minnesota
4. Maryland
5. Michigan
6. Iowa

2018 BIG TEN BASEBALL PRESEASON HONORS LIST
Michael Massey, INF, So., Illinois
Zac Taylor, OF, Jr., Illinois
Jack Yalowitz, OF, Jr., Illinois
Matt Lloyd, INF, Jr., Indiana
Luke Miller, INF, So., Indiana
Logan Sowers, OF, Sr., Indiana
Tyler Cropley, C/OF, Sr., Iowa
Zach Daniels, RHP/INF, Jr., Iowa
Robert Neustrom, OF, Jr., Iowa
Tyler Blohm, SP, So., Maryland
Marty Costes, OF, Jr., Maryland
Nick Dunn, INF, Jr., Maryland
Jonathan Engelmann, OF, Jr., Michigan
Miles Lewis, OF, Jr., Michigan
Ako Thomas, INF, Jr., Michigan
Riley McCauley, RHP, Jr., Michigan State
Bryce Kelley, OF/LHP, So., Michigan State
Jake Lowery, RHP, Sr., Michigan State
Micah Coffey, INF, Sr., Minnesota
Toby Hanson, INF/OF, Sr., Minnesota
Luke Pettersen, INF, Sr., Minnesota
Luis Alvarado, RHP/OF, Sr., Nebraska
Jake McSteen, SP, Jr., Nebraska
Scott Schreiber, OF, Sr., Nebraska
Hank Christie, SP, So., Northwestern
Jack Dunn, INF, Jr., Northwestern
Alex Erro, INF, So., Northwestern
Dominic Canzone, OF, So., Ohio State
Ryan Feltner, SP, Jr., Ohio State
Seth Kinker, RHP, Sr., Ohio State
Jordan Bowersox, OF, Jr., Penn State
Justin Hagenman, SP, Jr., Penn State
Mason Nadeau, OF, So., Penn State
Tanner Andrews, SP, Sr., Purdue
Ross Learnard, RP, Sr., Purdue
Harry Shipley, INF, Sr., Purdue
Jawuan Harris, OF, Jr., Rutgers
Nick Matera, C, Jr., Rutgers
John O’Reilly, SP, Sr., Rutgers

Newcomers to know

More and more, freshman are entering Big Ten programs ready to produce from day one. Left-hander pitcher Tyler Blohm was a weekend staple for Maryland last year, making 16 starts, a year after Jawuan Harris stole a Big Ten-leading 37 bases as a rookie for Rutgers. Jake Bivens, Chad Luensmann and Logan Sowers are a few of the other players with big debut seasons in recent years.

But freshman aren’t alone as players who have made sizable contributions in their first year on a Big Ten campus.

The Big Ten has seen transfers make immediate marks in recent years. Matt Llyod was a two-way standout for Indiana last year, serving as a power-hitting closer. Purdue reliever Ross Learnard set multiple program records en route to All-America honors, while the accolades were seemingly endless for Jake Adams, the 2017 Big Ten Player of the Year, after the 29-home run season he put together as a driving force behind Iowa’s Houston Regional club.

Here’s a rundown of the players new to the Big Ten you need to know entering the 2018 season.

Freshmen

Maryland outfielder Randy Bednar

Baseball America’s preseason Freshman of the Year, and the publication’s top 2020 Big Ten draft prospect, Bednar was a 27th-round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves before arriving in College Park. The Maryland staff believes Bednar can develop into an elite top-of-the-order threat and strong two-way player.

Michigan shortstop Jack Blomgren

Likely sooner than later, Blomgren is expected to emerge as Michigan’s everyday shortstop. Although he hails from Wisconsin, a state with a relatively short high school season and climate not conducive to year-round repetitions, Blomgren arrives in Ann Arbor with advanced defensive skills and a glove that’s college-ready at a premium position.

Michigan outfielder/infielder Jesse Franklin

Michigan saw 11 players drafted from its Chapel Hill Regional team, leaving Erik Bakich’s program with a fill holes to fill. One player who spurned a professional opportunity is Jesse Franklin, a Washington native who said no to more than $1 million from the hometown Seattle Mariners. Franklin will start his career as a first baseman/DH due to a labrum injury from high school, but when healthy, Michigan expects an elite, left-handed, center fielder who can run, throw and hit.

Michigan State catcher Adam Proctor

Few players, regardless of class, may be able to match the raw power Adam Proctor brings to the plate. Joining a program known for physicality and imposing figures, by the time Proctor’s career in East Lansing ends, he may have better numbers than those of former mashers Ryan Krill, Jimmy Pickens, Blaise Salter and company.

Minnesota right-handed pitcher/first baseman Max Meyer

Minnesota produced one of the Big Ten’s best two-way players in recent years in 2016 Big Ten Player of the Year Matt Fiedler. A right-handed pitcher and outfielder, Fiedler is the comp the Minnesota staff places on Meyer, a good athlete with a power fastball and easy stroke, Meyer maky DH and come out of the bullpen as a closer in year one.

Nebraska outfielder Jaxon Hallmark

Jaxon Hallmark left an impressionable mark on the Husker staff in the fall, showing an ability to make an impact with his bat and versatility with his glove. As a senior, Hallmark earned District 3 6A Pitcher MVP and District 3 6A Defensive MVP honors. Media reports out of Lincoln give Hallmark glowing reviews, a likely starter from day one for the reigning Big Ten champions.

Northwestern outfielder David Dunn

Northwestern head coach Spencer Allen was able to head to the Peachtree State to pluck a talented prep. Able to clock a 60-yard spring time of sub-6.5 seconds, Dunn brings an explosiveness to the Wildcat lineup, expected to man center field while using his speed to provide a threat on the bases to compliment his developing hit tool.

Rutgers left-handed pitcher Harry Rutkowski

A 28th-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds, left-handed pitcher Harry Rutkowski looks the part of a big league pitcher with a 6’2, 230-pound frame. He also possess the type of stuff that has Rutgers head coach Joe Literrio envisioning a big role in Rutkowski’s first season. Rutkowski pounds the strike zone with a fastball that touches the low-90s, with an advance feel and mound presence.

JUCO transfers

Iowa right-handed pitcher Brady Schanuel

A two-time MLB draft pick, Schanuel hopes to be the latest impact transfer for Rick Heller. After going 10-3 with a 1.83 ERA as a freshman at Parkland Community College, Schanuel went 10-1 with a 2.13 ERA, striking out 130 batters in 80.1 innings in 2017. Even after two dominant seasons, Schaneul arrives in Iowa City a bit raw, but with a big, mid-90s fastball the right-handed has a high ceiling and will open the season as the Hawkeyes #3 starter.

Maryland third baseman Taylor Wright

A native of Vancouver before attending Colorado Northwestern Community College, Wright enters his third year of college baseball as Maryland’s expected third baseman. With a lean 6’3, 180-pound frame, Wright is a strong athlete with good bat-to-ball skills and plate discipline, in two years at CNCC Wright drew 56 walks against 40 strikeouts.

Michigan State second baseman Bailey Peterson

A big hole was left for Michigan State at second base with the graduation of Dan Durkin. But the pain will be lessen if Bailey Peterson plays up to the potential Jake Boss sees in the Kellogg Community College transfer. Peterson has a bat-first skill set, similar to former Spartan and All-Big Ten selection Jordan Zimmerman, but isn’t a slouch in the field and brings above-average speed to the bases.

Ohio State outfielder Malik Jones

A two-year standout at Weatherford Community College in Texas, the Buckeye staff views Malik Jones as a top-of-the-order table setter, using speed to be a threat on the bases and cover plenty of ground as the everyday center fielder. In two years at Weatherford, Jones stole 47 bases, but also picked up 34 doubles for the Coyotes.

Purdue left-handed pitcher Ryan Beard

Mark Wasikowski knows it’s a tall task to expect a transfer to step in as a weekend starter, but that’s the role left-handed pitcher Ryan Beard will take on. From College of Southern Idaho Junior College, Beard pitched to a 1.04 ERA and .177 batting average against over 69.1 innings in 2017, using a commandable, low-90s fastball to attack hitters.

Division I transfers

Illinois outfielder Zac Taylor

An 10 Innings preseason All-Big Ten selection, Taylor, a native of Downers Grove, Ill., was a impact player in his two seasons at Houston before transferring to Illinois. Taylor stole 32 bases in 38 attempts in two seasons as a Cougar, before exiting the American Athletic Conference with a bang, batting .375 and slugged .813 with six hits and three runs, one triple and two home runs, while driving in four runs during the 2016 conference tournament.

Indiana right-handed pitcher Connor Manous

Indiana returned nearly every pitcher from its 2016 Lexington Regional team, yet a newcomer looks ready to step into the weekend rotation. Right-handed pitcher Connor Manous has shown outstanding stuff to Chris Lemonis in staff in the offseason. A native of Munster, Ind., Manous, the Chicago Post-Tribune 2016 Player of the Year, was a University of Miami recruit out of high school, but returned home after the fall semester last year as a freshman.

Rutgers right-handed pitcher Karl Blum

A graduate transfer from Duke, Karl Blum joined decided to head back to his home state and join younger brother Kevin as a Scarlet Knight over the season. From Toms River, N.J., Blum is expected to be a key reliever out of the Rutgers bullpen for Joe Literrio, a role he performed well in during his time in the Atlantic Coast Conference. In 2017, Blum held a 3.18 ERA in 28.1 innings, striking out 20 batters in 21 outings.

Purdue’s Learnard Named to Stopper of the Year Watch List

West Lafayette, Ind. — Already a part of a pair of preseason All-American teams, Purdue baseball’s relief ace Ross Learnard has also been included on the preseason watch list for the Stopper of the Year Award.

Learnard was one of 52 relievers nationally named to the preseason watch list for the award given to the top relief pitcher at the NCAA Division I level. The Stopper of the Year Award recipient is selected by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. The NCBWA also named Learnard a second team All-American after last season and again this preseason.

The left-hander was credited with six victories and four saves in 2017 while making a team-high 27 appearances on the mound. He was one of four Boilermakers to record at least one save as Purdue had 14 as a team. He was used as more of a super reliever than prototypical ninth-inning closer, taking the ball in high-leverage situations regardless of the inning. He worked more than one frame in 18 of his appearances.

Learnard was among a list of four NCBWA preseason All-American relievers to post a sub-1.50 ERA in 2017. Louisville’s Sam Bordner (0.41 ERA, 16 saves), Learnard (0.58 ERA, 4 saves), Oregon State’s Jake Mulholland (1.20 ERA, 6 saves) and Cal State Fullerton’s Brett Conine (1.39 ERA, 15 saves) all accomplished the feat.

A consecutive scoreless innings streak of 35 2/3 from March 11 through May 14 allowed Learnard to eclipse Purdue’s minimum 30 innings ERA record that had stood since 1965. His .196 batting average and .086 WHIP were equally outstanding after he surrendered just 30 hits and 10 walks in 46 1/3 innings.

Nick Wittgren, Purdue’s all-time saves leader and later big leaguer with the Miami Marlins, was the last Boilermaker on the Stopper of the Year watch list. Wittgren advanced to the midseason list in both 2011 and 2012, helping Purdue compile a combined 82-34 record in those seasons. This year the midseason list will be announced the final week of April.

Around the Big Ten, Nebraska’s Luis Alvarado was also named to the 2018 preseason watch list. Meanwhile, 10innings.com’s preseason All-Big Ten teams featured Learnard as a first-team reliever. Nick Dalesandro, Jacson McGowan, Skyler Hunter and Harry Shipley represented Purdue on the second and third teams.

Learnard and the Boilermakers open their 2018 campaign with a weekend series at Baylor. Friday’s season opener is set for 7:30 p.m. ET. Sunday’s series finale has been officially moved up to 1 p.m. ET.

Illinois Releases Promotional Schedule Released

Champaign, Ill. — The University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics announced a full slate of marketing promotions for Illinois baseball home games at Illinois Field in 2018.
The tenth-annual Bleacher Bum Barbecue, the premier promotion for Fighting Illini baseball, will be held Friday, May 4, when Illinois hosts Ohio State at 6 p.m. at Illinois Field. The event has been a staple on the Illini schedule, as the previous nine editions have drawn average crowds over 3,000 to Illinois Field, including an all-time high of 5,214 in 2009. This year’s event will feature free BBQ for the first 500 fans, (courtesy of Hickory River) and family friendly activities. More details will be released in the coming weeks.

A new promotion for this season is 9 Innings of Winning Night, which will take place on Friday, May 18, when Illinois hosts Nebraska at 6 p.m. One or more prizes will be raffled off each inning. Prizes include a portable speaker, tickets to the 2018 Illinois football home opener, and Illinois baseball memorabilia. A definite list of prizes will be released at the beginning of May.

For the seventh year in a row, the Fighting Illini will wear special commemorative jerseys as part of Honor and Serve Day at Illinois Field. The event, which is designed to honor University of Illinois student veterans and all of America’s military heroes along with serving the Champaign-Urbana community, will be held on Saturday, April 21, when Illinois hosts Grand Canyon at 3 p.m. Full details and this year’s commemorative jerseys will be unveiled at a later date.

The second annual Bark in the Park is a chance for fans to bring their dogs to the field for an afternoon of furry promotions. The event is scheduled to take place on Sunday, April 22, when the Illini host Grand Canyon at 11 a.m. More details and registration will become available soon.

Notable dates:
» Opening Day (March 13)
» Big Ten Opener (March 30)
» Bunny at the Ballpark (March 31, April 1)
» Super Hero Day (April 15)
» Alumnite (April 20)
» Honor and Serve (April 21)
» Bark in the Park (April 22)
» Bleacher Bum BBQ (May 4)
» Hail to the Orange Day (May 5)
» Little League Day (May 5)
» Spring Cleaning Night (May 17)
» 9 Innings of Winning (May 18)

The following concession deals also will be offered throughout the season:
» Thirsty Tuesday (half-priced drinks at every Tuesday game)
» Family Fridays (hot dog, chips and a drink for $6 at every Friday game)
» Nacho Deal ($2 nachos at every Sunday game)

Baseball cards will be given away at the four Big Ten series, and the players featured on each card set will sign autographs postgame on March 30, April 13, May 4, and May 18. Complete details on each event can be found on the Illinois Marketing and Promotions Schedule.

Kids are able to celebrate their birthday at any home game this season. The party deal includes:
» Personalized cupcakes
» Hot dogs
» Sodas
» Popcorn
» Illini prizes
» Birthday card signed by the team
» Birthday message announced at the game

Book your Illinois baseball party here!

All games will be held at Illinois Field. Game dates, times, and promotions are subject to change