Appreciating John Anderson’s legacy

I think Nick Dalesandro has the brightest future of any Big Ten catcher since Kevin Plawecki. The Purdue backstop can catch, throw, run, and I believe he has more pop than his home run output would suggest. Watching Dalesandro on Saturday, I wondered how good Illinois would be with him behind the plate. For those unaware, Dalesandro’s father, Mark, was the 1990 Big Ten Player of the Year at Illinois.

Mark played 79 games in the big leagues, after being drafted in the 18th round of the 1990 MLB Draft. Nick will surely be drafted higher, with it yet to be seen if he will eclipse his dad’s big league service time. Surely a topic of discussion at some point in the Dalesandro household, it could be fun to debate who was the better player in college. Unfortunately, 28 years will separate the end of the two collegiate careers, leaving a void in impartial opinions.

But wait, there isn’t just one person who has seen the two Dalesandros. In fact, he would has also seen the father-son tandem of Darrin and Casey Fletcher of Illinois, and even Cal and C.J. Eldred at Iowa.

That’s Minnesota head coach John Anderson.

Anderson was named the head coach at his alma mater in the fall of 1981. As evident by coaching against the sons of players he previously faced in competition a generation ago, Anderson has seen a bit of baseball. In his time in Minneapolis, the conference has added four schools, saw one drop baseball. He’s witnessed an infusion of cash into the sport which has ballooned salaries, enhanced facilities, and brought college baseball closer to the money-generating sports of college basketball and football. In short, there’s been a bit of change in college baseball since Anderson’s first.

But what hasn’t changed is Minnesota being conference champions. In his 37th season, Minnesota’s two wins at Rutgers netted the program its 11th Big Ten title under Anderson, a tally which started in his first season in 1982.

Between this past weekend and the upcoming weekend, the college baseball world will celebrate the end of the decorated and storied careers of Mike Gillespie, Wayne Graham, and Jim Morris. Each of those three coaches have left a lasting impression on college baseball, respectively transforming Miami, Rice, and UC Irvine into blueblood programs. May has also seen Florida State’s Mike Martin pass the late and legendary head coach Augie Garrido as the winningest coach in college baseball history. With the celebrations, grand sendoffs, and reflections, it’s been great to hear the stories of college baseball’s leading coaches, how they have been a vital part in the growth of the sport, and how many are indebted to their service.

Not to take away from the very deserved rounds of celebration, but I think we would do well to take a step back and do a better good of appreciating sustained success before it unfortunately wanes. While Gillespie, Graham, and Morris have reach some of college baseball’s highest highs, their respective programs are not as strong in the current as the past, and the thank yous are a bit bittersweet, yearning for once was that is so far away.

Fortunately for Anderson and Minnesota, the current is as bright as the past, if not brighter, with the program is knocking on the door of a top 10 ranking. There isn’t a decline in sight.

Minnesota’s forthcoming, Big Ten-leading, 32nd NCAA Tournament appearance, 19th under Anderson, should bring the program its first regional at home in the tournament’s since 2000. In additional to bringing NCAA Tournament play back to a Big Ten campus for the first time since 2015, the Gophers have claimed two of the last three Big Ten championships, and are one 2017 win away from having a three-peat. The Big Ten, by the way, is a conference that has sent 13 teams to the NCAA Tournament over the prior three seasons.

The Big Ten in 2018 isn’t the Big Ten of 1988, or even 2008, when Minnesota, Ohio State, Michigan, and Illinois passed around the conference championship. The Big Ten is deeper than ever, the stakes are higher than ever, and yet Minnesota is right there.

It would be silly, and it was not a call worth attempting to make, to try to have Anderson pat himself on the back, raving about the job he’s and his staff has done over the last three years. That’s not who he is. There would be deflection, humility, and words expressed of how his players and staffs have allowed his teams to enjoy the success they have. And, for him, his staff, and players, there is no time to reflect on what’s been accomplished when there is still work to be done; this Minnesota team is not content with just a conference championship, they want to reach the College World Series for the first time since 1977, a Minnesota team Anderson was on.

But, as his win-loss record now stands at 1,281-858-3, as a third hand is needed to display all of the conference championship rings, as Big Ten foes, father and son alike, look up at Minnesota in the standings, it is just, fair, and necessary for those outside of the Minnesota program to congratulate, appreciate, and draw attention to what Anderson, the presumptive seven-time Big Ten Coach of the Year has done.

As Gillespie, Graham, and Morris leave the game, there aren’t many left around like Anderson, let’s appreciate that before its too late and make sure his name is be echoed right alongside those legends of the sport.

Big Ten Releases 2018 Baseball Tournament Bracket

Rosemont, Ill— The conference office announced the bracket for the 2018 Big Ten Baseball Tournament, held May 23-27 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.

The eight-team, double-elimination tournament begins Wednesday, May 23, with first-round games and continues through Sunday’s championship game on May 27. The tournament champion will earn the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

The first pitch of the 2018 Big Ten Tournament will take place at 9 a.m. (CT) Wednesday when No. 3 Michigan takes on sixth-seeded Iowa. Second-seeded Purdue will take the field at 1 p.m. on Wednesday against No. 7 Ohio State. The tournament will continue at 5 p.m. when No. 1 Minnesota plays No. 8 Michigan State. The final game on Wednesday will feature No. 4 Illinois and No. 5 Indiana at 9 p.m.

Once again this season, BTN will televise all games of the Big Ten Baseball Tournament live, with each game also available on the BTN2Go platform, either online at btn2go.com or through the BTN2Go app. The full bracket can be found attached.

What’s on the line

It’s the final weekend of the regular season for Big Ten teams. With weekend action kicking off on Thursday, and running through Saturday, in advance of next week’s conference tournament, a lot is on the line, with every conference series having postseason implications. Here’s a rundown of what’s at steak, conference championship and tournament spots, and who is seeking what as the season is set to end for five teams.

Who can win the Big Ten championship?

Three teams remain in the hunt for the conference championship. Minnesota sits atop the Big Ten table with a 16-4 conference record, followed by Michigan at 15-5 and Purdue at 14-6. Heading into their weekend set at Rutgers, the Gophers control their own destiny in a bid for a second conference championship in three years. Win two games in Piscataway and Minnesota claims at least a share of the title.

If one prefers chaos, it is possible for a three-way tie unfold, in large part due to Michigan and Purdue squaring off in West Lafayette. First, for each to respectively claim a portion of the title, Michigan must win one more game than Minnesota does over the weekend to grab a share of the crown, while Purdue will need to win two more games. If Purdue takes the series against Michigan, 2-1, and Rutgers sweeps Minnesota, the Big Ten standings will have Michigan, Minnesota, and Purdue all at 16-7.

For tiebreaking purposes, the weekend winner between Michigan and Purdue will have the head-to-head tiebreaker secured, while Minnesota, thanks to a two-game sweep in April, holds the tiebreaker over Purdue. Weekend results will settle the tie between Michigan and Minnesota, if necessary, coming down to records against common Big Ten opponents as the two did not play this season.

Who makes the Big Ten Tournament?

In addition to Michigan, Minnesota, and Purdue, Illinois and Ohio State have punched their tickets to the conference tournament in Omaha next week. Northwestern and Penn State will have to wait until 2019 for postseason action, leaving Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, and Nebraska vying for the last three spots.

Currently, the remaining three seeds would go to, in order, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland. Those three control their own destiny. But, as Indiana and Maryland square off, there is light for Michigan State, who hosts Ohio State, and Nebraska, who travels to Illinois. Safely in the Big Ten tournament, and not in the running for the Big Ten title, there isn’t as much on the line this weekend for the Buckeyes or Illini, especially for Ohio State as they are sitting pretty comfortable as an at-large team for the NCAA Tournament. That may work to the advantage of the Spartans and Huskers.

Michigan State’s 9-11 Big Ten mark is tied with Maryland, but the Terrapins hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, and in turn would make the Big Ten Tournament if the two finish with the same record. Michigan State’s situation is straightforward: win one more game this weekend than Maryland does.

Nebraska, 1.5 games behind the cut, needs a bit more help, and almost needs a weekend sweep. Nebraska’s head-to-head win over Maryland is almost rendered moot, as the Huskers have lost two conference games, where Maryland has only had one game cancelled, bringing winning percentage into the picture. If Nebraska were to win two games in Champaign, their winning percentage would be .409. That would require both Maryland and Michigan State being swept, producing .391 winning percentages for the Huskers to play in Omaha next weekend. A Nebraska sweep gets the team to a 10-12 conference mark, and .454 winning percentage, where 1-2 weekends by Maryland and Michigan State, at minimum would be needed. If Nebraska gets to 10-12, it is possible they could tie Iowa, if they can’t catch one of Maryland or Michigan State, but that would require a sweep at the hands of Penn State.

For Iowa and Indiana to clinch their postseason berths, each team only needs one victory.

Rutgers’ 7-14 conference mark leaves them with the longest shot, but mathetically in the mix. If Rutgers can spoil Minnesota’s title bid and sweep the Gophers, getting to 10-14, the Scarlet Knights would need Nebraska to win less than three games, have a Indiana sweep Maryland and Ohio State sweep Michigan State. That would get Joe Litterio’s club the eighth seed next week.

With every series holding significance, least we forget there seven teams are in the mix for the NCAA Tournament of varying degrees (Minnesota a potential host, and the bubble likely holding Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Purdue), it should be an intense weekend in the Big Ten, from New Jersey to Iowa, a fitting finale.

Staying power: Culture keeps Iowa in regional mix

Iowa’s Cole McDonald threw an offspeed pitch in the fourth inning against Michigan on April 29, and came out of the game with elbow discomfort. The pitch was actually a fastball, it was his elbow that slowed the pitch down and made it seem like a changeup. It was deja vu for Iowa head coach Rick Heller, who around the same time a year ago lost Friday starter CJ Eldred to a UCL injury that required surgery.

In 2017, Iowa went on to win the Big Ten Tournament without Eldred, making an NCAA Regional for the second time in three years. Since losing McDonald, the Hawkeyes have finished off a series win against the Wolverines and took two-of-three from a top-15 Oklahoma State squad the weekend after.

The success that comes every May for his team must be starting to become deja vu for Heller, as well.

“It’s a priority for us to figure things out in the fall,” Heller said. “We talk about how important it is to play our best baseball down the stretch. It’s just talk at that point, but it sets the tone that we will work hard, we’ll stay in the weight room…We’re either moving forward or moving backward. We need to constantly be pushing forward. It’s not a perfect science, but it’s a part of our program that’s planned out.”

It seems as though Heller has it down to a science. Even with a series loss at Northwestern last weekend, the Hawkeyes still stand a good chance at grabbing an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament, barring another series loss against Penn State this coming weekend.

It wasn’t necessarily supposed to go this well for Iowa this season, though. Heller was tasked with replacing Big Ten Player of the Year Jake Adams, an impossible task after Adams reset the Big Ten’s single-season home run mark, and all-conference shortstop Mason McCoy, both sixth-round draft picks. And those were just the guys you fully expected were gone.

Eldred and fellow RHP Nick Gallagher both signed professional contracts after last season, although both had eligibility remaining.

“All those things are so uncontrollable. Visualize this team if we had those guys back,” Heller said. “It’s the same mindset of losing guys to injury. Whoever is here, whoever is put out there, is expected to be successful. The accountability is there on this team, that’s an expectation. You can’t dwell on it, [because] there’s not a whole lot you can do about it.”

Heller is not unlike other college coaches. The more control he can have, the better. Where he can’t control players leaving early in the draft, he can control the players filling their spots through recruiting. Now in his fifth year at Iowa, Heller’s lineup is filled entirely with his guys, instilled with his culture.

That’s a big reason why Iowa has become a contender each and every year.

“We have a culture established. The older guys understand you have to work hard on off days and in the weight room. They know we can’t just try to stay even,” Heller said. “It starts Day 1 when the players arrive. No matter who plays, we’re still going to find a way to get the job done. If somebody goes down, somebody’s prepared to fill in.

“We talk about it quite a bit, from the start of fall all the way through. That way, when someone does go down [or someone leaves], you don’t have that shock. we all know whoever that player that needs to step up might be and what he needs to do, and no one panics.”

There will be no panic this coming weekend for Iowa, although a series sweep of the Nittany Lions would go a long way in convincing the NCAA Selection Committee that the Hawkeyes should be in the tournament. Conference series wins against Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio State make up a strong resume. The non-conference series win against Oklahoma State was another resume booster, and one that wouldn’t have happened without those Big Ten wins.

According to Heller, getting teams to travel to Iowa City has become easier as the team has improved each season. Come May, teams are looking for big wins, especially on the road, as those are worth more to the selection committee. For Oklahoma State, the idea of getting three games on the road against a team with a good RPI like Iowa was enticing.

The same was the case for Heller, with the added bonus of getting games in Stillwater next year. That being said, don’t picture Heller in his office calculating RPIs and scouring the internet for tournament projections depending on whether or not they were to beat the Cowboys, or any other high profile team. He doesn’t really pay attention to that stuff.

“I don’t [pay attention] a whole lot. It’s hard not to because everyone is talking about it, but it really doesn’t matter if you’re not taking care of your business on a daily basis,” he said. “I don’t get caught up in any of that. If we don’t take care of our business, none of that matters. If we play well, and if wins come our way…against one of toughest, if not the toughest, schedules in the Big Ten, I think we’ll be okay.”

Breaking down the NCAA Tournament picture

A little over one month away from the Memorial Day unveiling of the 2018 NCAA Tournament field, media outlets are starting to churn out weekly NCAA Tournament projections and discuss whose stock is rising or climbing. The Big Ten is drawing attention for having six teams with realistic regional odds, where if all were to make the tournament would set a conference record.

Whether it ends up six teams, or five, as was the case in 2015 and 2017, or even just four, it is becoming a May fixture to have a half-dozen teams pursuit a regional bid. This year, with respect to Purdue who is still hanging around on the outer edge of the bubble, the spotlight is on Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio State as they prepare to via for a coveted spot in the field of 64 over the last four weeks.

To get you up to speed on where the six teams stand, here’s an overview of their seasons to date, their remaining schedules and what their postseason picture looks like as of today, ahead of the weekend where the six teams are set to square off against each other, as Illinois travels to Indiana, Michigan heads to Iowa, and Ohio State welcomes Minnesota.

References

Boyd’s World RPI Needs Report

NCAA Official RPI

Warren Nolan’s Big Ten page

(Opponent’s number parenthesis represent Warren Nolan RPI)

Illinois

Record: 24-12 overall, 9-3 in Big Ten (3rd)

Warren Nolan RPI: 58

Strength of Schedule: 113

W-L Against RPI Top 50: 4-4

W-L Against RPI Top 100: 6-6

Losses against RPI > 150: Four

Remaining schedule: April 27-29 @ Indiana (26), May 1 vs. Southern Illinois (128), May 4-6 vs. Ohio State (39), May 11-13 @ Michigan (53), May 17-19 vs. Nebraska (126).

In a nutshell: The Illini have dropped four of their last five games, placing their RPI in the upper-50s, a precarious position. Illinois’ sweep of Pac-12 opponents in the Dairy Queen Classic is starting to look better with Arizona (40) turning around their season and UCLA (31) remaining a strong team, and the team has a split of two games at Coastal Carolina (25) to work with. But, in their lone weekend games against an RPI top 50 team since Minneapolis, Illinois dropped two of three games against Iowa. If there is a slight concern in addition to their RPI, it’s the lack of a signature weekend series win. The good news is that multiple such opportunities await the Illini. Series at Indiana and Michigan, while hosting Ohio State in-between, will allow Dan Hartleb’s team to go over 20 games against RPI top 100 teams.  Winning two of their next three weekends, which would also likely lead to a top-four finish in the Big Ten, should allow the Illini to return to NCAA play for the first time since 2015. According to Boyd’s World’s RPI Needs, which breaks down needed win-loss combinations to reach various RPI benchmarks, assuming all other teams in college baseball maintain their current winning percentage, 10 wins will have the Illini approach an RPI of 32, with several combinations to reach eight wins getting them in the top 45.

 

Indiana

Record: 29-8, 7-4

Warren Nolan RPI: 26

Strength of Schedule: 126

W-L Against RPI Top 50: 4-4

W-L Against RPI Top 100: 9-5

Losses against RPI > 150: One

Remaining schedule: April 25 @ Purdue (84) , April 27-29 vs. Illinois (58), May 4-6 @ Minnesota (38), May 8 vs. Kentucky (18), May 11-13 @ Nebraska (126), May 15 @ Louisville (41), May 17-19 vs. Maryland (119).

In a nutshell: Indiana has been the highest ranked Big Ten team all season. The preseason favorite in the eyes of the conference coaches, the Hoosiers have the conference’s top RPI, spurred by a Big Ten-leading 29 wins. It is a bit premature to say the Hoosiers are a lock for the NCAA Tournament, especially with a tough slate over the next four weeks, but Chris Lemonis’ club should be viewed as safely in the field of 64. Now, where it gets interesting for IU is whether their resume will warrant a spot as a regional host. Currently their RPI would suggest no, an absence of a weekend series win over a top 50 club is slight knock on IU’s season to date, but Indiana will have six conference games to add to their current 14 games against teams in the RPI top 100, with three midweek games against rivals, two on the road, at Purdue and Louisville (41), with the Cardinals joining the Kentucky Wildcats (18) as likely regional-bound clubs where wins would add bullets on Indiana’s resume. If Indiana can go 13-2 over their final 15 games, Boyd’s World suggest a top 16 RPI is in the picture, which would likely net a third Bloomington Regional in six years.

 

Iowa

Record: 23-13, 7-6

Warren Nolan RPI: 47

Strength of Schedule: 67

W-L Against RPI Top 50: 4-4

W-L Against RPI Top 100: 7-9

Losses against RPI > 150: Two

Remaining schedule: April 25 vs. Milwaukee (187), April 27-29 vs. Michigan (53), May 1 vs. Missouri (29), May 2 vs. Western Illinois (288) , May 4-6 vs. Oklahoma State (34), May 11-13 @ Northwestern (235), May 15 @ Western Illinois (288), May 17-19 vs. Penn State (206).

In a nutshell: After being swept in a three-game series at UNLV (51), March 9-11, the odds that the Hawkeyes would appear in a second consecutive regional appeared long, at best. But since St. Patrick’s Day, Iowa is 14-7, with series victories over Illinois and Ohio State, while splitting an abbreviated two game series with Indiana. Iowa’s turnaround has been powered by the return of leadoff batter Chris Whelan, making the team Iowa was over the first month a shell of it’s current self. Iowa is coming off of a weekend defeat at Minnesota, but are set to welcome Michigan to Iowa City this weekend. Iowa is the lone team of the Big Ten’s six regional hopefuls to face the other five teams, a tough task which is doesn’t include playing host to Oklahoma State (34) next weekend during their conference by weekend. Already with the best strength of schedule of these six teams, Iowa will have more opportunities to strengthen its case to be in the field of 64, before finishing with consecutive series against the conference’s last-place clubs. Northwestern and Penn State may offer a break in competition but poor records and 200+ RPIs where that may set back Iowa’s schedule strength a tick.

 

Michigan

Record: 24-11, 11-0

Warren Nolan RPI: 53

Strength of Schedule: 167

W-L Against RPI Top 50: 1-4

W-L Against RPI Top 100: 3-6

Losses against RPI > 150: Three

Remaining schedule: April 27-29 @ Iowa (47), May 1 vs. Eastern Michigan (181), May 2 @ Eastern Michigan (181), May 4-6 @ Rutgers (139), May 8 @ Central Michigan (225), May 9 @ Michigan State (203), May 11-13 vs. Illinois (58), May 17-19 @ Purdue (84)

In a nutshell: The Wolverines are drawing national attention with a current 20-game winning streak, the second-longest winning streak in the country this season. Unfortunately for Michigan’s NCAA Tournament chances, the month-long run hasn’t included any games against teams in the RPI’s top 100, with 15 being played against teams whose RPI is somewhere in the 200s. The competition Michigan has faced is reflected in their strength of schedule. The Wolverines do have a win over Stanford, the RPI’s top-rated team, but outside of the four-game set in Palo Alto the Michigan has played only one other game against a top 50 team. That will change this weekend with their series at Iowa, and potentially in mid-May when they welcome Illinois to Ann Arbor. U-M’s perfect Big Ten record has them in prime position to claim a conference-leading 36th Big Ten championship, but their conference slate to date, opponents Michigan State, Northwestern, Maryland, and Penn State are a combined 12-42 in Big Ten play, has them squarely bubble for their 24th NCAA Tournament appearance.

 

Minnesota

Record: 25-11, 9-2

Warren Nolan RPI: 38

Strength of Schedule: 96

W-L Against RPI Top 50: 6-6

W-L Against RPI Top 100: 12-9

Losses against RPI > 150: Zero

Remaining schedule: April 25 vs. South Dakota State (244), April 27-29 @ Ohio State (39), May 1 vs. Concordia-St. Paul (N/A), May 4-6 vs. Indiana (26), May 11-13 vs. Michigan State (203), May 15 @ St. John’s (48), May 17-19 @ Rutgers (139)

In a nutshell: The Gophers would have liked a better showing in the Dairy Queen Classic they hosted, only able to come away with one victory, although the win over Arizona (40) has aged well. Likewise, seeing where Creighton (33) stands in the RPI picture, it would have been beneficial to have won that home series following the DQ Classic. But the form the Gophers have showed since early March has them heading towards a second NCAA Tournament appearance in three years, and currently ranked in polls. As they join IU with a number next to their name, its similarly too early to say they’re a lock for the NCAA Tournament, but Minnesota can start dream about hosting a regional. Already with the most games against the RPI top 100, the conference’s best mark in such games, series victories over TCU (75), St. John’s (48), and Iowa, a steadily falling RPI, and no losses against RPI 150+ teams, Minnesota is compiling a pretty impressive resume. That’s with series yet to come against Ohio State and Indiana. Winning one of the two next weeks should all but wrap up a bid, where taking both may mean Minnesota in home during the first weekend of June, in the good way as a regional host. And the Gophers are two games back on Michigan, a conference championship would be icing on the cake.

 

Ohio State

Record: 27-11, 8-4

Warren Nolan RPI: 39

Strength of Schedule: 106

W-L Against RPI Top 50: 5-6

W-L Against RPI Top 100: 5-6

Losses against RPI > 150: Three

Remaining schedule: April 27-29 vs. Minnesota (38), May 2 @ Ball State (179), May 4-6 @ Illinois (58), May 8-9 vs. Campbell (136), May 11-13 Purdue (84), May 15 @ Cincinnati (150), May 17-19 Michigan State (203).

In a nutshell: Likely the team least expected to be among the six, the Buckeyes are in a position to reach a regional for the second time in three seasons, a feat last accomplished in 2007-09. Ohio State has a solid strength of schedule, although they have yet to play a game against a team rated 51-100 in the RPI, and has taken care of business at home with a 12-3 mark to have their overall winning percentage rewarded with a high RPI. OSU’s non-conference slate helped put them in the discussion of the NCAA Tournament, winning a game against Southern Miss (32), and going 1-1 against Coastal Carolina (25) . Ohio State squandered a big opportunity in a game against Oregon State (7), allowing six last-at-bat runs in a 10-8 loss during the second weekend of the season. Any lingering “what-ifs” about that game were likely thrown away when the Buckeyes knocked off the Hoosiers this past weekend, securing a resume-anchoring win. Now, the Buckeyes have two more opportunities, with Minnesota becoming the second straight ranked team to visit Columbus, before heading to Champaign. Barring a late May collapse, grabbing one of the next two weekends should punch their ticket, where, like Minnesota, if Ohio State game win at least four of their next six conference games, maybe NCAA play returns to the Buckeye State for the first time since 2003.

The Weekend 10

It’s starting to be crunch time in the Big Ten, with teams entering the back-half of their conference schedule and the postseason picture becoming clearer. The weekend saw many stout performances, so strong in fact that the Big Ten’s top sluggers, Bren Spillane and Scott Schreiber, didn’t make the cut, even though both connected on two home runs this weekend.

Here’s the standouts who did.

Northwestern Jr. 1B Willie Bourbon

Bourbon collected five hits in 10 at-bats, in additional to drawing three walks in Northwestern’s weekend series against Michigan State. The Wildcat picked scored a pair of runs and drove in teammates.

Iowa Sr. C Tyler Cropley

Cropley continued his strong season in the heart of the Hawkeye order, going 6-for-12 over three games in Minneapolis. Against the nationally-ranked Gophers, Cropley roped two doubles, and picked up a home run, driving in three runs.

Michigan Fr. 1B Jesse Franklin

A leading force in Michigan’s now 20-game winning streak, Franklin scored seven runs and drove in another seven, as the Wolverines defended their home turf with a weekend sweep over Penn State. In 13 at-bats, Franklin picked up two singles, a double, and two home runs.

Minnesota Fr. RHP Patrick Fredrickson

The race for Big Ten Freshman of the Year continues to be a tight one, with Fredrickson, this week’s 10 Innings’ Freshman of the Week, continuing a stout season in the Gopher rotation. On Saturday, Fredrickson held Iowa to six hits and two walks over 7.2 innings, striking out a pair of Hawkeyes, en route to improving to 5-0 on the year in Minnesota’s 3-0 victory.

Ohio State Sr. RHP Seth Kinker

Ohio State head coach Greg Beals relied on Kinker to keep the Buckeyes in tight contests this weekend against Indiana, and did not take the ball out of the hand of his best reliever. On Saturday, Kinker, this week’s Pitcher of the Week, pitched two innings of scoreless baseball, holding the Hoosiers without a grab his ninth save in securing a 5-4 victory. In Sunday’s rubber match, Kinker pitched the final 5.1 innings, scattering two hits, and again kept the Hoosiers off the scoreboard, as the Buckeyes grabbed another upset victory with a 6-5 win in 12 innings.

Purdue Jr. 1B Jacson McGowan

In a weekend critical to the team’s postseason hopes, Purdue went on the road and swept their weekend series at Maryland, improving to 7-4 in conference play. Guiding the Boilermakers to three wins, McGowan, this week’s Player of the Week, recorded a multi-hit game in each contest. The slugger’s 6-for-12 weekend was highlighted by a game-tying, ninth-inning home run on Saturday, before connecting on the game-winning shot in the 11th.

Ohio State Sr. 3B Noah McGowan

Ohio State’s athletic communications department was unable to find the last time the Buckeyes won a weekend set against a top 10 team. Leading the Bucks to the big weekend win was McGowan, responsible for the game-winning hits in both of OSU’s victories. Going 6-for-12 with three RBI, McGowan connected on a solo home run on Saturday, before hitting an opposite-field double to drive in Ohio State’s sixth and final run on Sunday in the 12-inning thriller.

Michigan State Sr. 1B Zach McGuire

A second-half surge continued for Michigan State, with the Spartans sweeping Northwestern. Running their conference winning streak to six games, MSU got a big weekend from first baseman Zach McGuire, who picked up two home runs on the weekend, half of his four hits in 11 at-bats, as he scored four runs and drove in five.

Michigan Jr. 3B Blake Nelson

No player drove in more runs over the weekend than Nelson, responsible for driving in nine of the 41 runs the Wolverines scored. Over 13 at-bats, the junior third baseman grabbed six hits, half of which were doubles on Saturday. Nelson reached base twice more by way or walk and scored two runs.

Indiana Jr. RHP Jonathan Stiever

Starting Indiana’s weekend off on the right foot, Stiever held a high-powered Ohio State offense off of the scoreboard on Friday. In seven innings of work, the righty surrendered only five hits, walked four Buckeyes and struck out six batters, improving to 5-1 on the year with a 2.53 ERA.

One month to go

One month from today, on May 20, the  regular season will be over for Big Ten clubs. The eight-team field that will make up the Big Ten Tournament in Omaha will be set, players will have put forth all evidence to merit all-conference honors, and a clearer picture of who will be in the NCAA Tournament in two weeks time will be set.

What can we expect to unfold over the final five weekends of the season? Here’s some of the most intriguing questions we’re looking forward to seeing answered.

How many teams make the NCAA Tournament?

Long gone are the days of wondering if the Big Ten will place multiple teams in the NCAA Tournament. The question now becomes, how many teams less or greater than four will make the field. Currently, six teams are in position to receive strong consideration to be in the field of 64 if the season ended today. National outlets have between four and six clubs participating in a regional. The final tally of teams will likely depend on who much teams beat up on each other, if there are a few sweeps or if series are tight. The next three weeks will provide a bit of clarity as the schedule has:

April 20-22

Indiana @ Ohio State

Iowa @ Minnesota

April 27-29

Illinois @ Indiana

Michigan @ Iowa

Minnesota @ Ohio State

May 4-6

Indiana @ Minnesota

Ohio State @ Illinois

The weekend of May 4-6 also sees Iowa welcome Oklahoma State to town for a big series during their bye week. With all but Michigan having multiple weeks against opponents in the RPIs top 50, the next three weeks could punch a team’s ticket to a regional, or hang a cloud of a thus far strong season.

Does anyone challenge Spillane as Player of the Year?

So far, the only thing that has slowed down Illinois junior first baseman Bren Spillane is an injury which has forced the slugger to miss the Illini’s last three games and render his status as day-to-day. Prior to the injury, Spillane was punishing pitchers to the tune of .457/.540/1.038, cranking out 15 doubles and 14 home runs, and adding 12 stolen bases for good measure. But if Spillane is out for an extended period, or his numbers aren’t as video game-esque, will he cruise to being the third Illini in six years to be name Big Ten Player of the Year? There’s a handful of players that suggest no.

A pair of Gophers, Ben Mezzenga and Terrin Vara, check in with averages north of .400, .411 and .406, respectively. Right behind them are a pair of first basemen, who, like Spillane, are compiling all-america campaigns. Nebraska senior Scott Schreiber is batting .399 with 11 doubles and 11 home runs. Ohio State senior Noah McGowan is batting .396 with 16 doubles, seven home runs, and a Big Ten-best 43 RBI.

Spillane should enter the final month as the even-odds favorite to be named the Big Ten’s top player, but there are a few players putting together seasons which otherwise would have the competition well behind.

Will any records go down?

With Spillane missing a few games, as well as the Illini losing contests to weather, the single-season home run record of 29, set by Iowa’s Jake Adams last year appears to be safe, for now. But what other records may be in jeopardy?

Illinois closer Joey Gerber already has racked up 11 saves, just seven shy of the record set by Ohio State’s Jake Hale in 2009.

Spillane could threat the slugging percentage mark of .869, set by Michigan’s Casey Close in 1986.

With four series down and four to go, Schreiber is on pace to tie the record for most home runs in a Big Ten season at 14. And if Schreiber matches his efforts during Nebraska’s back-half of the Big Ten slate, the record for total bases of 92 will fall, he currently has 49, as will the slugging (1.022) and on-base (.568) percentages, as he currently leads the Big Ten with respective marks of 1.195 and .625.

Can Michigan State make a second-half run?

After a 3-10 start to the season, Michigan State is showing signs of playing better baseball, winning five of their last seven games, including three straight in Big Ten play. Although the Spartans are 11-21 overall, a .344 winning percentage which would be the worse regular season in Jake Boss’ 10-year tenure, MSU is only one half-game behind eight-place Rutgers and a game behind seventh-place Purdue, a spot in the Big Ten Tournament is still within sight for the Spartans.

Coming off of their bye week against Valparaiso, Michigan State’s next three weekends will have them host Maryland, in between traveling to Northwestern and Penn State. Maryland has the same 3-5 record in Big Ten play, while the Wildcats and Nittany Lions have only won one of 12 conference games. The opportunity is there for Michigan State to pick up wins against teams struggling in league play, before finishing against Minnesota and Ohio State.

Is this the year for Rutgers?

The feel-good story of the first two months has been Rutgers. Yet to finish above 11th in their three-season Big Ten history, a winning season is possible with a 19-14 record, and, as mentioned, the Scarlet Knights are above the cut, holding onto eight place in the standings. Will Rutgers be able to continue their winning ways over the final five weeks? The schedule is a bit tough, with trips to Maryland and Purdue, two teams also fighting for a spot in the conference tournament, while Nebraska, Michigan, and Minnesota head to Piscataway. But Rutgers has shown an ability to go head-to-head against quality teams and come out on top, taking five of six over consecutive weekends playing Army and Florida Gulf Coast. Head coach Joe Literrio has raved about the new culture that exists in the program and there seems to be a greater sense of resiliency with this year’s outfit.

Who is the prospect that shoots up draft broads?

It’s been a muted spring in terms of prospect buzz in the Big Ten. There isn’t a Tyler Jay or Cody Sedlock on the mound, nor a Ryan Boldt, Ronnie Dawson, or Kevin Smith in the field. But there still are a few prospects worth keeping tabs on as the temperatures, hopefully, rises.

Joey Gerber is drawing scouting attention at the back of the Illini bullpen as he shows a power arm with a feel for a slider. Ohio State’s Ryan Feltner is starting to turn potential into promise, showing a four-pitch arsenal highlighted by an upper-90s fastball with improving command. Hoosier right-hander Johnathan Stiever has the best blend of production and potential, the most pro-ready pitcher in the conference. Indiana outfielder Logan Kaletha and Iowa right fielder Robert Neustrom have solid tools across the board. Purdue right-handed pitcher Tanner Andrews, Nebraska’s Scott Schreiber, Ohio State’s Noah McGowan are proving to be potential high round senior signs.

Does Ohio State win a marquee series?

The Buckeyes enter the final month of the season in position to mark the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. At 25-10, Greg Beals’ club is enjoying a turnaround season after winning 22 games last year. But prior to the 2017 season, Ohio State entered the final month of the season each of the last four years in a position to participate in a regional, only to run out of steam. Will this year have the Buckeyes turn into a pumpkin again? We’ll soon find out, as Ohio State takes on Indiana, Minnesota, and Illinois over back-to-back-to-back weekends. If Ohio State can win two of three weekends, the Bucks may be in a position to host NCAA play for the first time since 2003. But the Buckeyes have struggled against each of those three teams in recent years. Dating back to 2012, Ohio State’s series record and overall record against the three are:

Illinois: 1-3, 4-8

Indiana: 0-5, 2-15

Minnesota: 2-2, 6-6

The last time Ohio State grabbed a series from a team that finished in the top two of the conference was 2013, taking two of three from Nebraska, who they finished in a tie for second with.

Two months into the season

The first weekend of the season came to an end on Feb. 18. And, after eight more weekends of play, the calendar rests on April 18. Before looking ahead to what the final month of the regular season has in store for Big Ten teams, we take a look back at the first two months, and note the ten players, teams, trends, and stories which have put the conference in a position to have a frantic fight to finish as the conference tournament’s return to Omaha comes into view.

The new normal

In 2015, the Big Ten set a conference-record with five teams in the NCAA Tournament. That total was one less than the combined total of the prior three seasons. The following year produced three regional teams, a slight step backward, but noteworthy in that neither Minnesota, Nebraska, or Ohio State were a part of the quintet of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, and Michigan which reached a regional in 2015, giving the conference eight different teams to have a reached a regional over a two-year window. Last year, the conference all but squashed any doubt of its status as a premier conference, again placing five teams in a regional. Now  the Big Ten may yet again take a step further with six potential NCAA Tournament clubs.

According to the NCAA’s latest RPI figures, through games played on April 17, the Big Ten has six teams in the top 55 of the RPI.

Indiana- 24

Illinois- 36

Minnesota- 38

Ohio State- 40

Iowa- 44

Michigan- 52

It may still be a few weeks before the RPI has enough data to truly represent the quality of teams throughout the country, but that’s not stopping national outlets D1Baseball and Baseball America from taking stock of where teams standing in the ratings, and publish projected NCAA Tournament fields. Bot where the conference has five teams that make the cut in D1’s projections (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota) and four teams in Baseball America’s version (Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Ohio State) those not in the field among each outlet’s first teams out of the field, making it an even half-dozen clubs with realistic regional odds.

If there are any lingering skeptics of Big Ten baseball, it’s time to let go of past perceptions and expect a handful or more of teams to be among the best in the country.

Hoosiers continue to roll

At 27-6, Indiana has its best record through 33 games since 1987. Indiana’s ability to run over nearly everything in sight is propelled by a 2.27 team ERA, the best in the country. Entering the season as the Big Ten favorite in the eyes of conference coaches, viewed by head coach Chris Lemonis as his deepest team in four-year tenure, so far Indiana has lived up to every expectation and billing. In additional to leading the country in pitching, Indiana is batting .300, the third-best clip; has slugged 38 home runs, second to Illinois; while posting a .970 fielding percentage, good for fourth in the conference. Indiana’s core of returning veterans like Luke Miller, Pauly Milto, Logan Sowers, and Johnathan Stiever, have produced as expected, with newcomers like Elijah Dunham, Logan Kaletha, Connor Maous, and Tommy Sommer stepping into supporting roles and flourishing. Yet to drop a weekend series, only once losing consecutive games, Indiana is showing a completeness and ability to take care of business that merits its current position as one of the 10 best teams in the country.

Michigan fights to buck recent trend

Over the last decade, there’s been a familiar life cycle to Big Ten programs. Any sustain period of success, capped with a superb season, usually is followed by a large roster turnover, either due to graduation or Major League organizations plucking away the talent that was at the core of a team’s success.

Following their 2012 Big Ten championship, Purdue saw seven players drafted from a team that hosted the Gary Regional. Purdue went 6-18 the following year to finish 10th in the Big Ten. After earning a national seed and hosting regional and super regional play, Illinois has nine players drafted from its 2015 50-win team. The Illini finished in a three-way tie for eighth in 2016. In 2016, Ohio State ended a seven-year NCAA Tournament drought, finishing third in the Big Ten before winning the conference tournament. Six Buckeyes were grabbed in the MLB Draft, players who were not a part of last year’s 11th-place finish for the Buckeyes.

So what would happen when Michigan lost nation-leading 11 players to last years draft, after winning 42 games? Through the teams first 15 games, it appeared the Wolverines would go down the same path as those before them. At 4-11, including a midweek loss to NAIA Lawrence Tech, a long spring appeared in store for Michigan. Michigan hasn’t lost since that March 14 loss to Lawrence Tech, currently owning a 17-game winning streak. Prior to this weekend, each win was against a team with an RPI lower than 200, making pollsters hesitant to buy into Erik Bakich’s team. But give a young U-M credit for taking care of business against lesser teams, before taking both games in a weather-shortened series against Maryland to lend more validity to Michigan’s run.

Spillane draws a national spotlight

The lone Big Ten player on the midseason Golden Spike Watch List is Illinois first baseman Bren Spillane. While a few other Big Ten first baseman are having seasons which would stack up to any player in any conference, see Ohio State’s Noah McGowan, Nebraska’s Scott Schreiber, and Minnesota’s Terrin Vavra, Spillane’s production over the first two months would have caused a riot in Champaign if he was not included among the list of 40 amateur players. Here’s Spillane’s numbers without much comment, because there isn’t many words that are proper to describe how eye-popping they are.

Games- 29 Avg.- .457, Doubles- 15, Triples- 2, Home Runs- 14, RBI- 43, Runs- 34, Total Bases- 109, Slugging- 1.038, On-Base- .540, Stolen Bases- 12.

Spillane became the first player in Big Ten history to earn three consecutive Big Ten Player of the Week honors. An undisclosed injury, which Illinois reports has his status day-to-day, has kept Spillane out of the Illini’s last three games. That may be the only thing that can contain Spillane this spring.

Inconsistency dooms Maryland and Purdue

It’s been a head-scratching season for the two newest Big Ten coaches.

After guiding Purdue to a surprising eighth-place finish in his first season leading the Boilermarkers, Mark Wasikowski has seen his club play very well for extended stretches, then not so well. Here’s Purdue’s season:

Start 8-1, lose nine of ten, win five straight, lose five consecutive contests. All told, Purdue is 16-15, an even 4-4 in Big Ten play. The Boilermakers did grab a game in Bloomington before the series’ rubber match was decided in extras, showing when they’re on, they’re a tough out. Currently Purdue is one game ahead of ninth place in the conference, which is where Maryland sits.

First-year head coach Rob Vaughn hasn’t had the sustained highs and lows that Wasikowski has, his team’s ebb and flow has been rockier, changing course from game to game. Within a 16-20 record, and  3-5 mark in the Big Ten, are four wins against the teams in the RPI’s top 50. But they also have six losses to teams with an RPI worse than 150. A microcosm of Maryland’s season is their 3-7 record in midweek games, and back-to-back weekend series where they were swept in convincing fashion at East Carolina, before taking two of three against Stetson. A year after participating in the Wake Forest Regional, with two returning weekend starters and six positional players, Maryland is 11th in the conference in hitting (.229) and ERA (5.27).

Winter’s grip remains tight

This will be brief, certainly everyone in the Midwest is tired of. But their is no denying the affect snow, sleet, ice, and cold weather has had on Big Ten baseball this spring. It’s become nearly as common to see doubleheaders, as a scheduled Friday-Saturday-Sunday series. With series held to two games in Ann Arbor, Lincoln, and West Lafayette last weekend, five conference games have been lost due to weather this year, the most since 10 were cancelled in the 2007 season, a team when there were only 10 Big Ten programs, none with an outfield artificial field.

Freshmen pitchers show polish and poise

When Ohio State head coach Greg Beals announced freshman left-handed Seth Lonsway was ineligible this season, due to a matter from high school and the NCAA Clearinghouse, the 2018 season would come and go without the Big Ten’s top recruit participating. Two months into the season, Lonsway has been an afterthought, not only due to the success of Ohio State, but also with the impressive showings around the conference by fellow freshmen pitchers.

Michigan LHP Ben Dragani, (1.38) and Minnesota RHP Patrick Fredrickson (1.96), respectively rank first and third in the Big Ten in ERA. Rutgers has two freshman LHPs, Eric Heatter (4.40) and Harry Rutkowski (3.38) rounding out the weekend rotation. Gopher RHP Max Meyer has racked up eight saves next to a 2.61 ERA, southpaw Quinn Lavelle has emerged as the ace of Northwestern’s staff, and right-hander Trent Johnson has emerged as a stout Sunday starter for Purdue, boasting a 1.88 ERA over 24 innings. With the performances of these rookies, many coaches throughout the Big Ten have multiple aces in the awaiting.

Huskers in danger of postseason absence

One of the lasting memories of Big Ten baseball in recent years is the spectacle of 19,965 in attendance for the 2014 Big Ten Tournament title game between Indiana and Nebraska. The top two finishers in the conference, and two would-be NCAA Tournament participants, a sea of red filled TD Ameritrade Park as the Huskers fought for the crown. Indiana is on track to potentially have another regional-bound season, but to match their part in reliving history, Nebraska has a mighty uphill battle. With Big Ten series down and four to go, Nebraska is 3-7 in the conference, in 11th place. Injuries have depleted the Husker pitching staff, while the offense has had little to support the all-america campaign senior first baseman Scott Schreiber is having. The Huskers have shown they can beat good teams, only Iowa’s five wins against the RPI top 50 are more than Nebraska’s four, but the depth hasn’t been there for Nebraska to win a weekend against a quality team. Darin Erstad has led Nebraska baseball to highs only seen in the early 2000s, earning a conference title, three runners-up finishes and three NCAA Tournament appearances, but at 16-18, this may be the inevitable one step back that befalls all conference teams.

Rutgers makes its move

Even though Rutgers was swept in a three-game series last weekend at Illinois, it’s worth highlighint the turnaround season the Scarlet Knights are enjoying, spurred in part by the first-year success of Heatter and Rutkowski. Prior to their trip to Champaign, Rutgers had won five consecutive weekend series, including taking two of three at 25-9 Florida Gulf Coast. At the mid-way mark of the conference season, Rutgers is above the fold to make the eight-team Big Ten Tournament for the first time. At 19-14, with a 7-7 mark against teams in the RPI’s top 100, the on-field product for Rutgers is reflecting the change in culture head coach Joe Literrio focused on in the offseason, which included revamping his coaching staff with new assistants and a dedicated director of player development. With five series to go, Rutgers is only five wins away from tying the program’s best showing in conference play, a 9-15 season in 2016.

Minnesota remains an offensive juggernaut

The Big Ten’s best hitting team once again resides in Minneapolis. Through 33 games, Minnesota’s .311 team batting average leads the Big Ten, as does their 362 hits, 253 runs, 26 sacrifice flies, 25 sacrifice hits, and .416 on-base percentage. Last year, Minnesota’s .297 average paced the Big Ten, as did the team’s .322 clip during their Big Ten championship season in 2016. Junior shortstop Terrin Vavra’s .411 average leads six Gophers batting .300 or better, with each one having an on-base percentage of at least .422. The ability for numerous Gophers to reach base at a stout rate has lead to nine games of scoring at least 10 runs, while scoring less than three runs only five times. Once a program known to be led by pitching, it is worth mentioning Minnesota’s 3.68 ERA is third-best in the conference, the Gophers are once again establishing an identity at the plate as a team that will wear down a pitcher, drawing 179 walks to 215 strikeouts. Minnesota’s attempt to take home the Big Ten’s team batting title for a third consecutive season is on the heels of a three-year period where the team’s seasonal batting averages were .258, .256, .261., from 2013-15.

Weather Wrecks Week 8 Schedule

A part of playing for, coaching, or supporting a Big Ten baseball program is understanding and accepting the climate of the Midwest spring, Midwest being used liberally as the conference’s footprint runs from the Atlantic Ocean up to the Rocky Mountains, can create havoc due to rainouts. What isn’t expected is snow and cold temperatures postponing, moving up and suspending games a week into April.

But here we are.

Last year, the Big Ten implemented a rule that the Real Feel temperature must be 28 degrees for a game to be played. With that, there isn’t one conference series this weekend that will have played out as originally scheduled, a result of freezing temperatures and freezing precipitation.

Already the Big Ten lost the weekend finale between Indiana and Iowa due to snow, a result that may factor into who becomes the conference champion. Hoping to lose no further games, here’s a rundown of what games have been moved up, moved back, or completely moved from campus, from east to west.

La Salle at Rutgers

The one series that has not be altered is the lone non-conference series. The Big Ten’s easternmost program has yet to alter its home series against La Salle.

Illinois at Maryland

With anticipated cold temperatures and precipitation on Saturday, Illinois and Maryland played a doubleheader on Friday, while leaving the series finale for Sunday. The two teams split Friday’s doubleheader, and saw their finale moved up an hour to noon ET.

Nebraska at Michigan State

Falling temperatures throughout the day Friday pushed the series opener between the Huskers and Spartans to Saturday. But Saturday’s forecast high of 32 will make it tough to get two games in. Already Sunday’s game was moved up to 11 a.m. ET to accommodate for Nebraska’s travel. A lost game looks likely between these two.

Purdue at Indiana

The Big Ten’s best weekend weather will grace Bloomington, where all three games of the Hoosier State rivalry should get in. But even southern Indiana wasn’t immune to the cold conditions. Friday’s series opener was moved up to 3 p.m., from the originally set 6 p.m., as temperatures fell in the evening below the 28-degree threshold and also snow.

Michigan at Northwestern

The Wildcats and Wolverines saw their weekend opener push to Saturday due to cold temperatures. Without lights at Berenice and Rocky Miller Park, both games must be played before the sun starts to set, and Saturday’s forecast high of 37 may make it tough for both games to get in if there’s any wind to knock the Real Feel down.

Penn State at Minnesota

As soon as John Anderson saw the weekend forecast, the Gophers made plans to find an alternative site for their series against Penn State with temperatures and precipitation leaving no chance the games could take place at Siebert Field. As a result, the two will meet almost in the middle of their respective campuses, playing at Purdue’s Alexander Field. But even the change of location couldn’t get all games in as re-scheduled, Friday’s contest was halted after five innings due to temperatures falling near the 20-degree mark. Whether one, two, or all three games get in, credit Mark Wasikowski and the Purdue athletic department for finding a way to make this series happen.

Ohio State at Iowa

While not quite at the level of Penn State-Minnesota, the Ohio State-Iowa series set for Iowa City has gone through a few hoops to get as many games in as possible. First, the series was moved to a Saturday-Monday format, with snow and cold temperatures making any play on Friday impossible. But then, the amended scheduled was amended again, with the two teams squaring off in a Saturday doubleheader. Game three is tentatively set for Sunday, but Monday is still in play, as there is a 70% chance of mixed precipitation.

 

 

The Weekend 10

As the midpoint of the college baseball season nears, while they may still be freshmen by class, this year’s Big Ten newcomers are turning in performances beyond their years. This season has witnessed first-year players spur Michigan’s turnaround and lead the revival of the Scarlet Knights.

This weekend, freshmen turned in some of the most impressive weekends, including the first double-award winner of the season. The Weekend 10 is led by four freshmen who turned in performances that made opposing coaches miserable knowing they have multiple years to come facing them, as well as a handful of sluggers who are making their case to be all-americans.

Ohio State Soph. OF Dominic Canzone

A big weekend in Ohio State’s first Big Ten series showed why Canzone is leads off the conference’ top hitting unit. In three games against Nebraska, Canzone collected seven hits in 14 at-bats, scoring five runs, driving in four and stealing three bases. Canzone has needed just 76 games to reach 100 career hits.

Michigan State Fr. RHP Mason Erla

Erla continues to shine in a season where a cloud has hung over the Spartans. Earl’s latest gem helped Michigan State to its first conference victory, leading the Green and White to a 6-0 win over Rutgers on Sunday. Erla pitched seven innings and allowed four hits, with three walks and six strikeouts. Moving to 4-1 on the year, Erla is responsible for more than half of MSUs seven victories.

Indiana Jr. C Ryan Fineman

Fineman continued a strong season, a junior campaign which has him batting a team-leading .342 through IU’s 20-5 start. In a three-game sweep of Butler, Fineman recorded seven hits in 12-bats, drove in six runs, and through out two Bulldogs on the bases.

Michigan Fr. 1B/OF Jesse Franklin

Michigan enters April with the nation’s longest active winning streak, extending their run to 12 games with a weekend brooming of Delaware. Leading the Wolverines charge against the Blue Hens, Franklin went 5-for-11 with a double and home run, driving in three runs while scoring another three.

Purdue Fr. RHP Trent Johnson

Purdue recorded its first sweep during the opening weekend of Big Ten play since 1985, and Johnson’s gem was the leading act in the clincher. In State College, over five innings, Johnson held the Nittany Lions to one hit, in Purdue’s 6-0 victory. The rookie struck out six batters and walk three, in the 79-pitch effort.

Northwestern Fr. LHP Quinn Lavelle

Lavelle pitched as fine of an outing as any Big Ten pitcher has this season, leading Northwestern to its first Big Ten victory in the Wildcats’ series-opener at Maryland. Tossing a shutout, Lavelle scattered four hits and struck out eight batters to one walk in Northwestern’s 4-0 win. This week’s pitcher and freshman of the week, Lavelle sports a 3-2 record alongside a 2.10 ERA over 34.1 innings.

Ohio State Sr. 1B Noah McGowan

McGowan helped lead a high-powered Buckeye attack to 25 runs in their weekend victory over Nebraska. In Greg Beals’ cleanup spot, the senior notched six hits, drove in five runs, and scored four runs. McGowan picked up a double in each game and ended hit his sixth home run of the season in the finale.

Indiana Jr. RHP Pauly Milto

After Indiana eeked out a 6-5 victory in their series opener against Butler, Milto made sure the Bulldogs had no bite as IU cruised to a 13-0 victory. Over six innings, Milto scatted six hits, issued two walks and struck out three batters. The victory moved Milto to 4-2 on the year and lowered his ERA to 2.25.

Nebraska Sr. 1B Scott Schreiber

A big weekend at the plate from Schreiber wasn’t enough for Nebraska to leave Columbus with a series win, but it was impressive enough for Schreiber to earn this week’s player of the week nod. Schreiber hit a home run in each of the Cornhuskers three games against the Buckeyes as part of an 8-for-14 weekend. The senior first baseman added a double as he drove in six runs and crossed home five times.

Illinois Jr. 1B Bren Spillane

Iowa was the latest team to run into a scorching hot Spillane. Though the Hawkeyes grabbed the weekend series in Champaign, Spillane was hard to contain, picking up two singles, a double, and three home runs over nine at-bats, before drawing four walks in the weekend finale. Spillane added five RBI and six runs to his eye-popping season statistics.