Midweek wrap

Nebraska takes two from in-state rivals

Nebraska picked up two midweek victories to record their eighth victory in 10 games, with a tie included. Darin Erstad’s team now stands at 17-10-1 on the season.

On Tuesday, the Huskers used 19 hits to defeat Creighton, 14-6. Leading Nebraska to season-high totals in hits and runs, four Huskers recorded three-hit games: shortstop Angelo Altavilla (3-for-5), left fielder Luis Alvarado (3-for-3), third baseman Luke Roskam (3-for-4) and catcher Jesse Wilkening (3-for-4). Altavilla, Roskam and Wilkening each drove in two runs with Alvarado crossing home twice.

Much of Nebraska’s offensive output occurred in a 10-run second inning. The eight-hit inning started with Alvarado recording a one-out single, and included a three-run home run by pitcher Ben Miller, who batted for himself. Nebraska sent 14 batters to the plate in the team’s first 10-run inning since April 2014.

Leading 10-1, Nebraska’s second home run of the game came in the sixth when first baseman Scott Schreiber matched Miller with three home runs on the year, a part of a three-run inning. Creighton scored five times in the eighth, before NU countered with a run in their at-bat to conclude Tuesday’s scoring.

Nebraska’s victory over Omaha on Wednesday didn’t quite have the offensive punch, but three runs were good enough for a victory in a game where the Huskers held the Mavericks to one run. Ethan Fraizer and Nate Fisher held Omaha to five hits over 5.2 innings, before Jake McSteen worked a scoreless inning and Chad Luensmann closed the game with a seven-out save.

Nebraska struck first with a Schreiber RBI-single in the top of the first inning. Omaha tied the game with a run in the bottom of the second, and the game remained 1-1 through six innings. With Omaha’s help, Nebraska grabbed the lead, a wild pitch scoring a pinch runner, Alex Henwood, who went 1st-to-3rd on a single by Jake Schleppenbach and Roskam opened the inning with a single. Schleppenbach added another RBI in the ninth, driving in a run on a fielder’s choice, to give the game its final 3-1 score.

Michigan rallies to turn back Notre Dame

In a Tuesday night affair between longtime rivals, Michigan fell behind 3-0 after one Notre Dame at-bat in the top of the first inning. But the Wolverines did not allow the Irish to score any more runs the rest of the game, and clawed back to pick up a 4-3 victory.

Junior right-handed pitcher Alex Rennard settled in after the shaky start, finishing with a 4.1-inning outing, where he scattered seven hits and allowed the three early runs. With Rennard holding Notre Dame at bay, Michigan found it’s mojo at the plate. Michigan scratched out a run in third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings to start, sustain and cap the comeback.

From there, freshman left-handed pitcher Tommy Henry tossed 3.2 innings of two-hit baseball before senior right-handed pitcher Jackson Lamb closed the door with a scoreless ninth, recording his seventh save of the season. DH Nick Porier and right fielder Jonathan Engelmann both went 3-for-3, with Michigan’s respective seven-hole hitter scoring twice in front of the eight-hold batter driving in two runs. With a bases loaded walk and sacrifice fly, senior center fielder Johnny Slater drove in a pair of wins as Michigan improved to 23-9 on the season, dropping Notre Dame to 11-17.

Gophers streak hits 10

Minnesota’s first game at Siebert Field got off to an inauspicious start with North Dakota State scoring a run in the top of the first. But the early deficit was no problem for the Gophers as Minnesota rallied for a 7-1 victory over NDSU (11-15), winning its tenth consecutive game.

Now 19-8 on the season, Minnesota used a three-run third inning to march towards victory. After an RBI on a bases loaded fielder’s choice by Micah Coffey, Toby Anderson sent a two-run single through the left side to put Minnesota out in front. Hanson gave Minnesota its fourth run of the game with an RBI-grounder in the fifth, before Minnesota scored twice in the sixth to put the game away. The scoring closed with a run in the eighth with Coffey lifting a sacrifice fly to right, driving in the seventh Gopher of the game.

Freshman right-handed pitcher Nolan Burchill pitched 5.1 innings, allowing just the one run off four hits. Coffey picked up a pair of hits in his other two at-bats to for 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI, and Eli Wilson and Ben Mezzenga each collected two hits over three at-bats, combining for five runs scored.

Iowa stays hot at home, perfect in midweek

A 17-game midweek-winning streak was in danger with Iowa trailing 3-2 to South Dakota State at the stretch of Tuesday night’s game. But in moving to 10-1 at home, the Hawkeyes found a way to eek out another victory, coming back to win 4-3, winning a seventh straight contest.

South Dakota State (13-11) scored first with a run in the top of the first. Iowa (18-9) got on board, and grabbed the lead, in the third inning, with a two-run home run by first baseman Jake Adams, connecting on his 11 home run of the season, tied for the most in the Big Ten. South Dakota State knotted the game in their next at-bat, before moving in front 3-2 with a run in the fifth.

But the Hawkeyes rebounded after the stretch, using a two-run seventh to continue a midweek unbeaten streak which dates back to 2015. Third baseman Mitchell Boe drew a leadoff walk, before  shortstop Mason McCoy doubled to right field, two batters later, to two in scoring position. Adams hit a soft grounder back to SDSU pitcher to drive in McCoy to tie the game. The next batter, right fielder Robert Neustrom, doubled down the left field led to score McCoy and lift the Hawkeyes to victory.

Ratcliff’s grand slam powers Buckeye rally

Before the skies opened over Central Ohio and forced Ohio State’s Wendesday night contest against Kent State to be called after seven innings, senior DH Zach Ratcliff proved the Buckeyes with some thunder.

Three runs in the first, three more in the second and one in the third allowed the visiting Golden Flashes to quickly jump out of the gate and enjoy a 7-0 lead. The Buckeyes closed the gap with a bases loaded-double by freshman right fielder Dominic Canzone, producing a three-run inning in the bottom of the third. Kent State(17-10) added a run in the top of the fourth, before Ratcliff and the Buckeyes reset the game.

Four walks in the inning, the latter three coming with two outs, plated Ohio State’s fourth run and bring the game back to a four-run margin. With the bases loaded, Ratcliff hit a liner over the left center wall, making his fifth home run of the season his first career grand slam, tying the game 8-8. In Ohio State’s next at-bat, after working a one-out walk and advancing to third on a single by Tre’ Gantt, Bo Coolen crossed home with Gantt in a rundown, the first baseman’s steal of home put the Buckeyes in front 9-8.

The teams played two scoreless innings before lightning and heavy rains came, giving Ohio State the seven-inning victory to improve to 12-16.

Elsewhere

Three runs over the first three innings by Indiana State (13-12) were too much for Purdue (15-13) to overcome Tuesday night, falling 5-2. The Sycamores won their fourth straight game in West Lafayette behind a four-inning, one-hit effort from starter Triston Pompey. Skylar Hunter and Jacson McGowan each picked up two hits as Purdue was held to five for the game.

Four of Michigan State’s last five games have been decided by a run. Unfortunately for the Spartans, each game has resulted in a loss. Traveling to Eastern Michigan (10-18) on Tuesday, Michigan State (15-10)was again close, but not good enough,  falling 4-3. Spartan pitchers held the Eagles to four hits, but five walks and an error aided EMU’s effort.  Sophomore shortstop Royce Ando went 2-for-3 with a triple, a run scored and RBI to lead MSU.

Penn State received back-to-back home runs by Jordan Bowersox and Christian Helsel in the top of the fifth inning, but the solo shots were the lone runs PSU scored on the evening, falling to Pittsburgh, 3-2, Tuesday night. The loss snapped a 15-game winning streak against in-state competition for Penn State, now 10-17 on the year, including a four-game run against Pitt who improved to 14-12 with the victory.

Maryland rallied from a 9-4 deficit, heading into the bottom of the second inning, for 12-11 win over Richmond (11-16). Improving to 11-1 at home, 19-8 overall, Maryland used a three-run home run by Nick Cieri in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game, 11-11, before Zach Jancarski used an RBI-single to left for Tuesday afternoon’s game-winning hit.

Freshman second baseman Michael Massey recorded four RBI in a two-home run game to lead Illinois (10-16) past Missouri (21-8), 5-3, Tuesday night in a neutral site contest in Sauget, Illinois. Sophomore outfielder Jack Yalowitz also dialed up a long ball to give Illinois 30 for the year, leading the Big Ten, and help power the Illini to a fourth straight win. Massey and Yalowitz, Illinois’ 1-2 hitters, each went 3-for-4.

It was a home run that capped Indiana’s 3-2 victory over Ball State on Tuesday night. In the bottom of the 11th, sophomore DH Matt Lloyd lifted his sixth homer of the year over the right field wall to give IU (15-11-2) the walk-off win over Ball State (11-18). Lloyd with 3-for-4 with two RBI, and also pitched 1.2 scoreless innings of relief to power the Hoosiers to victory.

Rutgers was on the wrong side of a 3-2 game, falling on the road to Villanova, Wednesday afternoon. After Villanova (4-16) scored a run in the bottom of the first, RU leveled the score in their next at-bat. But the see-saw affair went the way of the Wildcats, as Villanova scored twice in the sixth after Rutgers grabbed a 2-1 lead in their sixth-inning at-bat. Both teams were held to seven hits, with five for Rutgers (10-18) coming between Mike Carter and Mike Martinez.

The Prospect Junkie: Scouting Minnesota

The University of Minnesota has a storied baseball tradition. They’ve won the Big Ten 23 times, trailing only Michigan (35) and Illinois (30) for historical conference supremacy. They’ve won the College World Series a conference best three times, albeit their last national championship was in 1964. They also have qualified for the NCAA Tournament 31 times, building a sizable lead on Michigan, who has 22 bids respectively.

But, from 2011 to 2015, Minnesota never finished higher than fourth, hitting a low point in 2015 when they finished 21-30 overall, 9-15 in conference, for a ninth-place finish.

Perhaps that’s why it was surprising when the Gopher’s followed up that low point to win the Big Ten in 2016. Conference Player of the Year Matt Fielder slashed .366/.411/.525, leading Minnesota to a 16-7 conference record.

Despite last year’s success, I didn’t see Minnesota named on any preseason Regional Watch lists or as a potential candidate to repeat as champion. Yet as we approach the midway point of the season, they stand at 18-8 overall with a perfect 6-0 conference record. Minnesota is riding a nine game winning streak, off of which have come on the road, that included series sweeps at Ohio State and Michigan State.

I recently had the opportunity to check out Minnesota when they traveled to Columbus to open up conference play against Ohio State. Minnesota left an impression as the Gophers swept the Buckeyes behind some strong performances from some of their 2017 MLB Draft prospects.

Jr. LHP Lucas Gilbreath

After a strong sophomore season in which he posted a 1.36 ERA while allowing a meager .200 batting average against out of the Gopher bullpen, Gilbreath was slow to get things going in a transition to the rotation this season as I wrote about here. He’s been great since that point however, allowing just four earned runs over his past five starts.

In the series opener against the Buckeyes, Gilbreath scattered four hits and one earned over 6.2 innings, while striking out seven and walking none. Gilbreth does his best to leverage his 6’2 frame with a high-three quarter delivery to generate some downward plane. Gilbreth consistently worked all four quadrants of the plate with a fastball that sat 89-91, while showing confidence and some feel for spin in his breaking ball.

Staying hot, Gilbreath went blow for blow with Michigan State’s Alex Troop last weekend, striking out eight Spartans over six innings in route to his third win of the season.

Sr. RHP Brian Glowicki

Glowicki pitched in the Gopher bullpen alongside Gilbreath last season and performed well, finishing second on the team in ERA (3.29) while also finishing second on the team with 20 appearances. Now entrenched as the closer, Glowicki picked up two saves against Ohio State including one of the two inning variety in the series finale on Saturday to complete the sweep, and two more against Michigan State last weekend. Glowecki has been fantastic thus far this season.

With a 1-0 record, 0.52 ERA, and a .125 batting average against, Glowecki has already saved 11 of Minnesota’s 18 wins. Though he’s just 5’11, Glowecki has a quick arm and he stays closed on his delivery offering good deception on a 92-93 mph fastball that gets on hitters in a hurry.

Jr. RF Alex Boxwell

Boxwell started 29 games as a sophomore and produced a slash line of .327/.379/.464 while hitting .392 in conference play, and not making an error all season. Serving as the three-hole hitter for the Gophers this season, the left-handed hitting Boxwell put together an impressive weekend at the plate against Ohio State, hitting two home runs, stealing two bases, and scoring seven runs. Though he cooled off some against the Spartans the following weekend, the toolsy Boxwell, long and lean at 6’3, 195-pound, is hitting .277/.345/.455 with three home runs, four triples, stealing nine bases with an above-average run tool..

Jr. 3B Micah Coffey

Along with Boxwell, Coffey was a key contributor for Minnesota last season, earning Third Team All-Big Ten honors after slashing .333/.408/.524 with seven home runs and tying for the team high in RBIs with 42. At 6’1 and 200 pounds, Coffey backs up his athletic build. A three-sport star out of Batavia (Ill.) H.S., he was an honorable mention all-state quarterback in football and all-conference performer in basketball. Coffey missed the Ohio State series, but here’s what 10 Innings’ Chris Webb said after seeing the Gophers open the season at Irvine.

Coffey stands tall and has a quiet approach at the plate. Quick hands through the zone allows Coffey to get to inside pitches, and he does not lose balance on balls on the outer-half. An ability to manipulate the barrel, with at least 50 raw power, Coffey is a prospect to watch this spring, possessing the tools to potentially to crack into the top six rounds. At the hot corner, Coffey’s arm is enough, there is carry, and he showed good agility and quickness charging a soft roller on Saturday. Coffey looks to be a 55 runner, with enough lateral ability to stick at third.

Jr. 2B Luke Pettersen

While Pettersen may not have the tools of Boxwell or the athleticism of Coffey, he’s a spark plug for this Golden Gopher offense and a major factor in their success. Following a sophomore campaign in which he struck out just six times in 105 plate appearances, Pettersen continues to consistently put the bat on the ball. This season, Petersen has struck out eight times in 99 plate appearances, while also leading the conference with a .389 batting average and playing a reliable second base.

10 Innings Extra: Gophers’ approach leads title defense

John Anderson is halfway through his 36th season leading Minnesota’s baseball team. Amassing more than 1,200 wins, Anderson has seen his share of baseball and knows what it takes to win, evident by his 10 Big Ten championships. Though the Gophers lost the Big Ten Player of the Year, their three-year catcher, four-year second baseman and center fielder, Anderson believed the reigning Big Ten champions had more than enough punch to compete for another conference crown.

With two weekend road sweeps in the first two weekends of Big Ten play, Anderson’s preseason belief is turning into a reality.

Minnesota led the Big Ten with a .323 overall batting average in 2016, while leading the conference with a .304 in-conference hitting clip. Behind 50 home runs, yielding a conference best .877 home runs per game, the Gophers slugged their way to the conference championship, the Big Ten leaders in slugging percentage at .467 overall and .440 in Big Ten games.

But the aforementioned losses, respectively Matt Fiedler, Austin Athmann, Connor Schaefbauer and Dan Motl, combined for 303 hits, 54 doubles, five doubles and 27 home runs, collective batting .342 over 885 at-bats, with a .506 slugging percentage. One wouldn’t have been foolish to predict a step backwards for Minnesota with the offensive firepower lost, Big Ten coaches picked five teams to finish higher than the Gophers who finished in a tie for sixth.

So what’s allowed Minnesota to weather such losses to be 6-0 in conference play, batting .314 in the process?

A steady approach, yielding consistency one through nine in the lineup.

In watching Minnesota, the Gophers show an uncanny ability to stay within themselves at the plate, the moment never seems too big, players aren’t overly anxious to produce a big hit. Minnesota will spit on balls outside of the zone, flip away foul balls that aren’t quite good enough, before squaring up on a pitch that can be put in play through a hole or with authority into a gap.

Starting with a 27-hit effort in two games in opening the season against UC-Irvine, Minnesota has had little difficulty replacing the big bats that carried the team to its first conference championship, watching new starters and players emerge.

“I said all along I thought we’d have a good lineup,” said Anderson, whose team picked up a 10th consecutive victory on Tuesday with a 7-1 win over North Dakota State. “The reason we’ve scored some runs, you do that with a lineup, contributions up and down the lineup.”

That has been the case for Minnesota.

There isn’t a the same pop in the lineup as last year, even a year where power is up across the board in the Big Ten, Minnesota only has 13 home runs led by left fielder Jordan Smith’s four. But led by second baseman Luke Pettersen’s Big Ten-leading .376 average, there is constant pressure put on pitchers with nine regulars are batting at least .270. The loss of power is made up with a completeness in putting the ball in play, as a team, Minnesota has only struck out 150 teams, the fewest in the Big Ten, producing a 16.6% strikeout rate. Without an easy out in the lineup, as a team Minnesota is batting .281 overall.

The Gophers did go into a lull, as Anderson calls it, at the beginning of March, scoring only 12 runs over four games between a midweek game against Hawaii and hosting the Dairy Queen Classic. The following week, Missouri State held Minnesota to 10 runs in a three-game set at U.S. Bank Stadium. But as conference play started with a showdown between two 2016 NCAA Tournament clubs, Minnesota returned to form, sweeping Ohio State behind 26 runs and 41 hits.

Following the brooming of the Buckeyes, Anderson noticed his team putting it back together.

“We’ve done a better job of squaring more balls, not chasing and expanding the zone as much as we were and just having better at-bats,” he said.

Minnesota’s approach at the plate was noticed in the opposing dugout, as Ohio State was unable to find the big hit that Minnesota produced time and time again.

“Their approach is solid, they have guys with a feel for hitting,” Ohio State head coach Greg Beals said after Minnesota recorded their first sweep of Ohio State since 1990. “They have a solid two-strike approach where they will scrap and fight you.”

Freshman Jordan Kozicky started all three games against Ohio State, stepping in for Micah Coffey who suffered a sprained ankle two weeks prior. A year after Coffey batted .333 with 23 extra-base hits, Kozicky, who says he’s an aggressive, fastball hitter, easily stepped in and picked up five hits in 12 at-bats. Almost mechanically, one part of the Minnesota machine needed replaced and the replacement part was easily inserted and continued on. That’s finding consistency.

When Coffey returned in Minnesota’s series at Michigan State, the junior picked up a three-run double to send the Gophers to a 3-2 victory, starting the eventual weekend sweep with a big win.

“I think all we need is a little inch, to get a guy on base, get him over, then get him in, Coffey said. “Guys step up in big situations. Guys keep coming to play, but guys keep coming to compete, first and foremost.”

After Minnesota left East Lansing with their perfect conference record in tact, they left another opposing coach singing their praise.

“I think we can learn a lot from what we watched out of the Minnesota dugout,” Michigan State head coach Jake Boss Jr. said after the Spartans became the second consecutive Big Ten team to be swept in a Saturday doubleheader by the Gophers. “They didn’t strike out a whole lot, and I think they really competed at the plate.”

What is allowing the players to have a mentality of being relentless in competing?

“I know it’s cliche, but they know to take it one pitch, one play, one inning at a time,” Anderson said.

The simplicity was echoed by Kozicky after he picked up two RBI to lead Minnesota to a 4-3 in the twinbill nightcap of the Michigan State doubleheader.

“If we just keep what we’re doing I think we can win another conference championship.”

Just like their head coach felt before the season started.

The Big Ten’s power surge

Whether it’s been in attending a Big Ten game this season, scanning a team’s stats or checking out a game’s box score, an observer of Big Ten baseball has been a a witness to a season dominated by the home run. From the conference seeing more home runs per game as a whole, multiple teams on pace to eclipse 2016 long ball totals and the multitude of players projected to finish the season with double digit home runs, it’s been a power hitters season as 10 Innings digs into the numbers.

Power is up across the board

Last year, Big Ten teams combined to hit 410 home runs in 732 games. Collectively, the conference produced .56 home runs per game. With 50 home runs in 57 games, Minnesota, the Big Ten champions, led the conference in hitting .8771 home runs per game. Right on the heels of the Gophers were the Buckeyes, the Big Ten Tournament champions, with Ohio State swatting 57 home runs over the course of 65 games, generating .8769 home runs per game. Minnesota and Ohio State were the lone Big Ten teams to dial up 50 or more home runs.

At the bottom of the conference’s power output was Penn State, the Nittany Lions collected only 16 homers in 55 games, a rate of .2909 home runs per game. Penn State was one of three teams to finish with less than 20 home runs, joined by Northwestern (18) and Rutgers (19).

In seeing how many home runs conference teams have hit as a whole, already the power surge is clear.

After seven weekends of play, with all numbers through April 3, Big Ten teams have hit 245 home runs in 341 games. With teams just hitting the midpoint of the 15-week regular season, the Big Ten has already accumulated 60% of last year’s home run total. If the 13 Big Ten teams combined to play another 732 games this season, the current season’s .718 home runs per game rate would yield 525 home runs, 115 more than last season.

Where no team managed to hit at least .9 home runs per game last year, three have done just that. Leading the Big Ten with 1.166 home runs per game is Michigan State. The Spartans’ produced an NCAA single-game high of eight home runs in a 17-6 win over Illinois on March 26. That Illini team is also hitting more than one home run per game, producing 27 homers in 25 games, a rate of 1.08 home runs per game. Indiana has also hit more home runs than games played, racking up 28 round-trippers in 27 contests.

Illinois, Indiana and Michigan State are joined by Maryland as a team of pace to hit at least 50 home runs, doubling last year’s total. Another jump comes in teams on pace to hit at least 35 home runs, the aforementioned quartet is joined by Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State and Rutgers, for a total of eight, last year only had five teams.

Even the bottom of the Big Ten is projected to have more home run power, with only two teams on pace to hit for less than 20 home runs.

As a whole, here’s the Big Ten’s home runs per game rate over the last ten years.

2017- .718

2016- .56

2015- .545

2014- .35

2013- .349

2012- .467

2011- .42

2010- .815

2009-. 831

2008- .629

After the 2010 season, the NCAA entered the BBCOR era. BBCOR bats were created to reduce the trampoline effect of balls off bats, have the aluminum bats behave more like wood, which significantly decreased power throughout college baseball. Another change occurred after the 2014 season when the NCAA introduced baseballs with lower seams. This change was to counter the severe decline in power as balls in flight with lower seams have lower resistance and travel further. It’s hard to compared the 2017 season to the 2011-14 period and just as hard to do so pre-2010, but in the current era of bats and balls, the 2017 season decisvely stands out in home run production over the past two years.

 

Who’s leading the charge

If the collective showing of the Big Ten doesn’t paint the picture of the power surge, looking at the team level may. And projection isn’t needed in some instances.

Michigan State’s 28 home runs are already more than last year’s 26, when the Spartans hit .464 home runs per game. The next home run for Illinois will allow the Illini to match the Spartans’ feat. Illinois’ 27 home runs match their 2016 total. Rutgers, too, has matched their 2016 home run output, already touching home 19 times of big flies.

Knocking on the doorstep of eclipsing last year’s output include Michigan, who need five more for 28, Iowa needed four more home runs to match last year’s total and Penn State is just three shy of their total of 16 in 2016.

If every team plays a full 56-game schedule, here’s who will increase their home run total and be how much.

Michigan State +39 (26 in 2016, projected 65 in 2017)

Illinois +33 (27, p. 60)

Indiana +22 (36, p. 58)

Iowa + 21 (26, p. 47)

Rutgers +20 (19, p. 39)

Michigan + 18 (28, p. 46)

Penn State +15 (13, p. 28) 

Maryland +10 (41, p. 51)

 

Individual production up, too

Of course team totals are collections of individuals, and looking at the individual numbers opens more eyes.

Illinois senior first baseman Pat McInerney leads the Big Ten with 11 home runs through 25 games. If McInerney plays 56 games, he is on pace to hit 24 home runs, a 50% increase over last year’s home run champion, 16 hit by Nebraska DH Scott Schreiber.

Even so, McInerney is not running away with the home run lead, Iowa junior first baseman Jake Adams is right on his heels with 10.

Michigan junior third baseman Drew Lugbauer is solidly in third with eight home runs, one more than Rutgers center fielder Jawuan Harris. After those four, four more have six home runs, Indiana’s Craig Dedelow, Maryland’s Marty Costest and Kevin Smith and Michigan State’s Marty Bechina. Michigan catcher Harrison Wenson and Ohio State outfielder Noah McGowan each have five home runs, to give the conference 10 players on pace to hit at least 10 home runs over a 56-game schedule. That would eclipse last year’s total by four.

Focusing on McInerney and Adams, who is on pace for a 56-game total of 21 home runs, the two first baseman would reach rare air if their projections turn to production.

Since 2008, here’s the total of homers by the Big Ten’s leader and the number of players with 10 or more in parenthesis.

2016- 16 (6)

2015- 16 (4)

2014- 14 (2)

2013- 18 (2)

2012- 12 (4)

2011- 12 (1)

2010- 24 (8)

2009- 18 (14)

2008- 23 (7)

Only the 2010, 24-home run year of Indiana DH Alex Dickerson, with 19 from Penn State catcher Ben Heath, is comparable to what McInerney and Adams are set to slug their way to. But again, there’s is a drastic difference in today’s college baseball landscape and that of the pre-BBCOR era.

 

Why the increase?

That a great questions which probably has an answer of a confluence of reasons.

Weather

The weekend Michigan State hit eight in a game against Illinois, they hit 13 total, in warm and gusty conditions. While you never know what you’ll get in the Midwest during the spring months, power numbers usually climb up as the season progresses into warmer temperatures, Maybe Mother Nature has allowed that climb to start earlier.

Better players

As the Big Ten has emerged on the national scene, producing eight different regional teams over the last two years, maybe the team-level success has been spurred by better players and teams with more depth? Where teams in the past maybe had one or two sluggers,three if they were really good,  it’s not surprising to see four, five, even six players with enough pop to drive one out.

Philosophical change

In recent years, there’s been more of an acceptance of strikeouts than prior generations, resulting in a aggressive, feast or famine approach. No longer run production built around slapping the ball around and get on base, players are being instructed to lift the ball. Going back just to 2013, Big Ten at-bats finished in a strikeout 17.6% of the time. So far in 2017? 22.3%.

Randomness

Baseball is a game of random occurrences. Maybe the 2017 season is just one of those years where there’s no particular reason. It’s not weather, the quality of players, an approach, the opposition, it’s just baseball and we should sit back and enjoy the fireworks.

Weekend walk-off

With the calendar turning to April, every Big Ten team has now stepped into conference action. It was another sweep-heavy weekend with five teams picking up three-game sweeps, led by the defending champions showing little regard for relinquishing their crown.

Before Monday’s deeper weekend review, he’s a quick look at the weekend’s action.

Defending champs reign supreme

Michigan State entered the weekend as the Big Ten’s top hitting team, highest scoring team and the team with the conference’s best RPI. With a 3-0 record after a road sweep of Illinois, the Spartans were also at the top of the Big Ten standings.

But so too was Minnesota. The Gophers picked up three Big Ten road victories of their own, sweeping Ohio State in Columbus.

With someone forced to take their first lost of conference play, what can’t be found on paper between stats and standings was the difference between the two undefeateds.

As impressive as MSU’s season to date has been, there’s something about knowing first-hand what it takes to win a conference championship and continually play at a high level. What Michigan State was missing, showcased earlier this season in a tight but winless series at South Carolina, and what Minnesota has, is the ability to find the big hit and have a constant approach throughout the entire batting order, for all nine innings.

Excelling in those two areas allowed Minnesota to pick up a pair of one-run victories in a Saturday doubleheader, 3-2 and 4-3, before capping the sweep with a solid 9-4 victory on Sunday. With the three victories, a part of nine in a row, Minnesota’s Big Ten championship defense is off to a roaring start, picking up sweeps in the first two weekends of Big Ten play for the first time since 2003.

For Michigan State, an 0-4 week, including a 3-2 midweek loss to Western Michigan, has the Spartans looking to regroup after a 15-5 start.

 

The cream is starting to rise

Maryland continued a strong start to conference play with a weekend road sweep of Rutgers. After picking up a series victory in a competitive series against Michigan, the Terrapins, the coaches’ preseason favorite, provided the Scarlet Knights with a rude welcoming to Big Ten play and continued to show its muscle.

With weather postponing the start of the series a day, and forcing a Sunday doubleheader, Maryland picked up a 5-1 victory on Saturday, and grabbed Sunday wins of 6-1 and 9-1 to sweep Rutgers. Maryland’s bullpen pitched 10.1 innings of scoreless relief, as the Terps, who after starting the season 1-5, have won 17 of 20 games.

Michigan was just as hot in March as they broke into the polls. Following a three-game home sweep of Penn State, at 22-6, Michigan has no concern of falling out of the rankings. More important;y for Erik Bakich’s team, the three wins allowed Michigan to not lose ground to Minnesota and Maryland in the conference standings. Michigan’s trio of victories were powered by a slugging offense. In the sweep of the Nittany Lions, the Wolverines scored 39 runs on 38 hits and had five innings of at least four runs over the weekend.

 

Out of conference, in control

For a second weekend in a row, three Big Ten teams enjoyed a conference bye week. And enjoy did that. Illinois, Northwestern and Iowa each welcomed a non-conference foe to town and each captured a weekend victory.

Behind senior first baseman Pat McInerney homering in each game, Illinois picked up three victories over Indiana State, winning 6-4, 2-1 and 5-2. The weekend sweep saw McInerney take sole possession of the Big Ten’s home run lead with 11, one more than Iowa first baseman Jake Adams. In the weekend clincher, freshman right-handed pitcher Ty Weber tossed a four-hitter, a game won on a McInerney walk-off home run.

Iowa, too, enjoyed a sweep. The Hawkeyes turned back UNLV over three games, grabbing victories by scores of 3-0, 6-5 and 7-6. Junior right-handed pitcher Nick Gallagher pitched seven scoreless innings in the opener, combining with junior righty Josh Martsching to three-hit the Rebels. A Saturday doubleheader saw the Hawkeyes grind out a pair of one-run victories, Iowa needing a pair of three-run last-at-bat innings to take the weekend.

Walk-offs were in vogue this weekend and Northwestern made sure they were in on the fun. After splitting a Saturday doubleheader with Air Force, falling 11-3 in the series opener before rebounding with a 7-6 victory, a second one-run win gave Northwestern its first winning home weekend. In the bottom of the 11th in Sunday’s finale, junior DH Connor Lind picked up his first home run of the season with a solo shot to left, leading the ‘Cats to victory.

 

Elsewhere

Only a travel curfew could keep a pitching-dominant Nebraska team from a weekend sweep. The Cornhuskers picked up wins of 7-3 and 3-1 over Indiana, before a series finale ended in a 1-1 draw after 11 innings due to Nebraska’s travel curfew. NU starters pitched 17.2 innings and allowed five runs.

Purdue played as bad as a team can on Friday in a 13-2 loss to Ohio State. The Boilermakers committed five errors, tossed six wild pitches and walked eight batters. Mark Wasikowski’s team apparently got an entire weekend’s worth of bad play out in one game as Purdue bounced back for 6-1 and 2-1 victories to continue a rebound season.

 

Top performances

Illinois Sr. 1B Pat McInerney 4-for-9, 3 BB, 3 HR, 4 RBI, 4 R

Illinois Fr. RHP Ty Weber 9 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 SO

Indiana Soph. RHP Pauly Milto 6.1 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO

Iowa Jr. RHP Nick Gallagher 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 SO

Iowa Soph. 2B Mitchell Boe 5-for-10, 3 2B, 3B, 4 R, 5 RBI

Michigan Jr. 3B Drew Lugbauer 6-for-10, 2 HR, 2 2B, 7 RBI, 6 R

Ohio State Jr. RHP Yianni Pavlopolous 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO

Purdue Soph. LHP Gareth Stroh 7.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO

 

Standings

Minnesota 6-0, 18-8

Maryland 5-1, 18-8

Nebraska 2-0-1, 15-10-1

Michigan 4-2, 22-6

Iowa 2-1, 17-9

Indiana 3-2-1, 14-11-2

Michigan State 3-3, 15-9

Purdue 3-3, 15-12

Ohio State 1-5, 11-16

Penn State 0-13, 10-16

Rutgers 0-3, 10-17

Illinois 0-3, 9-16

Northwestern 0-3 8-18

The 10 Spot: Top freshmen

 

A week after the 10 Spot looked at the top breakout performances thus far, it’s time to put a spotlight on the top freshman around the Big Ten. With six weekends of play under their belt, their freshman season is nearly half-way through. With it, players are starting to emerge who look to be stalwarts in the lineup for years to come or positioning themselves as potential weekend aces.

Maryland  LHP Tyler Blohm

Picking up back-to-back Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors will assure a spot on this list. Maryland leftt-handed pitcher Tyler Blohm has anchored the Terrapin rotation and has shown no signs of his youth, providing consistent outing after consistent outing for head coach John Szefc. Making six starts through six weekends, Blohm has logged 28.1 innings, sporting a 2.86 ERA. Next to a .204 batting average against, Blohm has struck out a batter for every full inning pitched with 28.

Northwestern 2B Alex Erro

Wildcat second baseman Alex Erro did not record a hit in any of Northwestern’s three opening-weekend games against Arizona State. The weekend against the Sun Devils may be the only time in his career he goes 0-for-9. Since Northwestern’s trip to the desert, Erro has recorded a hit in all but one game, having an 18-game hitting streak snapped in the second game of Friday’s doubleheader against Indiana. With 30 hits in 85 at-bats, Erro is pacing the Wildcat attack with a .353 average, collecting three doubles and a pair of triples along the way. Erro has struck out only four times so far.

Michigan State  OF Danny Gleaves

Michigan State is the top offensive team in the Big Ten, and freshman outfielder Danny Gleaves is doing his part in providing the Spartans with a deep lineup. With 15 games under his belt, all starts, Gleaves is carrying a .324 average through his debut season. With five doubles a home run and seven stolen bases, Gleaves is fitting in perfectly with an offense that has a desirable blend of power and speed.

Indiana 1B Matt Gorski

Gorski has provided Indiana with a strong bat at a position the Hoosiers have had sub-par production from since Sam Travis moved to the professional ranks. Through 19 games, Gorski has a Hoosier-best .354 average, adding a bit of pop with a pair of doubles and two home runs. For good measure, the product of Hamilton Southeastern has added four steals in six attempts, looking to be a lineup staple from here out.

Nebraska OF Mojo Hagge

At 5’7, Husker outfielder Mojo Hagge is by all accounts undersized. But through 21 games, there is nothing short or insufficient in his playing abilities. Hagge has hit from the first time Darin Erstad penciled him into the Husker lineup, running up a .338 average over 77 at-bats. While veteran outfielders Scott Schreiber and Jake Meyers needed time to return to their previous levels of production, Hagge’s hitting out of the gate helped the Huskers weather a rocky 3-6 start.

Michigan LHP Tommy Henry

A 3.40 team ERA has powered Michigan to a 17-6 start and spot in national polls. One of the most consistent Michigan men on the mound has been southpaw rookie Tommy Henry. For pitchers with at least 12 innings of work, Henry’s 1.08 ERA is the best, running up 19 strikeouts against five walks in 16.2 innings. Appearing in eight games, Henry provides Michigan with a polished reliever capable of going multiple innings.

Indiana SS Jeremy Houston

A second rookie has broke through and grabbed a starting spot in the IU infield alongside Gorksi. Houston has been a rock at the toughest position in the infield, providing Chris Lemonis with a reliable glove at shortstop, committing only three errors in 85 chances. Houston has also gave the Hoosiers a pretty solid bat. Sixteen games into his career, Houston is batting .306 with three doubles and a pair of triples. What may be most impressive is the eight walks against eight strikeouts.

Purdue RHP Skylar Hunter

A year after batting .246 en route to 10 wins, Purdue holds a .277 team average through 22 games, already besting last year’s win total with 12 victories. Leading Purdue’s improved hitting attack is center fielder Syklar Hunter. With 25 hits in 65 at-bats, Hunter’s .385 average is tops among Boilermakers and ranks fourth in the Big Ten.

Iowa OF Ben Norman

Outfielder Ben Norman started his career in Iowa City with one hit in 12 at-bats, going hitless in four of five games. Since then, Norman has four games of at least three hits to counter. Going 25-for-71 on the year, with seven doubles and a home run, Norman is one of six Hawkeyes with a .300 or better average, hitting .352 on the season, next to a .418 on-base percentage and .493 slugging percentage, forcing his way into become the everyday Hawkeye center fielder.

Purdue RHP Dalton Parker

Established veterans can struggle when taking on the pressure-filled position of closer. So far, as Purdue enjoys a program revival, Boilermaker Dalton Parker has had little difficulty taking on the role at the back of the bullpen, excelling as just a freshman. Appearing in seven games, Parker is 2-1 with a team-best four saves. Over 19.2 innings, the right-handed pitchers holds a 1.83 ERA, on the strength of 18 strikeouts and a .143 opponent’s batting average.

Weekend preview March 23-26

After five weekends of college baseball action, Big Ten play begins this weekend with five series. There isn’t a lull in the opening weekend of conference games, with a stout weekend on deck. The Big Ten year starts in a big way with the preseason favorite, Maryland, hosting the current favorite, Michigan, as well as last year’s two championships, Minnesota and Ohio State, squaring off in Columbus. Fireworks can be expected in Iowa City, while two series in Illinois look to dodge raindrops.

The road to the Big Ten Tournament in Bloomington begins this weekend, here’s a rundown of what’s happening around the conference.

Depth leads Michigan into showdown of contenders

Before the season, one theme prevailed when Michigan head coach Erik Bakich spoke of his team in looking ahead to the 2017 season: depth.

“You’re never going to hear any coach complain about having depth on the mound,” the fifth-year head coach said. ” That’s one area you never want to be thin in. We’re lucky that not only do we have depth, it’s older depth, with juniors and seniors.”

There was disappointment in Michigan’s 2016 end. After winning the Big Ten Tournament and playing in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, expectations were high for Michigan. But the Wolverines lost nine of their last 11 games, finished 36-21 and did not play in a regional. Though outside expectations were temped, they went internally, many familiar faces returned in the locker room, players who knew what was needed to take the next step.

“It’s not often you get an entire infield unit of returning starters back, but that’s what we have with Jake Bivens, Drew Lugbauer, Michael Brdar, Ako Thomas and Harrison Wenson,” Bakich said a week before the season, as Michigan returned eight of nine starters. “I like the experience of the outfield, the experience of the infield. It looks like it’s projected to be one of those (special) lineups with returning players.”

With the experience around the diamond and the Wolverines needing to replace only left fielder Matt Ramsay, Bakich noted there was optimism for the team looking to claim its first Big Ten championship since 2008. But only in the second week of February, Bakich cautioned Michigan had yet to do anything on the field.

Fast forward to the start of Big Ten play and the Wolverines have done quite a bit on the field.

Opening Big Ten play with a showdown on the road against the coaches’ preseason favorite, Maryland, at 16-4, Michigan owns the Big Ten’s best record and is the conference’s lone nationally-ranked team, penciled as the 21st-best team in this week’s NCBWA poll. The Wolverines have garnered quality wins against San Diego, USC and swept a three-game series at Atlantic Sun favorite Lipscomb. Michigan’s success has come thanks to the depth, both in run prevention and finding ways to score, a prognostication that has turned into reality.

On the mound, 18 pitchers have seen action. The multitude of pitchers with innings under their belt isn’t a reflection of Bakich and pitching coach Sean Kenny trying to figure out roles, in search for quality innings, it’s state of having capable guys, left and right. The Wolverines leads the Big Ten with a 3.22 ERA, and Michigan pitchers also top the conference charts in strikeouts (170) and opponent’s batting average (.233).

Helping the cause of U-M pitchers is a defense which isn’t giving the opposition anything to work with. Michigan’s .981 fielding percentage is second in the conference, behind Minnesota’s .983 mark. Opponents have had no luck running on Wenson and Michigan pitchers, successful stealing just seven bases in 15 attempts. Bakich says Michigan’s sure-handedness is a reflect of the experience in the field, players knowing how to track and read balls, what plays they can and can’t make.

But neither the pitching depth or fielding prowess speaks to the versatility Michigan is capable as much as its offensive attack.

Michigan’s .270 team average won’t jump off the page, nor will the 6.4 runs they score per game. Both are solid marks, but respectively rank fifth and fourth in the conference. But how Michigan can score runs sets itself apart. The Wolverines are tied for fourth with 18 home runs, second with 111 walks and first with 47 stolen bases. Holding a 4-2 record in games scoring five runs or less, but also having nine games of scoring at least seven runs, Michigan can win the closer game and walk away with in laugher. In hitting the long ball, moving base to base, being aggressive and taking 90 feet at every opportunity, a blend of speed, power and patience has Bakich liking the offensive makeup of the team.

“Doing it in a variety of ways,” Bakich said following Michigan’s doubleheader sweep of Northern Illinois. “Home runs, a couple of stolen bases, bunts, moving runners, sac flies, first-to-thirds, just different ways to manufacture runs.”

What’s behind Michigan’s ability to score runs in multiple ways? Depth.

“It speaks to the depth. For the first time in awhile we got guys pushing each other. There’s good internal competition making everybody better.  You want to see execution from your depth and we have that now. We like the different weapons and the choices we have, the match-ups we can play.”

And so far, Michigan has shown they can play with anyone.

Potent offenses square off in Iowa

The conference’s No. 2 hitting team takes the road to square off against the No. 3 hitting club thus far. With Purdue heading to Iowa City, there’s the potential for high-scoring games. The Boilermakers’ .281 team average is just above the Hawkeyes .278 clip. Already this week both teams have shown their offensive mite.

On Wednesday, Purdue knocked off Ball State, 16-4, hours before Iowa defeated Bradley, 12-1. For Iowa, it was the second straight game scoring 12 runs, the fifth time this year they have crossed home at least a dozen times in a game. Purdue’s 21 hits against the Cardinals was a season-high as the Boilermakers reached double digits in runs for a sixth time this season.

Purdue freshman Skylar Hunter leads the Big Ten with a .426 average over 54 at-bats. Right behind him is Iowa sophomore Robert Neustrom, second in the Big Ten with a .395 clip. With Iowa first baseman Jake Adams leading the Big Ten with eight home runs and 27 RBI, it shouldn’t be a surprise senior shortstop Mason McCoy is tied for the conference lead with 21 runs scored. McCoy is tied with a Purdue player, Harry Shipley.

For the pitchers who are to be tasked with shutting down the potent offenses, Iowa enters the weekend with a team ERA of 5.02, besting the 5.94 mark of Purdue. Opponents are batting .274 off Hawkeye pitchers, with 14 home runs. Boilermaker hurlers have pitched to the tune of a .276 opponents average, conceding 18 home runs.

Purdue is visiting Iowa City for the first time since 2012, Since then, Duane Banks Field has become one of the toughest places for a visitor to win under. Since the start of the 2015 season, Iowa is 36-10 at home.

Around the conference

Champions clash

The 2016 Big Ten champions and 2016 Big Ten Tournament champions will meet to open the 2017 Big Ten season. Both NCAA Tournament teams a year ago, Minnesota (11-8) heads to Columbus to take on Ohio State (9-11) in defense of their conference crown.

With the Gophers playing in a regional for the first time since 2010, Ohio State’s Louisville Regional appearances the Buckeyes first regional showing since 2009, neither team has yet to show last year’s form, both experiencing heavy turnover.

Minnesota lost the Big Ten Player of the Year in Matt Fiedler to the draft, alongside the graduation of top pitcher Dalton Sawyer and closer Jordan Jess. Ohio State is still looking to replace All-American outfielder Ronnie Dawson, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, as well as three other positional players drafter, Jacob Bosiokovic, Troy Montgomery, Nick Sergakis, and the drafting of their Friday starter Tanner Tully.

The lost of six regulars shows in Ohio State’s .247 team average, and the Buckeyes have yet to pitch at last year’s level, sporting a 5.02 ERA, more than a run and a half higher than 2016’s 3.35 showing. Minnesota sports a solid team average, .275, but it isn’t the lofty mark the team used en route to its championship, .323.

The meeting of the two champions will allow one to get a key weekend win and start to build momentum in pursuit of last year’s success.

Final tune-ups

Three teams will still be in non-conference action this weekend, stepping outside of the Big Ten for their bye weeks.

After falling to Cal State-Bakersfield, 8-6 on Tuesday, Nebraska (9-9) continues a California spring break with a four-game set at Cal Poly (7-12), Thursday through Saturday. On the line is a perfect 6-0 all-time record against the Mustangs as the Huskers look to get back over .500 and build upon their 9-9 record. In addition to a clean record against Cal Poly, also noteworthy is the 21.2-inning scoreless streak junior left-handed pitcher Jake Meyers has dating back to Feb. 25 against #1 Oregon State. Meyers’ 1.54 ERA leads the Big Ten, a part of Nebraska’s 3.67 team ERA, good enough for third in the Big Ten.

Penn State opened its home slate with a 4-3, walk-off win over Bucknell, Tuesday night, and look to continue the winning ways inside Medlar Field at Lubrano Park with four games this weekend against Columbia. At 7-11, the Nittany Lions have a chance to reach .500, while Columbia enters the weekend with just one win in 12 games. Both teams have struggled at the plate, Columbia owns a .227 team average with Penn State batting just .219, but if the Nittany Lions can grab a lead by the sixth inning, they look to be in good shape. PSU is 6-0 when leading after six.

Rutgers (6-14) is on the road for a three-game set in Spartanburg, S.C., against South Carolina-Upstate (12-11). The Scarlet Knights are looking to get back on track, hoping to end a four-game losing streak. The Spartans are the third straight Atlantic Sun weekend opponent for Rutgers, following weekends at North Florida, where RU won the final two games to take the series, and Florida Gulf Coast, who swept Rutgers.

Weather shakes up schedules in Illinois

Due to inclement weather rolling through the Midwest, set to hit Illinois on Saturday, both series in Illinois this weekend will feature Friday doubleheaders.

In Champaign, Michigan State (12-5) and Illinois (6-12) will play at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., CT on Friday, before taking Saturday off and resuming their series at 2 p.m. on Sunday, a game scheduled to be aired on BTN.

Up the road in Evanston, the series between Indiana and Northwestern will begin at noon CT, on Friday, with game two set for 3 p.m. For now, Saturday’s game is still on, providing for two days to get the final game of the series in if needed pushed to Sunday.

Injury notes

Iowa junior right-handed pitcher Nick Gallagher is back atop the Hawkeye rotation after missing last week’s series at Kansas State.

Ohio State junior right-handed pitcher Adam Niemeyer will not pitch this weekend due to an elbow injury.

Per the Indiana Daily Student, Indiana freshman shortstop Jeremy Houston is day-to-day with a hamstring injury and sophomore pitcher Jonathan Stiever will see more action this weekend after rehabbing from an upper body injury.

Required reading

An unlikely Hawkeye becoming Big Ten’s top slugger -Chad Leistikow, The Des Moines Register

Iowa baseball set for Big Ten play -Jordan Hansen, The Gazette

Ohio State hosts reigning outright Big Ten champion Minnesota -Edward Sutelan, The Lantern

U.S. Bank Stadium gets mixed reviews for Minnesota baseball -Luke Hanlon, Minnesota Daily

Surprise! Rutgers 2-sport star Jawuan Harris is practicing in spring football camp -Keith Sargeant, NJ.com

After recovering…it’s old fastball, new job for Husker pitcher Jake Hohensee -Evan Bland, Omaha World-Herald

Midweek wrap

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

Terps split at UNC-Wilmington behind Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grand slams send Iowa past Bradley

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

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

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

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

Boilermakers continue streak

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

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 10 Spot: Breakout performances

 

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

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

*Stats through March 21

Nebraska Soph. INF Angelo Altavilla

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

Michigan Sr. SS Michael Brdar

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

Penn State Soph. OF Jordan Bowersox

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

Purdue Soph. C/OF Nick Dalesandro

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

Ohio State Jr. CF Tre’ Gantt

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

Minnesota Sr. RHP Brian Glowicki

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

Indiana Sr. OF Alex Krupa

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

Maryland Soph. RHP Andrew Miller

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

Michigan State Soph. RHP Nathan Witt

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

Illinois Soph. CF Jack Yalowitz

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

 

March 16-19 Weekend review

 

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

Boilermakers steam past Santa Clara for best start in five years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power surges

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ohio State’s late-game struggles continue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick hits

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow

Get the latest posts delivered to your mailbox: