From Arizona to Virginia the Big Ten took its lumps in the second weekend of action. The docket was littered with showdowns against ranked teams, but the Big Ten heads to March with only two victories on the season against a ranked club in 18 opportunities.
But it wasn’t all bad.
Michigan swept through northern California while Minnesota held a ring ceremony before the defending Big Ten champions opened its home slate with three wins. Here’s the Feb. 24-27 weekend review.
Marquee Series: Big Ten – Pac-12 Baseball Challenge
The marquee matchups of the weekend occurred in Surprise, Ariz. as Surprise Stadium, the spring training home of the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers, played host to the Big Ten – Pac-12 Baseball Challenge. Nebraska and Ohio State played two games each against Oregon State and Utah. Feauting three 2016 NCAA Tournament teams and a top-five club in Oregon State, it was a strong quartet of teams, but the Pac-12 had the upper-hand.
The Big Ten suffered a pair of blowout defeats on day one, outscored 22-1 on a forgettable day for the conference’s participants.
After the weekend-opening 10-1 defeat, Nebraska played Oregon State closer on Saturday but was unable to overcome an early deficit, falling 5-2. On a day where Surprise Stadium played three games, the Rangers and Royals meeting before the Huskers and Beavers squared off, Ohio State and Utah played late into the night. With eight errors and 22 hits between the teams, Utah outlasted Ohio State in a 6-4 victory.
Finishing the game with the Utes near 11 p.m., the Buckeyes had a quick turnaround, playing a 9 a.m. local time on Sunday against Oregon State. A sleepy Sunday affair saw neither team score until a three-run fourth for Oregon State. The 2006 and 2007 national champions upped their advantage to 4-0 in the sixth. Ohio State junior center fielder Tre’ Gantt hit his first career home run in the eighth to put the Buckeyes on the board, a two-out solo shot, but Oregon State responded in the bottom of the inning to conclude the weekend with a 5-1 victory.
Oregon State was matched by Utah with a 3-1 showing as Nebraska ended the weekend with a victory, turning back the Utes 3-4. Pitching for the first time since May 15, 2015, missing the 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery, sophomore right-handed pitcher Jake Hohensee pitched 4.1 innings, holding Utah to three runs, one earned, off two hits.
For the first time all weekend Nebraska supported its starting pitcher with a run in the first. Junior DH Scott Schreiber stroked a two-out single up the middle to score Mojo Hagge, who started the game with a single. The teams traded three-run innings in the fourth to cap the scoring. A walk by Schreiber in front of back-to-back walks loaded the bases, before a single, fielder’s choice and a Hagge RBI-single made it 4-0.
In the bottom of the fourth, with three runs in and Utah having runners at second and third, Nebraska turned to Chad Luensmann. The right-handed sophomore picked up a strikeout and fly out to end the threat. Luensmann pitched 3.2 hitless innings before two-way junior Luis Alvarado went to the mound from left field to toss a scoreless ninth, closing the game with his first career save.
Both teams with new faces throughout the lineup, Ohio State (3-5) and Nebraska (2-4) each showed flashes of being quality teams at times, but too often self-inflicted wounds prevented the clubs from mounting much of a threat or aided the opposition. More will come on the weekend in the desert in this week’s 10 Innings Extra.
Rough go against the ranked
A grand opportunity was at hand for the Big Ten to make a statement with 11 games on the weekend against ranked teams. But the conference went a combined 1-10 in the games against Houston, LSU, Oregon State and Virginia.
Two big innings saw Illinois lose a 5-0 lead over Houston. Jumping out to a 5-0 lead, Illinois allowed seven runs in the fourth and four in the eighth for an 11-5 defeat.
In Baton Rogue, the third-ranked Tigers had their way against the Terps. LSU grabbed the weekend opener, 6-1, before rolling over Maryland 14-0 on Saturday. In the shutout, LSU left-handed pitcher Jared Poche carried a no-hitter into the ninth before Zach Jancarski picked up a leadoff single in the eighth.
Oregon State’s 3-1 showing in Surprise against Nebraska and Ohio State wasn’t the lone stout effort by a team in orange against the Big Ten. Virginia picked up a three-game sweep over Rutgers, outscoring the Scarlet Knights 37-9.
Wolverines picking up steam in California
The Wolverines opened the season in a tepid way, splitting four games against Seton Hall. But heading to the Golden State for spring break, Michigan has gotten hot. Playing in the Jack Gifford Memorial Tournament, Michigan went 3-0, and added a victory on Monday to leave northern California with a 4-0 showing.
On Friday, Michigan cruised to a 6-1 victory in the tournament opener against Saint Louis University. Junior left-handed pitcher Oliver Jaskie pitched six scoreless innings, allowing three hits while striking out six batters and classmate Nick Poirier added a two-run home run in support. U-M was the benefactor of control issues by Billiken pitchers, drawing eight walks in the game, including three out of the gate in a two-run first inning.
Michigan picked up a 7-6, 10-inning win on Saturday, scoring the winning run on a wild pitching during an intentional walk. Jake Bivens, Miles Lewis, Harrison Wenson and Poirier each picked up two hits, to push Michigan to victory, withstanding a three-run ninth from SLU which sent the game to extras.
Michigan scored a run in the first for a third consecutive game en rotue to a 10-3 win over Santa Clara on Sunday. Drew Lugbauer and Wenson connected on their first home run of the year, and the Wolverines scored seven runs over their final three at-bats to take home the tournament title. But Michigan wasn’t done in NorCal yet. On Monday, against San Jose State, Wenson picked up his second home run in as many games, joined by shortstop Michael Brdar dialing up a home run in a four-run second inning as Michigan picked up a 6-2 win to improve to 6-2 on the season. Junior right-handed pitcher Alec Rennard picked up the victory, tossing six innings of two-run baseball, striking out nine batters.
Hot corner hot shots
The Big Ten was expected to be deep at third base this season. Through two weeks it appears the conference may be exceptionally deep. After several third basemen enjoyed strong weekends, here’s a rundown of the impressive seasons the conference is seeing from the hot corner handlers.
Indiana Soph. Luke Miller: 5-for-14, .357 AVG; 2 HR
Iowa Jr. Matt Hoeg: 6-for-18, .333; 3 2B, 1 3B
Michigan State Soph. Marty Bechina: 12-for-28, .429; 4 HR
Minnesota Jr. Micah Coffey: 9-for-22, .409; 2 2B, 1 3B
Nebraska Soph. Angelo Altavilla: 8-for-15, .533; 3 2B
Ohio State Soph. Brady Cherry: 8-for-26, .308; 2 HR
Rutgers Jr. Milo Freeman: 8-for-20, .400
Spartans continue offensive onslaught
Michigan State entered the weekend batting .401 with 51 runs scored in four games. The Spartans saw their team average dip below .400, as well as suffered their first loss of the season, but Jake Boss’ crew continued to punish the baseball, taking two of three games at UNC-Greensboro. In a 5-4 win on Friday, six of MSU’s nine hits were for extra-bases. The team erupted for 20 hits in a series clinching 22-16 win on Saturday, highlighted by the Spartans sending 17 batters to the plate in a 13-run fourth inning. UNC-G salvaged the weekend with a 4-1 win on Sunday. After seven games, Michigan State has a .368 average, scoring 11.28 runs per game.
Splits earned against quality clubs
A split in a three-game set is unusual, but that’s what Indiana earned in their weekend matchup against Florida Atlantic. The Hoosiers grabbed the first game of the weekend, knocking off the Owls, 8-4, behind home runs from Austin Cangelosi, Craig Dedelow and Ryan Fineman. Sophomore Jonathan Stiever struck out seven betters in six innings to earn the victory. It would be the lone win on the weekend as Indiana fell 6-2 on Saturday, squandering a three-hit day for Miller and a travel curfew ended Sunday’s rubber match, squared at 6-6 when the action was called after 11 innings. Dedelow and Miller connected on home runs for the second time in the series, as IU pounded out 14 hits in the weekend finale.
After going 0-3 at #1 TCU, Penn State rebounded with a split against a Xavier team. Penn State used a solid showing by junior right-handed pitcher Sal Biasi to open the weekend with a 7-5 win. Biasi held Xavier to three runs in five innings, striking out five without a walk, keeping XU in check until PSU scored five runs between the third and fifth innings. The Musketeers rebounded to sweep a Saturday doubleheader, taking the first game 10-4 before winning a 7-5 game of their own. In the weekend capper, after both teams were held scoreless through seven innings, Penn State broke through with six runs in the eighth to level the weekend’s series with a 6-1 win. A two-run single by Willie Burger and two-run double by Jordan Bowersox were the big hits in PSU’s last at-bat victory.
Gophers sweep in U.S. Bank Stadium debut
Minnesota opened baseball in U.S. Bank Stadium with a boom and a broom. The Gophers swept visiting Seattle University, concluding the team’s first indoor action since 2013 with victories of 13-4, 6-3 and 11-7. A weekend attendance of 4,609 saw the Gophers pick up 42 hits to bump their team batting average to .371 on the young season.