10 Innings Preseason All-Big Ten

First Team

Position
Player
Class
School
AVG
OBP
SLG
2B
3B
HR
R
RBI
SB/ATT
C
Tyler Cropley
Sr.
Iowa
.268
.371
.459
8
2
9
41
36
6/10
1B
Toby Hanson
Sr.
Minnesota
.319
.350
.477
14
4
5
35
57
3/3
2B
Ako Thomas
Jr.
Michigan
.354
.462
.396
7
0
0
41
21
23/28
SS
Terrin Vavra
Jr.
Minnesota
.308
.396
.418
8
4
2
36
19
7/9
3B
Micah Coffey
Sr.
Minnesota
.340
.396
.493
15
2
4
35
46
3/4
OF
Marty Costes
Jr.
Maryland
.322
.429
.548
9
3
13
45
46
5/5
OF
Robert Neustrom
Jr.
Iowa
.310
.358
.486
16
1
9
41
55
10/14
OF
Jack Yalowitz
Jr.
Illinois
.335
.409
.590
9
3
12
42
44
10/15
DH
Scott Schreiber
Sr.
Nebraska
.330
.376
.494
15
1
7
45
51
0/0
UTIL
Matt Lloyd
Sr.
Indiana
.301
.393
.554
16
0
11
36
46
1/4
L/R
Pitcher
Class
School
IP
W-L
ERA
SO
BB
BAA
SV
LHP
Tyler Blohm
So.
Maryland
75
8-6
3.48
71
35
.227
0
RHP
Taylor Bloom
Sr.
Maryland
89.1
7-2
3.83
53
25
.289
0
RHP
Riley McCauley
Jr.
Michigan State
25.2
1-0
2.10
49
11
.224
9
LHP
Ross Learnard
Sr.
Purdue
46.1
6-0
0.58
37
10
.196
4
RHP
Matt Lloyd
Jr.
Indiana
32.1
3-2
2.23
20
6
.241
9

Second Team

Position
Player
Class
School
AVG
OBP
SLG
2B
3B
HR
R
RBI
SB/ATT
C
Nick Dalesandro
Jr.
Purdue
.297
.357
.387
8
1
3
38
42
13/14
1B
Jacson McGowan
Jr.
Purdue
.292
.347
.500
15
3
8
24
50
4/5
2B
Michael Massey
So.
Illinois
.330
.360
.483
12
1
6
22
36
4/7
SS
Angelo Altavilla
Jr.
Nebraska
.316
.407
.406
14
1
1
38
39
2/3
3B
Luke Miller
Jr.
Indiana
.272
.331
.464
15
0
10
52
42
2/2
OF
Dominic Canzone
So.
Ohio St.
.343
.390
.458
4
3
3
22
36
13/15
OF
Jawuan Harris
Jr.
Rutgers
.269
.377
.468
9
2
8
39
26
23/30
OF
Zach Jancarski
Sr.
Maryland
.325
.434
.454
17
2
3
50
26
20/30
DH
Logan Sowers
Sr.
Indiana
.291
.356
.536
19
0
13
34
43
2/3
UTIL
Luis Alvarado
Sr.
Nebraska
.283
.324
.381
12
2
2
39
25
5/5
L/R
Pitcher
Class
School
IP
W-L
ERA
SO
BB
BAA
SV
LHP
Nick Allgeyer*
Jr.
Iowa
LHP
Tommy Henry
So.
Michigan
31
3-1
3.19
39
11
.263
1
RHP
Jonathan Stiever
Jr.
Indiana
77.1
4-4
4.31
57
9
.275
0
LHP
Sam Lawrence
So.
Northwestern
47.1
5-3
2.85
24
12
.274
2
RHP
Luis Alvarado
Sr.
Nebraska
15.2
0-0
1.72
15
7
.182
10

Third Team

Position
Player
Class
School
AVG
OBP
SLG
2B
3B
HR
R
RBI
SB/ATT
C
Chris Folinusz
Sr.
Rutgers
.283
.325
.391
9
0
2
21
22
3/3
1B
Willie Burger
Jr.
Penn St.
.280
.333
.409
6
0
5
22
27
2/3
2B
Nick Dunn
Jr.
Maryland
.261
.345
.384
13
1
5
40
32
8/8
SS
Harry Shipley
Sr.
Purdue
.266
.405
.337
9
1
1
42
23
24/31
3B
Marty Bechina
Jr.
Michigan St.
.263
.396
.426
8
1
7
34
29
11/13
OF
Skyler Hunter
So.
Purdue
.323
.355
.388
9
2
0
28
34
8/13
OF
Bryce Kelley
So.
Michigan St.
.353
.416
.436
7
3
0
34
21
13/18
OF
Zac Taylor**
Jr.
Illinois
DH
Chad Roskelly
Sr.
Michigan St.
.324
.427
.463
6
0
3
19
24
2/2
UTIL
Jordan Kozicky
So.
Minnesota
.325
.421
.476
11
1
4
38
28
3/3
L/R
Pitcher
Class
School
IP
W-L
ERA
SO
BB
BAA
SV
LHP
Connor Curlis
Jr.
Ohio State
62.2
5-3
4.02
58
19
.237
0
RHP
Ryan Feltner
Jr.
Ohio State
62.2
1-5
6.32
57
28
.293
0
RHP
Alec Rennard
Sr.
Michigan
65
6-2
4.43
65
15
.251
0
RHP
Jake Hohensee
Sr.
Nebraska
80
7-3
4.39
57
28
.243
0

*Missed the 2017 recovering from Tommy John surgery

**Sat out the 2017 per NCAA requirements after transferring from Houston

10 Things to Look Forward to in 2018

The season is finally here. Yes, college baseball returns this week. The last time we saw the Big Ten in action the conference tied its record for most teams in the NCAA Tournament with five. Though no teams reached a super regional, the conference showed it wasn’t a flash in the pan, the success the conference has enjoyed on a national level can be sustained. Now what’s ahead in 2018? Here’s 10 things 10 Innings is looking forward to this season.

The depth of the conference

A year ago, Northwestern and Purdue were coming off of 2016 campaigns where they went a combined 9-39 in Big Ten play. If there were to be easy weekends on an opposing team’s schedule, it was when they were to square off against the Boilermakers or Wildcats. Northwestern had not finished better than ninth since 2010 and Purdue had back-to-back last place finishes after back-to-back next-to-last finishes. Then the season happened and both made the Big Ten Tournament, Northwestern finished seventh in the conference at 13-11 with Purdue coming in at eighth at 12-12. Say goodbye to the easy weekends. The top of the Big Ten has flourished with the conference sending 13 teams to the NCAA Tournament over the last three years, but there has been a distinct cutoff from the top to the bottom. Now, with nearly every program having a glistening stadium, staffs hitting the recruiting trail and university athletic departments providing the financial resources necessary to compete, coaches are entering the season raving of the depth of the Big Ten where each team, 1-13, poses as threat and there are no gimmes.

The Dairy Queen Classic

There are a few Big Ten-Pac-12 meetings this season, Nebraska has two games opening weekend against Washington State, before the Buckeyes join the Cornhuskers the following weekend when each play two games against Oregon State and Utah for a second year in a row, and Michigan has a four-game series at Stanford a week after they tangle with Arizona in the Tony Gwynn Classic. But there isn’t a inter-sectional meeting on the calendar like this year’s Dairy Queen Classic, which is doubling as a Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge, featuring Illinois, Michigan State and host Minnesota against Arizona, UCLA and Washington. Arizona is two years removed from an appearance in the national championship series, UCLA enters the season as a top-15 team and Washington isn’t a slouch. That three Big Ten teams can play in a tournament of such caliber, take on three solid programs in a home/neutral setting is a boon. And for fans of college baseball, it should be three fun days at US Bank Stadium.

ESPNU Broadcasts

ESPNU will air four games featuring Big Ten teams this spring, providing the conference with more exposure. The quartet of games will spotlight the conference’s regular season and tournament champions from 2017, Nebraska and Iowa respectively, in additional to airing a pair of midweek rivalry games before broadcasting a season finale from Iowa City. Here’s the rundown on games set to air live, nationally, on ESPNU.

Tuesday, April 10, 3 p.m. ET: Notre Dame at Michigan State

Sunday, April 15, 2 p.m. ET: Iowa at Nebraska

Wednesday, April 25, 7 p.m. ET: Indiana at Purdue

Saturday, May 19, 7:30 p.m. ET: Penn State at Iowa

Non-conference intra-conference games

The nationally-televised Indiana-Purdue contest is one of a growing number of intra-conference non-conference games between Big Ten teams. With a nine-week window to play eight opponents, the one-division, 13-team Big Ten conference creates a situation where a team will not play one-third of the conference. This greatly impacts how the standings shape up, winning a title can be more on who you play or don’t play opposed to how good a team is, but it also creates an opportunity. While the Big Ten has garnered more respect on a national level, relative to college baseball’s other power conferences, it still faces the reality of being a conference based in a cold climate. Big Ten teams can be forced to travel for the first month of the season, putting themselves in positions that aren’t beneficial to achieving a high RPI. As Michigan State meets Illinois for two games in Greenville, S.C., and Indiana plays Rutgers in Port Charlotte, on top of the Hoosier-Boilermaker clash in West Lafayette, and Michigan-Michigan State meeting outside of their conference series, Big Ten teams can find a quality opponent in those they are not playing in-conference, while helping the RPI of the conference as a whole.

Michigan’s attempt to reload, not rebuild

Days after Michigan earned its first at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament since 2007, the 2017 MLB Draft saw 11 Wolverines selected. Tying for the most draft picks in the country, in addition to losing closer Jackson Lamb who ended his playing days even though he had a year of eligibility remaining due to a medical redshirt, on paper, it would appear Erik Bakich has a rebuilding effort in front of him. But then again, on paper, Michigan saw quite the influx of talent, bringing in Baseball America’s No. 10 recruiting class, the highest ranked Big Ten recruiting class in Baseball America’s history. How quickly can Michigan’s green but talented newcomers adjust to the speed and skill of college baseball? That answer will go a long way in determining if the Wolverines can earn their third NCAA Tournament berth in four years, or if a 10-year Big Ten title drought will run longer.

Purdue’s attempt to sustain

The last coach to win Big Ten Coach of the Year without guiding his team to the conference crown was Northwestern’s Paul Stevens in 2006. After Stevens led the Wildcats to a second-place finish that season the next 12 seasons saw the conference-winning coach also named its best. But if there was ever a year to break that streak it was last year. A coach whose team finished eighth hardly receives praise, but the job Mark Wasikowski did in reviving the Purdue program was remarkable. Purdue may have only finished 12-12 in Big Ten play, that was a 10-game in-conference improvement over the previous season, and the 12 victories were more than double the six Big Ten games Purdue won in each of the 2013-15 seasons. A year after enjoying the country’s best turnaround, Wasikowski is now tasked with keeping Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament mix, and with the team returning its top seven batters, it’s top-two weekend starters and All-America closer, the sights in West Lafayette are on a bigger tournament.

Minnesota’s grueling schedule

Putting it lightly, the schedule for John Anderson’s club is as tough. The Gophers open the season with a game at Georgia Tech before a doubleheader vs. Kennesaw State, and a weekend-capper at Georgia State. Two weeks later, its the Dairy Queen Classic to kickoff a monster of a March. Minnesota follows the DQC with a series versus Creighton, three games on the road at powerhouse TCU, travel to reigning Big Ten champion Nebraska to start Big Ten play, then host St. John’s for three games during the bye week, a team ranked No. 25 in Baseball America’s preseason poll. The solace that can be found on Minnesota’s schedule is their series against Indiana, Iowa and Michigan State will be played at Siebert Field.

Rob Vaughn molding Maryland

When John Szefc accepted the vacant position as head coach at Virginia Tech, there were few questions on who the next Maryland head coach would be. Those in baseball within the conference and out saw assistant Rob Vaughn as the next leader of the Terps. And so it came to be. Now, after serving as Szefc’s associate head coach, it’s Vaughn’s time to make his mark on a program he has helped transform into a perennial regional threat. Vaughn has been instrumental in recruiting the players necessary to lead Maryland to back-to-back super regionals and three NCAA Tournament trips in four years. One of college baseball’s youngest head coaches, it will now be up to him to lead Maryland to their first Big Ten championship and keep the Maryland momentum moving.

Staff shakeups spur Penn State and Rutgers

Two teams hoping for 2018 turnarounds like the ones experienced in 2017 by Northwestern and Purdue are Penn State and Rutgers. Both Rob Cooper and Joe Literrio are entering their fifth season leading their respective clubs, hoping to take the Nittany Lions and Scarlet Knights to the postseason for the first time in their tenure. Both head coaches experienced staff turnover as Penn State and Rutgers will each have two new assistant coaches this year. Cooper and Literrio have both spoke to the change in culture and environment the programs have experienced this offseason, now it’s time to see how Penn State pitchers respond to the tutelage of Josh Newman, the same for the pitchers at Rutgers under Phil Cundari, and how position players perform with Andre’ Butler’s assistance in State College and Jim Duffy’s in Piscataway.

The return to TD Ameritrade

The 2018 season will be the first of five consecutive seasons where the Big Ten Tournament will be held in Omaha, at TD Ameritrade Park. After setting an NCAA record for single-game conference tournament attendance in 2014, the 2016 tournament made for a solid encore as nearly 10,000 people watched the title game between Iowa and Ohio State. There are still voices out there that believe outside of Creighton home games, the only college baseball games that should be played in TD Ameritrade are those for the College World Series. But for those who are unable to make the trek to Omaha in June, the Big Ten is 2-for-2 in making the final week in May memorable, here’s looking to making it a perfect trifecta.

Around the Horn: Minnesota

This fall, 10 Innings will supplement its fall updates with a question-and-answer series: Around the Horn. Around the Horn will present four questions to a coach, player or local media, getting an inside perspective on the team heading into the offseason.

Winning 36 games for a second consecutive season, Minnesota led the Big Ten in hitting for a second straight year, doing so with the fewest strikeouts in the conference. Overseeing Minnesota’s .306 team average since the start of the 2016 season is assistant coach Pat Casey. Casey was Minnesota’s volunteer assistant from 2014-2016 before being elevated to a full-time assistant position in September 2016. In addition to being the Minnesota’s primary hitting coach, Casey oversees Gopher catchers, a group which has produced the last two All-Big Ten first-team selections at that position, Austin Athmann and Cole McDevitt.

Here’s Casey on the team’s 2017 success, how they define success, the Gophers’ ability to excel with two strikes, touching home with what the Gophers are currently working on to get better.

10 Innings: The team batted .297 last year, with a .370 on-base percentage and .412 slugging mark, scoring 5.8 runs a game. How do you view last season’s offensive production in terms of it being a successful season or not at the plate for the Gophers?

2017 was a good year for us. I wouldn’t call it a ‘great year’ based on the way we performed in March and certain spots throughout the year, but our goal at the beginning of last season was to lead the Big Ten in hitting and that group of guys accomplished it and they deserve all the credit for their hard work, dedication and commitment they’ve put into being a strong offensive unit. We had our up’s and down’s, but ultimately whenever you finish atop of the Big Ten in hitting you’ve got to be pleased. I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that those hitters aren’t satisfied with the way things ended in the Big Ten Tournament (regardless of how well they hit), they feel like they have more to show and more to prove going forward into 2018.

Looking back at the season as a whole, you’ve got to be impressed with how they responded after March and losing Micah Coffey and Alex Boxwell to injury. That group put together a pretty incredible run in April and May while finishing first in the league in least amount of strikeouts and leading the league in average — you can’t not be impressed with the accomplishments of that group.

10 Innings: What benchmarks, or what are the standards established to determine a successful at-bat, a successful game at the plate and ultimately a strong offensive season?

The benchmark for success lies within the tradition of the program itself. Minnesota has always had very potent offensive lineups, going back to the 2000’s, 1990’s and 1980’s, John (Anderson) and Rob (Fornasiere) have always had teams that could hit and execute fundamentally. Our hitters today take a lot of pride in the players who came before them, wore the uniform before them and what those teams accomplished, we (all) have something to live up to in this program with the rich tradition and history of excellence that Golden Gopher Baseball has.

In terms of our own personal ‘benchmarks’ that we use for success — we do a lot of work with analytics, metrics and sabermetrics but our standards ultimately come down to quality at-bats, well-hits and execution in two-strike counts. There’s a lot that goes into our ‘offensive approach’ and gameday planning, but what it all really gets down to is focusing on “are you having quality at-bats and hitting the ball hard”. Baseball is the ultimate game of failure and the only certainty that you can count on is that your going to fail more times than not, especially as a hitter — so how can we go about managing that. You focus on the controllables.

Quality at-bats and hitting the ball hard aren’t failing in our eyes. We try to reward that and focus on the positives, when a hitter moves a runner, executes a pro play, battles in two-strike counts; those are not seen or taken as failures in our offense. We track everything and at the end of every week we go through it and look at ways we can improve and get better as a unit, the mindset is to never be satisfied, always try to grow, learn and develop. If we do those things and stay connected to our values, our approach and our philosophy we’ll have a good year.

10 Innings: Last season, every batter, one through nine, seemed to possess an uncanny ability to foul off pitches until there was a pitch that could be barreled up. What is the foundation of a good two-strike approach?

In my opinion there are three parts to a good two-strike approach: mentality, emotional state and physical adjustments.

Mentally you have to be prepared, and that comes from constant repetition in practice with our pitch recognition training, velocity sequencing, mechanical and video analysis while putting in the work to study your opponent and yourself (you’ve got to know how he’s trying to get you out and understand your own limitations as a hitter).

Emotionally you’ve got to change your thinking to “I don’t want to strikeout” to “I have one more pitch to accomplish my goal,” you’ve got to let go of the fear and welcome the challenge of hitting behind in the count.

And finally, physically, you must make physical adjustments with your body –move up or off on the plate, choke up, more upper-body spine bend to get your eyes closer to the plane of the pitch, restrict lower/upper body movement. Young hitters need to understand that with two strikes a lot is going against you and the numbers (at any level) in those counts are brutal.

I’ve long said that a strikeout isn’t just like any other out, it’s momentum changing, kills rallies and feeds the confidence of a pitcher — how can the best thing for a pitcher not be the worst thing for a hitter? Don’t get me wrong, we’re still trying to hit the ball hard with two strikes but we’ve got to make sure we fine tune that approach and be ready for the challenges.

10 Innings: With eight returning starters back, has there been an overall area of focus this fall with the hitters, where there may not be a lot to teach, but perhaps fine tune things so the team takes the next offensive step?

Stay healthy and look for ways to continually improve, they all need to have a ‘never be satisfied mindset’ and continue to hold each other accountable every single day, on and off the field.

It might sound cliche’ but Boxwell said it best a few days ago, “you never really figure it out” — your always constantly learning and growing as a hitter. Nobody has all the answers and there’s no one way to teach hitting, we all have to be open to learning and challenging our way of thinking. You look at the greatest hitters in Major League Baseball, they’re all still working and searching for ways to improve mentally, emotionally and physically on a daily basis, nobody says “I want to stay the same today.”

Our motto in Gopher Baseball is take every day to get 1% better, step outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself. As far as the lineup goes, we don’t just need to be strong one-through-nine, we need to be strong one-through-17 (with how many hitters we have), we’re only as strong as our weakest link and that’s the expectation among every hitter in our program.

Last year we had a lot of players have great individual years, this year we need to expand on that and take the next step to improve as a unit. With that being said I’m very excited for this years group (both hitters and pitchers alike), we’ve got a lot of experience coming back and a very talented offensive team on hand for the 2018 season.

This is a special group of men capable of great things but rest assured it won’t come easy, the Big Ten is going to very, very good this year and our non-conference schedule will be even more challenging. I’m excited to watch these guys take the next step and accomplish special things as a team next spring.

Fall Update: Minnesota

Getting started

Head coach: John Anderson, 37th season at Minnesota

2017 record: 36-20 overall, 15-8 in Big Ten, third

Key losses: RHP Toby Anderson, LHP Lucas Gilbreath, RHP Brian Glowicki, OF Jordan Smith

Key returners: Sr. OF Alex Boxwell, Sr. 3B Micah Coffey, Sr. OF/INF Toby Hanson, Soph. INF/OF Jordan Kozicky, Jr. C Cole McDevitt, Jr. OF Ben Mezzenga, Jr. RHP Reggie Meyer, Sr. INF Luke Pettersen, Soph. RHP Brett Schulze, Jr. INF Terrin Vavra

New name to know: Fr. RHP/INF Max Meyer

Minnesota rundown

In defense of their 2016 Big Ten championship, Minnesota stormed out of the gate in conference play, sweeping its opening two series, at Ohio State and Michigan State. But the Gophers dropped their next three series, falling to Indiana, Nebraska and Illinois. Minnesota rebounded with 5-0 run against Penn State and Rutgers, to be in control of its destiny entering the final weekend, but a 1-2 showing against Purdue saw Minnesota finish one and one-half game behind the champion Cornhuskers. The series defeat to the Boilermakers was the fifth home series Minnesota lost at home, finishing the season 17-14 between US Bank Stadium and Siebert Field. With the weighted-RPI formula, ironically created to help northern programs who often travel and do not play more than 30 home games, Minnesota finished with an RPI of 72, and did not garner a second consecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament.

For many programs, it was a good season, 36 wins, 13 against the RPI top 100, and a third-place finish. But for the Gophers it wasn’t good enough. Those in Minneapolis are determined to return the program to the glory days of the 1990s and early 2000s, where John Anderson had Minnesota routinely atop the Big Ten.

Once again Minnesota will have a chance to bring home the trophy.

Minnesota returns eight players who recorded at least 100 plate appearances in 2017, bringing back every starter around the horn, and losing only Jordan Smith in the outfield. As a team, the Gophers batted .297 on the season, and returns the top four hitters: Pettersen (.354 AVG, .411 OBP, .395 SLG, eight XBH), Coffey (.340, .396, .493, 21), Kozicky (.325, .421, .476, 16), Hanson (.319, .350, .477, 23). Offensively there are few questions for Minnesota this offseason.

In absence of finding who can fill voids, the coaching staff has moved players around seeing who can take on greater roles, creating versatility where lineup maximization can occur. During the team’s scout day, Hanson saw time at first and left field, Coffey played both corner spots in the infield, Pettersen can play either middle infield spot, so too can Vavra, while Kozicky showed his versatility last year, stepping into third base when Coffey went down with a sprained ankle, but also playing in the outfield, at short stop. Minnesota even has depth behind the plate with sophomore Eli Wilson has had a strong fall, giving the coaching staff confidence he can fill in in a pinch for junior Cole McDevitt, the first-team All-Big Ten selection at catcher last year.

Where known commodities litter the field, on the mound Minnesota has a pair of significant holes to fill. Friday starter Lucas Gilbreath and closer Brian Glowicki were respective seventh and tenth round draft picks after outstanding seasons. Gilbreath finished his junior season with 92 strikeouts in 81.1 innings, pitching to a 2.66 ERA. As a senior, Glowicki reset Minnesota’s singles-season saves record with 16, a Stopper of the Year finalist with 39 strikeouts against seven walks in 32.2 innings.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Brett Schulze (4-3, 5.50 ERA, 70.1 IP) is set to return to the weekend rotation, after holding the Saturday role in his debut season, with the coaching staff excited to see him take the next step in his development, Schulze has worked 89-93 this fall, keeping his fastball velocity inline with his spring showings. It will be a boon for Minnesota have junior right-handed pitcher Reggie Meyer pick up where his 2017 season left off. In an elimination game against Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament, Meyer pitched eight innings, surrendering three runs off four hits with seven strikeouts against the eventual tournament champions. For the season, Meyer went 5-1 with a 3.18 ERA, making seven starts in 19 appearances.

Relievers Jeff Fasching, Nick Lackney, Fred Manke and Jackson Rose return, with Lackney a potential starting option to give Minnesota a left-hander in the rotation. A potential key contributor, sophomore Nolan Burchill will be lost for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, following an injury last May against Georgia Southern. But the aforementioned four relievers will be joined by multiple freshman pitchers, a group Anderson believes is his most talented class in a long time, to fill out the pitching staff.

Headlining the freshman haul are right-handers Joshua Culliver and Max Meyer. Culliver arrives in Minnesota from Omaha, a good athlete with a fast arm and loose delivery, albeit a bit raw, where he mechanically can get out of sync. Over his career the staff expects Culliver to blossom and be a star. Meyer has the present stuff to compete now and is expected to contribute in the back of the bullpen. Meyer shows an above-average slider with spin rates in line of the best in MLB, that is a true out-pitch. Complimenting his slider with a commandable fastball and hockey player mentality, Meyer, a two-way player, is likened to Fiedler, a player who has all conference-potential and can step up in tense moments. Left-handed freshman Danny Kapala and Ryan Duffy have also shown flashes this fall.

Minnesota missed opportunities to reach an NCAA Tournament by dropping home series to Long Beach State, Missouri State and Nebraska, all regional teams. This season, Minnesota has a series against TCU, a program with four consecutive College World Series appearances, and host a Big Ten/Pac 12 Challenge, where Arizona, UCLA and Washington come to town. Those, along with playing in a conference where another handful of teams can be expected to be in regional contention, will give Minnesota an opportunity to play itself into the NCAA Tournament. After falling shy last year, the team with 15 upperclassmen, have made it a mission this fall to advance the program to its first Super Regional and continue the process of restoring Minnesota baseball to past prominence.

One lingering question

Who steps in as the closer?

As mentioned, the two biggest voids Minnesota needs to fill are Friday starter and closer, with the latter the tougher to pencil in. Reggie Meyer did finish with a pair of saves last year, but with his feel for secondaries, command and just average fastball velocity (88-91) he is better suited to start. Manke, a senior right-hander, also recorded two saves, doing so over 15 innings in 12 outings, but issuing 12 walks, 7.2/9 innings, to counter his stellar .180 batting average against with just a double as his lone extra-base hit conceded. Max Meyer has shown flashes of possessing the stuff to close, but it is a tall task to do so as a freshman, more so if Meyer is to see time in the field as a two-way player. With Glowicki, Minnesota had a weapon at the back of the bullpen, a bulldog who could give six outs if needed, pounding the strikezone with little fear. Glowicki was everything a staff could dream of as a closer, but in being such leaves the biggest hole for the Gophers to fill.

 

Notable Big Ten two-sport standouts

The first week of September is here, which means the return of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte, but also college football. While 10 Innings’ attention throughout autumn is on fall ball, scout days and exhibition games, there wouldn’t be college baseball programs to coverage without the revenue generated by college football.

In an ode to those the gridiron warriors, here’s a look at two-sport athletes, those who starred on Big Ten football field and baseball diamonds.

Minnesota OF/WR Eric Decker (2006-2010)

The Big Ten’s most noteworthy baseball-football athlete of this century is Eric Decker. The former Gopher starred at wide receiver under football coach Glen Mason, while serving as John Anderson’s center fielder for two seasons. Before being a third-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos in 2010, Decker compiled 3,119 receiving yards with 24 of his 229 career receptions going for touchdowns. Between the 2008 and 2009 baseball seasons, Decker picked up 121 hits in 374 at-bats, good for a .324 average. Decker recorded 20 doubles, seven triples and seven home runs, along with 20 stolen bases in the two seasons. Following Minnesota’s 2009 Fullerton Regional season, Decker was drafted in the 29th round by the hometown Minnesota Twins, a year after the Milwaukee Brewers grabbed him in the 39th round.

Rutgers OF/WR Jawuan Harris (2015-present)

Rutgers junior Jawuan Harris is today’s Decker. A top wide receiver target for the Scarlet Knights, Harris’ athleticism provides game-changing ability on the diamond. After redshirting the 2015 football season, Harris’ first taste of the Big Ten came on the diamond, where he led the conference with 37 stolen bases, finishing fifth nationally. In his first season seeing action in football, all Harris did was lead RU in receptions. Harris’ 39 catches yielded 481 yards and three touchdowns, the latter two leading all Big Ten freshman. As a sophomore for Joe Litterio, Harris batted .269, a drop down from his debut season’s .279 average, but picked up nine doubles and eight home runs, including a three-home-run-game against USC-Upstate.

Illinois OF/WR Kyle Hudson (2005-2008)

Kyle Hudson’s two-sport career in Champagne ended in 2008,when the Baltimore Orioles selected the Illini center fielder in the fourth round. The MLB Draft capped an impressive six months for Hudson, a time where he was named an All-American in baseball, after playing in the 2008 Rose Bowl for the football team. Finishing with a career average of .376, Hudson left Champagne with his name littered throughout the baseball program’s record book. His 40 stolen bases during the 2008 season reset Illinois’ single-season record, as did his 25 stolen bases in a single Big Ten season, leading 36 for his conference career, two marks that still stands. In three football seasons, Hudson hauled in 73 catches for 999 yards with five touchdowns. Hudson made his MLB debut for the Orioles on Sept. 4, 2011 and appeared in 14 games that September. Following his pro career, Hudson returned to Illinois as a volunteer assistant, helping the Illini during their Big Ten-winning 2015 campaign.

Indiana OF/WR Andrew Means (2005-09)

The 2006-08 era was a Golden Age for Big Ten outfielders who also played catch at wideout. Joining Decker and Hudson was Indiana’s Andrew Means. Means recorded 102 receptions and 1,272 in Bloomington, becoming for the 14th player in IU football history to join the 100-1,000 club. Finishing third and second in receptions, respectively, in 2007 and 2008 for the Hoosiers, Means meant even more to Tracy Smith’s baseball team. The center fielder batted .301 with 16 stolen bases, and upped the production to a .369 average with 27 swipes in 30 attempts a year later, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2007. Means was named one of the Big Ten’s top three outfielders, grabbing named first-team All-Big Ten in 2008, batting .357 with 33 stolen bases and a conference-best 72 runs. Means was selected in the 11th round by the Cincinnati Reds and played five years in the Reds’ farm system.

Northwestern OF/K Jack Mitchell (2012-2015)

Northwestern’s Jack Mitchell may not have the statistics of his two-sport brethren, but he may have the most noteworthy moment. In 2014, after sending the game to overtime with a 45-yard field goal as time expired, Mitchell kicked a game-winning 41-yard field goal against at Notre Dame, then the N0. 15 team in the country. Mitchell finished third in Northwestern history with 213 kick scoring points, fourth with 41 field goals. In baseball, Mitchell made 73 starts in 102 games, batting .230.

 

Two-sport stars of yesteryear

While it is less common these days, the Big Ten has a history of elite two-sport athletes. Some notables football/baseball players from prior generations include

Michigan State OF/WR Kirk Gibson

All-American wide receiver, 1978 first-round draft pick (Detroit Tigers), 17-year MLB career, 1988 NL MVP.

Michigan OF/QB Rick Leach

Four-year starting quarterback, 1979 first-round draft pick (Detroit Tigers) nine-year MLB career.

 

And of course…

Nebraska P/OF Darin Erstad

Although he didn’t play in the Big Ten, Nebraska head coach Darin Erstad put together an impressive career in three seasons with the program he now leads. But before capping the best baseball career in Cornhusker baseball history, Erstad was a punter under legendary head coach Tom Osborne and a member of Nebraska’s 1994 national championship football team. That spring, Erstad was named a Golden Spikes finalist, earning All-America honors after batting .410 with 19 home runs. The California Angels made Erstad the first pick of the 1995, the club he debuted with in June of 1996, the start of a 14-year MLB career.

Draft picks opt for school

While a handful of draft picks decided to pass on the college experience and sign a professional contract, more top preps decided to attend school, put off professional overtures for now.

In addition to 12 incoming freshman who spurned the pro ranks, five players chose to return to a Big Ten diamond and help their teams pursue another regional bid, while a drafted JUCO transfer hopes to lead his team back to the field of 64.

Here’s a rundown of those who said thanks, but no thanks to MLB teams, and quick hits on the most noteworthy additions or returns to Big Ten teams.

Indiana

Jr. 3B Luke Miller, 31st Round- Minnesota Twins

Indiana third baseman Luke Miller was a draft-eligible sophomore in 2017 and his power made him a popular name on preseason top prospect list. Miller did hit 10 home runs, but scouts were concerned with Miller’s ability to routinely tap into it. The swing-and-miss concerns, likely coupled with requiring a large signing bonus to buyout his remaining two years of eligibility, a potential top 10 round prospect fell until the 31st round. Miller’s return, as well as those of seniors Matt Lloyd and Logan Sowers, gives Chris Lemonis a potent middle of the order, ready to take aim at the program’s fifth regional in six years.

Iowa

Jr. RHP Brady Schnauel, 20th Round- Philadelphia Phillies

After Rick Heller lost ace Nick Gallagher to the pros, a 16th-round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians, though recovering from a partial UCL tear, junior right-handed pitcher CJ Eldred, Iowa’s 2016 Friday starter, signed with the Kansas City Royals as a minor league free agent. Getting right-hander Brady Schnauel to campus helps soften the blow of a depleted weekend rotation as the Big Ten Tournament champions looked to build off of their Houston Regional appearance. Schnaeul heads to Iowa City after being drafted following each of his first two seasons at Parkland College.

Maryland

Jr. OF Marty Costes, 25th Round- Houston Astros

Fr. OF/LHP Randy Bednar, 27th Round- Atlanta Braves

Fr. C Justin Vought, 31st Round- Kansas City Royals

Jr. RHP Ryan Selmer, 31st Round- Seattle Mariners

Fr. RHP Mark DiLuia, 38th Round- Twins

Maryland outfielder Marty Costes was another draft-eligible sophomore on scouts radars, finding a place inside Baseball America’s final top 200 draft prospects. Like Miller, Costes’ power is the tool which draws attention, tying for Maryland’s team lead with 13 home runs in 2017. There is also some swing-and-miss tendency to Costes, 47 strikeouts in 239 at-bats, but Costes’ greatest prospecting concern is the most measurable of measurables: his stature. Costes checks in at only 5’9, a red flag to some evaluators. But Costes’ production dramatically increased between his freshman and sophomore seasons and another season similar to 2017’s .322/.429/.548 will surely see him picked high enough to bring his time in College Park to an end. When that time comes, Maryland will be in a good position to continue their recent success, led by a trio of draft picks who made it to campus this season, joined by do-everything pitcher Ryan Selmer, who can be in the weekend rotation, long relief or back of the bullpen.

Michigan

Fr. C Joe Donovan, 33rd Round- Chicago Cubs

Fr. RHP Jeff Criswell, 35th Round- Detroit Tigers

Fr. OF Jesse Franklin, 37th Round- Mariners

Fr. LHP Angelo Smith, 40th Round- Chicago White Sox

Michigan set a program record with 11 draft picks in June’s draft. The most draft picks of any college program, it’s evident Erik Bakich and staff are recruiting in a manner which will lead to Big Ten championships. But it was bittersweet for Bakich as Michigan will have such an extremer roster turnover after their second regional appearance in three years. On top of losing 11 draft picks, two signed high school recruits opted for profession baseball, Cody Bolton and Jason Pineda, But Michigan’s efforts to reload will be helped by four drafted preps who chose Ann Arbor as their next destination, headlined by hard-throwing right-hander Jeff Criswell and fleet-footed outfielder Jesse Franklin, the latter turned down a reported $1.3-million signing bonus. Joe Donovan is a versatile player, who can catch, play third or first, while Angelo Smith is an athletic southpaw with good feel.

Michigan State

Fr. RHP Jesse Heikkinen, 36th Round- Tigers

Minnesota

Fr. RHP Max Meyer, 34th Round- Twins

Nebraska

Sr. RHP/OF Luis Alvarado, 13th Round- Mariners

Sr. 1B/OF Scott Schreiber, 26th Round- Tampa Bay Rays

Nebraska lost its top recruit to the pros when Los Angeles Angels fourth-round draft pick John Swanda signed for $625,000. Darin Erstad will be without the services of the talented right-hander, but he will have another year with his right-handed closer, Luis Alvarado, as well as his fellow outfielder, Scott Schreiber. In his first year on the mound, Alvarado shined at the back of the Husker bullpen, recording 10 saves in 15.2 innings and pitching to the tune of a 1.72 ERA. At the plate, Alvarado batted .283 with 12 doubles, blossoming as Nebraska’s left fielder. One of a few right field options, Schreiber batted .330 with 15 doubles and seven home runs, a year after hitting .325 with 16 home runs. The returning duo will help the reigning Big Ten champs ease the lost of Swanda and center fielder/left-handed pitcher Jake Meyers, who was draft three picks before Alvarado and signed with the Houston Astros.

Ohio State

Fr. LHP Seth Lonsway, 19th Round- Cincinnati Reds

The highest-ranked Big Ten recruit, checking in at #127 on Baseball America‘s BA 500, left-handed pitcher Seth Lonsway gives Ohio State the potential ace it missed in 2017, following three years of Tanner Tully solidifying the Friday night role. Lonsway shot up draft boards a month out from the draft and had several teams viewing him as a potential third-round pick. But with his commitment to Ohio State and the bonus it would take to pry him away, Lonsway fell to the 20th round, and the Cincinnati Reds were unable to meet his demands. From Celina, Ohio, the Buckeyes secured the state’s top player to lead a strong recruiting haul as they look to rebound from the program’s worst season in 30 years. Lonsway’s fastball runs between 90-94 MPH, while offering a change-up and curveball.

Purdue

Fr. LHP Hayden Wynja, 30th Round- Braves

Rutgers

Fr. LHP Harry Rutkowski, 28th Round- Reds

Five signees opt for pro baseball

As students across the country return to college campuses, it is time to turn the attention to the 2018 season. Already several programs around the Big Ten have held team meetings, setting expectations, goals and plans for the upcoming year.

Before 10 Innings shifts gears to the 2018 season, here’s a look at the players Big Ten programs lost to the professional ranks, a group of five players who signed a National Letter of Intent, but were drafted and signed, opting not to embark on the road to Omaha.

RHP Cody Bolton- Michigan

From Tracy, Calif., Bolton ranked as the 414th best prospect in the Baseball America BA 500. But according to evaluators throughout Northern California, the ranking may be a bit conservative as Bolton was viewed as pitcher capable of stepping into Michigan’s weekend rotation, powered by a mid-90s fastball. Perfect Game ranked Bolton as the 118th overall high school prospect, a position more in line with his sixth-round selection of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bolton signed for $300,000, the assigned slot value for his selection as pick 178 was $255,900.

RHP Xavier Moore- Ohio State

The Wolverines arch-rivals, the Buckeyes of Ohio State, also lost a talented right-handed pitcher to the pro ranks. Though not in the BA 500, Xavier Moore was long on scout’s radar, possessing a fastball which could touch 93-94 MPH from a loose arm on an athletic body. The Rangers nabbed the right-hander from Amherst Steele in Northeast Ohio in the 16th round, and signed him with a bonus of $125,000.

1B Jason Pineda- Michigan

Michigan has appeared in two regionals in three years on the strength of coast-to-coast recruiting. From upstate New York native Drew Lugbauer to Will Tribucher from Southern California, Michigan casts the conference’s widest recruiting net. Unfortunately the 2017 class saw draft loses from the east and west coasts, with first baseman Jason Pineda signing with the San Diego Padres. The National League West club picked Pineda, ranked #465 in the BA 500, in the 17th round and signed him for $125,000.

3B Davis Schneider- Rutgers

Checking in at $463 on the BA 500, Davis Schneider scooted up scout’s follow lists after being named the MVP of Perfect Game’s World Wood Bat Association World Championship, viewed by many as the premier scouting showcase on the amateur circuit, for tournament champion Dirtbags baseball, based in North Carolina. It appeared Rutgers would land an impact player at the hot corner, but the Blue Jays picked the Berlin, New Jersey native in the 28th round and signed him for a bonus of $50,000.

RHP John Swanda- Nebraska

The first Big Ten recruit drafted, John Swanda, was the first to sign. From Des Moines’ Roosevelt High, the right-handed pitcher was set to cross the Missouri River and pitch for Darin Erstad. But the skipper’s former Major League club kept that from happening. The Angels drafted Swanda in the fourth round and with a signing bonus of $625,000, $161,100 above the assigned slot for pick 115, brought him into its farm system. Perfect Game ranked Swanda as the 243rd overall high school prospect, Iowa’s top prep, while the BA 500 penciled in the right-hander at #398.

The next call-up for each Big Ten program

While college baseball has been in recess, there hasn’t been a shortage of news and excitement related to Big Ten programs this summer. In addition to a flurry of coaching changes, several schools have seen former standouts make their big league debut.

Two significant contributors to Indiana’s 2013 College World Series team, Aaron Slegers, the 2013 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, and Sam Travis, the 2014 Big Ten Player of the Year, received the respective call from the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox. The two makes it five former Hoosiers with big league playing time this year, joining Micah Johnson (Twins), Josh Phegley (A’s) and Kyle Schwarber (Cubs). Another significant cog to a dream season, Purdue 2010-2012 third baseman Cameron Perkins debuted with the Philadelphia Phillies on June 20.

There’s been two pitchers from Big Ten programs who have broke into the majors this summer for the Chicago White Sox in Nebraska product Aaron Bummer and former Ohio State Buckeyes Brad Goldberg. And sticking with Chicago, former Northwestern standout Luke Farrell debuted with the Kansas City Royals on July 1.

Currently all six players are back in the minors. But with less than one week until Major League active rosters expand, it’s likely some, if not the entire sextet of players, will be back in a big league uniform. With that in mind, here’s predictions who will be the next player from each school to debut, either this September or down the road.

Illinois

LHP Tyler Jay

The pro career of the 2015 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year has not gotten off to the start he, nor the Minnesota Twins, who drafted him sixth overall in the 2015 draft, would have liked. Multiple injuries and setbacks have limited the southpaw to just 91.1 innings in his first two full seasons. But there is good news. Jay recently returned from the DL to join Advanced-A Fort Myers Miracle and appears set to finish a season healthy for the first time. The stuff Jay possesses has never been doubted, he has 111 strikeouts in 109.2 innings, and at 23 youth is still on his side. If he can start the 2018 season at AA, the level he started the 2017, he should be back on track to being the Illini’s next big leaguer.

Next on the list: RHP Cody Sedlock (Currently in A+, Baltimore Orioles)

Indiana

LHP Joey DeNato

The pro career of the 2014 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year has likely exceeded any expectations. Joey DeNato, Indiana’s most decorated pitcher, continues to turn away naysayers, now one level away from the bigs. Drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in 19th round of the 2014 draft, DeNato has pitched at two levels in each of his four professional seasons. At 5’10 and weighing 175 pounds, DeNato is not a hard-throwing pitcher who overpowers batters. But what opposing Big Ten coaches saw four for years is a pitcher who has the head and feel for pitching, and a unmatched pickoff move. Combining DeNato’s knack for just getting outs and the state of the Phillies’ big league team, don’t bet against a fourth player from IU’s Omaha team to make the majors soon.

Next on the list: RHP Scott Effross (A+, Chicago Cubs)

Iowa

OF Joel Booker

It’s no secret the Chicago White Sox are in rebuilding mode. Nearly trading away any big leaguer of value to replenish its farm system, the White Sox are a few years away from winning. That bodes well for Joel Booker. Currently in Advanced-A, 14 months after being a 22nd-round draft pick, if Booker continues to perform in a manner which merits multiple promotions in a year, he’ll soon be on the South side. Though the White Sox have a deep farm system, there isn’t a standout entrenched in the White Sox outfield or upper minors that will block him. Booker brings good speed to the game, stealing 41 bases in 44 attempts over 65 rookie league games last year. But he’s not all speed, before earning a promotion to Advanced-A, Booker batted .312 in the South Atlantic League.

Next on the list: RHP Blake Hickman (A, Chicago White Sox)

Maryland

2B Brandon Lowe

A broken fibula suffered during Super Regional play didn’t deter the Tampa Bay Rays from selecting Maryland’s Brandon Lowe in the third round of the 2015 draft. Over two seasons in College Park, the second baseman showed an ability to routinely meet ball with barrel, one of college baseball’s most advanced hitters. After batting .248 during his debut season, Lowe has wielded a might bat, earning two promotions and set to finish his second season in AA. In 107 games between A+ and AA, Lowe has a .303 average with 39 doubles, three triples and 11 home runs. Lowe is limited to second base defensively, but his ability to rack up hits bodes well for a continue climb up the ranks.

Next on the list: RHP Brian Shaffer (SS-A, Arizona)

Michigan

SS Jacob Cronenworth

There’s a second Big Ten alum on Tampa’s AA roster, as Lowe’s double play partner is former Michigan standout Jacob Cronenworth. The seventh round pick of the Rays in 2015, Cronenworth played all over the diamond for the Wolverines and served as the team’s closer. It was a surprise to many evaluators when the Rays selected on shortstop as Cronenworth’s professional position, the lone of the four infield spots he did not play at Michigan. But he has excelled there, and his versatility enhances his ability to rise the ranks. Cronenworth hasn’t put up the offensive numbers of Lowe, but strong defense up the middle with a .273/.365/.359 slash across two levels has him as Michigan’s best prospect.

Next on the list: OF Michael O’Neill (AA, Texas)

Michigan State

RHP David Garner

The Chicago Cubs drafted Michigan State’s David Garner in the seventh round of the 2013 draft. Out of East Lansing, Garner possessed a mid-90s fastball with an electric slider that racked up strikeouts, strong stuff that made him a top 200 draft prospect, even though he was undersized for a pitcher. Through five professional seasons, Garner’s stuff has carried him through five levels, and he’s now knocking on the door of the big leagues. Currently in AAA, Garner has a 2.90 ERA for the 2017 season, which started at AA. In 195 career innings, Garner has 224 punch outs, a strikeout artist who is still only 24 years old.

Next on the list: LHP Anthony Misiewicz (AA, Tampa Bay)

Minnesota

LHP D.J. Snelten

It wouldn’t surprise anyone in 2013 if you said a Gopher would be on the doorstep of the bigs in 2017. After all, Tom Windle was a second-round pick of the Dodgers, and was viewed as a durable, polished, high-floored left-handed pitcher. But it is Windle’s teammate, D.J. Snelten, a ninth-round pick that year, who is set to continue Minnesota’s tradition of littering big league rosters. Though Snelten was finishing a second consecutive season at A+ a year ago, and doing so with a modest 4.11 ERA, Snelten has shined in 2017. After 21.2 innings of 1.66-ERA baseball at AA, Snelten has been at AAA Sacramento since May 23 for the San Francisco Giants. Snelten has appeared in 33 games, logging 47 innings, with a 1.91 ERA, holding opponents to a .186 average. With the Giants well out of playoff contention, Snelten’s name may be called for an up close big league evaluation.

Next on the list: LHP Dalton Sawyer (A+ Oakland)

Nebraska

OF Ryan Boldt

One of the most ballyhooed Big Ten recruits in the last decade, former Cornhusker Ryan Boldt’s professional career is off to a solid start, showing why he was such a prized prospect out of high school by colleges and professional teams alike. Yet another prospect in the Rays’ system, Boldt started the year at A+ Charlotte alongside Cronenworth and Lowe. While he has not been promoted to AA, his numbers in the Florida State League are strong. Boldt is batting .296 with 22 doubles, five triples and home runs, and 23 stolen bases. With a blending of speed, strong defense and budding power, Boldt should be in Tampa’s plans for years to come.

Next on the list: LHP Kyle Kubat (AA, Chicago White Sox)

Northwestern

INF Alex Erro

With Farrell pitching in two MLB games this year, there isn’t a former Northwestern Wildcat in affiliated baseball that has not appeared in the Majors. The Wildcats have not had a draft pick in either of the two last drafts and there are only four players total in either the majors or minors, Farrell, J.A. Happ (Toronto), George Kontos (Pittsburgh) and Eric Jokisch is in AAA Reno for the Diamondbacks. With Northwestern’s next big league not yet in pro baseball, the current roster yields sophomore Alex Erro as the club’s best bet. As a freshman, Erro batted .275, there was modest pop with 11 doubles and five home runs, but with only 18 strikeouts in 233 at-bats, Erro has a feel for hitting. The Miami native also shined in the field, giving Spencer Allen a rock to build around for at least two more years.

Next on the list: OF Leo Kaplan (Soph. Northwestern)

Ohio State

RHP Brett McKinney

There are five former Buckeyes in AAA. Three of those are on the roster of the Rochester Red Wings, Drew Rucinski, J.B. Shuck and Alex Wimmers, and each has already reached the bigs. The other two are right-handed pitchers Jaron Long and Brett McKinney, teammates under Greg Beals between 2012-2013. McKinney takes a slight edge in projecting whom reaches the big leagues first, due to him believing a reliever and not needing to be on a five-day window, and the respective depth in front of either. While Washington’s rotation looks like a MASH unit, a group headlined by Gio Gonzalez, Max Scherzer and Stephan Strasburg, when healthy is hard to crack. Long has done well in his second go at AAA, but as a pitcher who thrives on command, execution and feel, the mid-90s-throwing McKinney can easier fill in a role on the fly.

Next on the list: RHP Jaron Long (AAA, Washington)

Penn State

RHP Sal Biasi

The first player from the 2017 draft to make the list is right-handed pitcher Sal Biasi. The 11th-round pick of the Kansas City Royals, Biasi used a fastball capable of reaching 96 MPH to strike out 88 batters in 72.1 innings, posting a 3.48 ERA. Between Kansas City’s Arizona and Appalachian rookie league teams, Biasi punched out 48 batters in 51 innings, to go beside a 2.65. The Royals are using Biasi as a starter, but leading up to the draft some scouts viewed the righty as a reliever due to his arm action and modest, 6′, 190-pound frame. If Biasi eventually takes a bullpen role, that could expedite his rise through the minors.

Next on the list: 3B Jim Haley (A, Tampa Bay)

Purdue

RHP Matt Frawley

The 2016 season was nearly forgettable for Purdue. A 2-22 showing in the Big Ten led to a change of leadership with head coach Doug Schreiber’s resignation. But one of the few bright spots was the emergence and eventual drafting of right-handed pitcher Matt Frawley. The Pittsburgh Pirates picked Frawley in the 17th round, breaking a two-year draft drought for the Boilermakers. Frawley wasn’t a part of the Pirates system for long though, traded to the New York Yankees on June 14. In two months in the Yankees system, the results suggest Frawley has a home. Between the two full-season A-levels, Frawley has allowed six earned runs in 35.1 innings, striking out 40 batters against eight walks.

Next on the list: C Nick Dalesandro (Jr. Purdue)

Rutgers

OF Jawuan Harris

There is only one Scarlet Knight in the minors, Brian O’Grady, a member of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in AA for the Cincinnati Reds. But at 25, and with a career batting average of .234 in 367 minor league games, the prospect status of the former eighth-rounder has waned. And without a draft pick during the 2017 draft, it’s likely Rutgers’ next big league is currently on its roster. Center field Jawuan Harris is Rutgers’ top prospect heading into the 2018 draft, and his tool set is one that can carry him through the minors. Harris possesses true game-changing speed, at least a plus-plus of 70 grade on a scout’s 20-80 scale, with developing power and a feel for hitting, as the two-sport athlete continues to mature as a baseball player. But there is the caveat that Harris is a two-sport athlete and his future as a wide receiver may inhibit his prospect as a baseball player.

Next on the list: O’Grady (AA)

 

Correction: Rutgers has two minor leaguers. RHP Max Herrmann was signed to a free agent contract by the Angels on July 18 and is currently on their Arizona League team.

Take a bow Big Ten baseball

I try to avoid writing in my own voice, to not speak on things from my perspective too often. I’m never the sharpest crayon in the box and believe it’s better to offer facts and look at things objectively where a reader can form their own opinion.  I’m also a terrible editor and realize it’s tougher to have a grammatically correct commentary post. But I suppose I can offer an unique view on Big Ten baseball with the number of games I’ve seen, the relationships with coaches and just being around it for sometime now.

I haven’t figured out a format to wrap up the season in a way I’m comfortable with and one that provides value to take in. But if I don’t start now, it’ll be too late to provide any value at all. So, here I am, starting a look back by looking back at things from my perspective.

It was an interesting year in the Big Ten. Often I was asked was it a good year for the conference, how should the quality of teams be viewed. I still struggled to answer that question. Nebraska were deserving champions, the Cornhuskers were consistent from the start of conference play to the end, they did not beat themselves and they did not simply beat up on the bottom of the conference, playing only two of the five teams that missed the Big Ten Tournament. But Nebraska never had the feel of a dominant team, they were not head and shoulders above the rest, and throughout the season I thought Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota had claims to being the best team in the conference, in a year that finished with Iowa holding that title in my eyes.

That’s seven teams. I think it is fair to say the Big Ten was a balanced conference in 2017. Obviously the tightness of the standings reflect that, and even at the bottom of the conference, Penn State finished the year taking a game against Indiana and Nebraska, when they had just two wins in conference play in the prior 16 games. Heck, Ohio State handled the unquestionable top team in the country and finished with the worst season in 30 years.

It is good the conference was balanced. Some of the competitiveness is skewed with a conference schedule where teams miss one-third of the conference, playing only eight of the 12 teams, I don’t believe the standings, 1-13 reflected the quality of the teams 1-13 (a reminder to do a year-end power rankings), but it is true that you could never go into a weekend assure of a result, at least in my eyes.

The top-to-bottom competitiveness continues the Big Ten’s push forward. There are real discrepancies across the conference that affects competitiveness. There are differences in admission standards throughout, some schools can offer need-based aid where others can’t. Some administrations are tougher than others when it comes handling oversigning. The financial gap was seen first-hand when Ohio State flew a chartered plane to Penn State, it is only a five-hour drive to State College from Columbus, the same weekend Rutgers was unable to fly to Minnesota due to cancelled commercial flights along the east coast. But, with all of that said, every coach in the conference had their team ready to compete week in and week out, were able to field a competitive lineup and played their role in the conference garnering a record-tying five teams to the NCAA Tournament.

I tweeted the Big Ten was joined only by the Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conferences as conferences with five NCAA Tournament teams in two of the last three NCAA Tournaments. The Big Ten has sent 13 teams to the NCAA Tournament since 2015, the same number as the Big XII, one behind the Pac-12.

Just think about that.

Yes, the Big Ten is a Power Five conference alongside the ACC, Big XII, Pac-12 and SEC. But that is a moniker driven by the high-dollar sports of football and basketball. But it genuinely holds true in baseball now, too. I hope that is appreciated.

Even in a year where there wasn’t a dominant team, no 2013-14 Indiana, not a 2015 Illinois team, the Big Ten showed its maturation in top-to-bottom quality. That Northwestern and Purdue could make the Big Ten Tournament as quick as they did in their respective rebuilding process just adds to momentum the conference has. Two programs that have been at the bottom were now among the toughest teams to see in a weekend. With the facilities in Evanston and West Lafayette, with how Spencer Allen and Mark Wasikowski carry themselves, cultures where accountability is the forefront, I can’t see Northwestern and Purdue falling into a period of lacking in competitiveness they have emerged from. And one cannot speak to facilities without showcasing what Rutgers has done with the Fred Hill Training Complex that will surely up their recruiting, development and ability to compete.

I remember heading to Bloomington to watch Michigan take on Indiana sometime in 2008. The Hoosiers played at Sembower Field, a ‘stadium’ that was bettered by several high school fields in Central Ohio. The Wolverines were on their way to winning a third consecutive Big Ten title, becoming a regional host and ranked from start to finish. To anyone that watched it Adam Abraham, Zach Putnam and Nate Recknagel hit missiles all weekend, it was clear there was a barrier between the haves and the have-nots in the Big Ten. If you weren’t Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota or Ohio State you didn’t win a Big Ten championship. It’s a figurative quip, but from 1980 to 2010 only Penn State’s 1996 title did not come from that quartet.

Nebraska became the seventh different team to win a Big Ten championship since 2011, the old days are long gone.

As Northwestern made an incredible run to the Big Ten Tournament title game, it was impossible to not take in the growth of the Big Ten. Smacking you in the face was the night and day difference between Sembower and Bart Kaufman Field, where a College World Series banner hangs in right center. The attention to detail by the Indiana athletic department where a Crimson carpet could have been rolled out with the care the school game the tournament. Seeing the revival of Boilermaker and Wildcat baseball. Watching Jake Adams hitting his way into the record book to lead the continued emergence of Iowa onto the national scene.

And of my final sight from the season, it was leaving a press box that was packed throughout the week in Bloomington. I’ve never been around a conference tournament where there was an interest on what the eight teams were doing each day.

That’s my lasting impression on the Big Ten in 2017, a new time has been cemented. The season saw another year of incredible talent, numerous coaching jobs that deserve recognition, a spotlight on a facility whose quality is reflected throughout the Big Ten and ended with coverage yet before seen.

Take a bow Big Ten, it’s deserved.

Road to Omaha: Houston Regional

After a inspired run through the Big Ten Tournament, the Iowa Hawkeyes are back in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. Although Rick Heller guided Iowa to 38 wins, the Big Ten’s automatic bid was the only way the Hawkeyes could reach the field of 64. Finishing in a tie for fourth in conference play, Iowa hopes their great postseason play continues as the fourth-seed in the Houston Regional, a four-team field with three teams from the Lone Star State. Here’s a look at what Iowa is up against in Houston, Baylor and Texas A&M.

The teams

#1 Houston

Record: 40-19, 15-9 in American Athletic; champions and tournament champions

Head coach: Todd Whitting, seventh season

NCAA Tournament history: 21st appearance, last in 2015

Offense: .290 AVG, 92 2B, 25 3B, 52 HR, .445 SLG, 364 SO, 254 BB, .386 OBP, 80-97 SB-SBA

Pitching: 3.37 ERA, 11 SV, 520.2 IP, 134 BB, 420 SO, 1.25 WHIP, 99 2B, 5 3B, 37 HR, .258 BAA, 20 WP, 378 HBP

Defense: .971 fielding percentage, 17 passed balls, 57 stolen bases allowed, 24 caught stealing

Noteworthy: Houston enters the NCAA Tournament without a potential first-round draft pick in Seth Romero. A junior left-handed pitcher, Romero racked up 85 strikeouts in 48.2 innings. But a second suspension this season was a final one as the talented but trouble-plagued southpaw is no longer in the program. The Cougars have handled the blow thanks to Trey Cumbie’s 1.88 ERA in 96 innings, with only 13 walks and a .226 batting average against.

#2 Baylor

Record: 34-21, 12-12 in Big XII; fourth place

Head coach: Steve Rodriguez, second year

NCAA Tournament history: 19th tournament appearance, first since 2012

Offense: .296 AVG, 100 2B, 14 3B, 49 HR, .445 SLG, 349 SO, 230 BB, .382 OBP, 22-40 SB-ATT

Pitching: 4.28 ERA, 13 SV, 483.2 IP, 240 BB, 424 SO, 1.53 WHIP, 84 2B, 10 3B, 43 HR, .272 BAA, 21 WP, 31 HBP

Defense: .973 fielding percentage, two passed balls, 32 stolen bases allowed, 32 caught stealing

Noteworthy: Baylor is pretty comfortable with this regional field. A week after taking down Texas A&M, 6-3, to end the Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic in Houston’s Minute Maid Park, Baylor played host to Houston in Waco, taking two of three games from the Cougars. With their spot in the Houston Regional, Baylor is one of three Power Five schools to earn a bowl game/NCAA postseason appearance in football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball and softball, joining Florida State and Kentucky.

#3 Texas A&M

Record: 36-21, 16-12 in SEC; fourth in SEC West

Head coach: Rob Childress 12th season,

NCAA Tournament history: 19th appearance, last in 2016

Offense: .277 AVG, 96 2B, 20 3B, 45 HR, .419 SLG, 364 SO, 221 BB, .364 OBP, 56-84 SB-SBA

Pitching: 3.25 ERA, 12 SV, 502 IP, 186 BB, 491 SO, 1.26 WHIP, 99 2B, 5 3B, 31 HR, .235 BAA, 46 WP, 44 HBP

Defense: .975 fielding percentage, 17 passed balls, 44 stolen bases allowed, 24 caught stealing

Noteworthy: A 16-12 showing in the SEC is usually good enough to lead to something a bit better than a three-seed in a tough regional. But the Aggies 2-8 showing to finish the regular season curtailed a bit of what could have been in a better tournament placement. Texas A&M is led by freshman shortstop Braden Shewmake, a potential Freshman of the Year candidate, after a .344-11-67 season with 17 doubles and 11 stolen bases.

#4 Iowa

Record: 38-20, 15-9 in Big Ten; fourth

Head coach: Rick Heller, fourth season

NCAA Tournament history: Fifth appearance, last in 2015

Offense: .283 AVG, 108 2B, 8 3B, 69 HR, .450 SLG, 395 SO, 258 BB, .377 OBP, 62-92 SB-SBA

Pitching: 4.40 ERA, 14 SV, 517.2 IP, 215 BB, 453 SO, 1.52 WHIP, 93 2B, 17 3B, 36 HR, .288 BAA, 48 WP, 36 HBP

Defense: .979 fielding percentage, five passed balls, 38 stolen bases allowed, 20 caught stealing

Noteworthy: Though they did steal a bid, it’s hard to view Iowa as the typical four seed, after all, the Big Ten did place five teams in a regional and the Hawkeyes finished in a tie for fourth, a game and a half behind Nebraska for the conference title. Either way, Iowa is in and do so playing their best baseball, winning 15 of their final 20 games including the Big Ten Tournament.

Three keys to Hawkeye success

Adams stays within himself

Iowa first baseman Jake Adams enters the NCAA Tournament tied for the nation’s lead with 27 home runs. Setting s new Big Ten single-season record, Adams finished the Big Ten Tournament with a bang, hitting a homer in the semifinal win against Minnesota and two in the title game versus Northwestern. But before the trio of home runs, Adams scuffled in Bloomington, perhaps trying too hard to hit a home run during a week where the ball was jumping out of Bart Kaufman Field. Though Iowa will be seeing a three teams for the time this season, unless you’re living under a rock, you know who Jake Adams is. Opponents will be careful when pitching to the slugger, he may need to take what is giving to him.

Erickson continues storybook finish

Iowa senior left-handed pitcher Ryan Erickson returned to school after a poor showing in last year’s 2016 Big Ten Tournament title game. Falling one game shy of a second consecutive NCAA Tournament, Erickson played a big role in getting the Hawkeyes back into a regional with his strong showing against Nebraska in the Big Ten Tournament. With each outing potentially his last, the former walk-on has the ability to continue a fantasy ending to his career with another strong outing, leading Iowa to even green pastures. But, outside of the feel-good story, it’s imperative Erickson goes long into his start. Iowa can expect a good outing from Nick Gallagher, but after that, the Hawkeyes are short on pitching. If Iowa can get a win behind Erickson, without using too much of their bullpen, it’ll set up nicely for a big weekend when the Hawkeyes can get by with one game of Johnny Wholestaff.

Keep it rolling

Every season there’s a team with the right chemistry that makes an unexpected run, looking as if they’re having more fun than anyone could have playing baseball. That’s Iowa. In appearing in the Springfield Regional championship two years ago, the Hawkeyes know how to handle themselves in a regional. As they take the field without being in awe, the Hawkeyes can be loose, have fun and do everything to keep their run going.

Required reading

Iowa baseball looks to open eyes nationally against Texas trio -Richard Dean, Cedar Rapids Gazette

5 players to watch at UH regional -Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle

The story behind each of Jake Adams’ 27 home runs -Dargan Southard, Iowa City Press-Citizen

Zach Mackey calls Hawkeyes’ baseball games like an old pro -Scott Dochterman, Landof10

Bears looking to do some boot-scooting through Houston Regional -Brice Cherry, Waco Tribune