Road to Omaha: Lexington Regional

Headed to their fourth regional in five years, an appearance in the NCAA Tournament is now expected in Bloomington. Garnering a two-seed in the Lexington Regional, Indiana’s road to Omaha starts close to home and figures to be a weekend chock-full of action as there is never any love lost between the Hoosiers and hosts Wildcats if a showdown is in store. Here’s a look at the regional where NC State and Ohio join the IU and UK.

The teams

#1 Kentucky

Record: 39-20, 19-11 in SEC; second

Head coach: Nick Mingione, first year

NCAA Tournament history: Seventh appearance, last in 2014.

Offense: .317 AVG, 138 2B, 9 3B, 66 HR, .495 SLG, 367 SO, 275 BB, .418 OBP, 59-91 SB-SBA

Pitching: 3.65 ERA, 14 SV, 515.2 IP, 185 BB, 528 SO, 1.21 WHIP, 91 2B, 3 3B, 56 HR, .228 BAA, 29 WP, 58 HBP

Defense: .971 fielding percentage, eight passed balls, 15 stolen bases allowed, 17 caught stealing

Noteworthy: In his first season as Kentucky’s head coach, former assistant Nick Mingione has the Wildcats back among the elite in college baseball, on the tails of in-state rival Louisville as the Bluegrass State’s premier program. Kentucky has never won a regional, but in boasting a 27-5 home mark, UK has to like its chances. Kentucky’s pitching coach, Jim Belanger was previously at Maryland, so he will know more about Indiana than a typical regional team may. The Wildcats beat the Hoosiers, 5-2, on May 9.

#2 Indiana

Record: 33-22-2, 14-9-1 in Big Ten; sixth

Head coach: Chris Lemonis, third season.

NCAA Tournament history: Sixth appearance, last in 2015

Offense: .266 AVG, 106 2B, 8 3B, 67 HR, .430 SLG, 455 SO, 190 BB, .347 OBP, 55-76 SB-SBA

Pitching: 4.48 ERA, 15 SV, 512 IP, 152 BB, 385 SO, 1.39 WHIP, 118 2B,

Defense: .978 fielding percentage, 11 passed balls, 39 stolen bases allowed, 12 caught stealing

Noteworthy: IU opens the NCAA Tournament with a game NC State, a team that saw some as a top 10 team at the start of the season. If they survive the Wolfpack, a showdown with the host Wildcats await, setting the stage for a raucous evening in Cliff Hagan Stadium. But if any Big Ten is ready for such a setting it is the Hoosiers. Though they finished sixth in the conference, the Hoosiers enter the tournament with the Big Ten’s highest RPI and are the lone program with four appearances over the last half-decade, this is an old hat for them. Indiana picked up series wins against fellow NCAA Tournament participants Maryland and Michigan, the start of a second-half surge that saw Indiana grab a two-seed.

#3 North Carolina State

Record: 34-23, 16-14 in ACC; fourth in Atlantic division

Head coach: Elliott Avent, 20th season

NCAA Tournament history: 29th appearance, last in 2016

Offense: .277 AVG, 130 2B, 10 3B, 58 HR, .444 SLG, 406 SO, 211 BB, .356 OBP, 33-46 SB-SBA

Pitching: 4.01 ERA, 16 SV, 505 IP, 249 BB, 447 SO, 1.42 WHIP, 92 2B, 10 3B, 44 HR, .252 BAA, 30 WP, 46 HBP

Defense: .975 fielding percentage, 11 passed balls, 41 stolen bases allowed, 17 caught stealing

Noteworthy: The Wolfpack are in the NCAA Tournament for a third straight season. NCSU started the season ranked sixth by North Carolina State obviously didn’t have the season on par with such lofty expectations, but they have played their best baseball of late, taking their final three ACC series, going 8-1, with sweeps of Pitt and Boston College before taking two of three against Clemson.

#4 Ohio

Record: 30-26, 13-11 in MAC; tournament champions

Head coach: Rob Smith, fifth season

NCAA Tournament history: 16th appearance, last in 2015

Offense: .277 AVG, 93 2B, 9 3B, 47 HR, .400 SLG, 380 SO, 206 BB, .358 OBP, 36-48 SB-SBA

Pitching: 4.33 ERA, 18 SVs, 522 IP, 240 BB, 477 SO, 1.44 WHIP, 78 2B, 4 3B, 43 HR, .265 BAA, 34 WP, 59 HBP

Defense: .980 fielding percentage, 25 passed balls, 50 stolen bases allowed, 19 caught stealing

Noteworthy: The MAC program most recognizable to many is probably Kent State, after the Golden Flashes went to the 2012 College World Series. But it is their East Division rivals down I-77, Ohio, that have appeared in two of the last three NCAA Tournaments as the MAC representative. The Bobcats were the fourth-seed in the 2015 Champaign Regional, falling to Illinois, 10-3 in the regional open. OU’s ties to the Big Ten don’t stop there, head coach Rob Smith is an IU alum and appeared in the 1996 NCAA Tournament with Indiana under head coach Bob Morgan.

Three keys to Hoosier success

Miller and Sowers can’t swing and miss

They have mighty swings, which can either hit tape-measure home runs or cool off the stands with a forceful breeze from an empty swing. Sophomore third baseman Luke Miller and junior outfielder Logan Sowers have 19 home runs between them, but Miller has 40 strikeouts while Sowers has 72 punch outs on the season. Indiana has an aggressive approach which has led to a Big Ten-best 67 home runs, but with college baseball down to 64 teams, the pitching will pick up in the tournament and the duo need to find ways to make contact and get on base if the Hoosiers have a chance. Craig Dedelow leads IU with 17 home runs, but the offense clicks when Miller and Sowers are locked in, setting the table for Dedelow to really do damage.

Steady Stiever

It’s likely that at some point Jonathan Stiever will have the ball in his hand at the start of a game. Which game is unknown. Stiever has had an up-and-down season, showing flashes of brilliance but also moments of struggles. On April 14, in 4.1 innings against Minnesota, Stiever allowed seven runs off 13 hits. In his next outing against Michigan, Stiever blanked the Wolverines, scattering just six hits. Pauly Milto and Cal Krueger have down well for IU, likely the game one and three respective starters, if IU has a third game. And if so, it’s likely IU will need Stiever to be on.

Bullpen steps up

Indiana’s roller coaster season has been a reflection of the state of its bullpen. Early in the season the IU bullpen struggled, head coach Chris Lemonis couldn’t figure out who could step up in a key situation. When Indiana won back-to-back-to-back series against Minnesota, Michigan and Maryland, the Indiana pitching staff was stable. The most recent look at Indiana saw the Hoosiers give up a 6-0 lead to Minnesota, with a five-run eighth inning by the Gophers send IU home early from the Big Ten Tournament, played at their Bart Kaufman Field. Indiana has plenty of options to turn to, which can be a blessing and a curse. Lemonis can play match-ups, but there still isn’t a true lockdown guy, outside of closer Matt Lloyd that can be relied on.

Required reading

IU baseball has found right formula to NCAA success -Zach Osterman, Indianapolis Star

A guide to the NCAA baseball regional in Lexington

Hoosiers excited to ‘prove that we deserve to be in this tournament’ -Fletcher Page, Lexington Courier-Journal

Pack Readies for Indiana -Rob McLamb,

Road to Omaha: Corvallis Regional

The Cornhuskers of Nebraska are the closest team in the NCAA Tournament to Omaha, a little more than an hour’s drive west of the home the College World Series. But as the boys from Lincoln take to the tournament in search of a fourth Sollege World Series appearance boys, their path to TD Ameritrade Park may be the toughest, opening the tournament in the Corvallis Regional, hosted by top overall seed Oregon State. Joined by Holy Cross and Yale, here’s a look at the Corvallis Regional.

The Teams

#1 Oregon State

Record: 49-4 overall, 27-3 in Pac-12; conference champions

Head coach: Pat Casey, 23rd season

NCAA Tournament history: 17th appearance, last in 2015, 2006-2007 National Champions

Offense: .289 AVG, 98 2B, 17 3B, 23 HR, .401 SLG, 316 SO, 253 BB, .382 OBP, 57-71 SB-SBA

Pitching: 1.84 ERA, 20 SV, 484 IP, 136 BB, 433 SO, .98 WHIP, 66 2B, 7 3B, 18 HR, .198 BAA, 26 WP, 27 HBP

Defense: .978 fielding percentage, three passed balls

Noteworthy: The Beavers met the Huskers during the second weekend of the season, joining Ohio State and Utah in the Big Ten – Pac-12 Baseball Challenge. Oregon State opened the season with a 10-1 win over Nebraska, then beat the Huskers 5-2 two days later. Oregon State picked up two wins against Indiana the weekend prior, and split their two games against Ohio State in the challenge, going 5-1 against the Big Ten this season. The 2017 season is the 10th anniversary of Oregon State’s last national championship, a year where they advanced to Omaha by knocking off Michigan in the Corvallis Super Regional, a weekend after the Wolverines knocked off overall number one seed Vanderbilt.

#2 Nebraska

Record: 35-20-1, 16-7-1 in Big Ten; conference champions

Head coach: Darin Erstad, sixth season

NCAA Tournament history: 15th appearance, last in 2016

Offense: .282 AVG, 108 2B, 9 3B, 24 HR, .383 SLG, 419 SO, 220 BB, .364 OBP, 41-47 SB-SBA

Pitching: 3.64 ERA, 20 SV, 497.1 IP, 165 BB, 371 SO, 1.34 WHIP, 86 2B, 6 3B, 27 HR, .262 BAA, 30 WP, 35 HBP

Defense: .977 fielding percentage, five passed balls, 23 stolen bases allowed, 16 caught stealing

Noteworthy: Nebraska is in the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years, doing so as first-time Big Ten champions. The Huskers have continued to take steps to get the program back to its heyday of the early 2000s when the program made trips to the College World Series in 2001, 2002 and 2005. If the Huskers reach Omaha this year, there will be no questions to Big Red’s returned state of glory, likely needing to topple to tournament’s top seed, at home, in order to advance.

#3 Yale

Record: 32-16, 16-4 in Ivy League; conference champions

Head coach: John Stuper, 25th season

NCAA Tournament history: 5th appearance, last in 1993

Offense: .291 AVG, 97 2B, 7 3B, 40 HR, .433 SLG, 339 SO, 166 BB, .366 OBP, 39-55 SB-SBA

Pitching: 5.51 ERA, 7 SV, 395.1 IP, 187 BB, 300 SO, 1.59 WHIP, 79 2B, 11 3B, 40 HR, .282 BAA, 61 WP, 32 HBP

Defense: ,973 fielding percentage, nine passed balls, 40 stolen bases allowed, 11 caught stealing

Noteworthy: Yale heads to the postseason after a regular season of dominance in the Northeast. The Bulldogs handled their Ivy League foes, winning the conference by four games. Finishing with nine wins in their last 10 games, Yale heads to the postseason with momentum, but it was an early-season showing that draws attention to the Bulldogs. In two midweek games, March 14 and 15, Yale scored 14 runs at nationally-ranked Clemson. The Tigers won both contests, 10-6 and 10-8, but Yale showed they can go toe-to-toe with a top 20 team and has an offense capable of putting up a crooked number or two.

#4 Holy Cross

Record: 23-27, 12-8 Patriot League; tournament champions

Head coach: Greg Dicenzo, 10th season

NCAA Tournament history: 11th appearance, first since 1978

Offense: .257 AVG, 79 2B, 3 3B, 36 HR, .377 SLG, 369 SO, 173 BB, .341 OBP, 19-29 SB-SBA

Pitching: 5.18 ERA, 5 SV, 412 IP, 166 BB, 361 SO, 1.151 WHIP, 82 2B, 8 3B, 46 HR, .280 BAA, 58 WP, 45 HBP

Defense: .964 fielding percentage, five passed balls, 55 stolen bases, 22 caught stealing

Noteworthy: Holy Cross’ non-conference slate included a three-game set at Auburn and a three-game set at Southern California. The Crusaders will enter the weekend knowing what it’s like to play in front of a large audience on a big stage, as well as understand the style of play found out west. Holy Cross will also be quite familiar with one regional participant, having just played a non-conference, two-game set last week at Yale, the fifth and sixth time the two met this spring. But for all that is familiar for Holy Cross, the NCAA Tournament is not, this weekend is program’s first trip in 39 years.

Three keys to Husker success

A quality game one start from Meyers

This is key to every team in every regional, but more so as Nebraska is turning to Jake Meyers for game one. Meyers has been the Sunday starter for Nebraska over the last two seasons, allowing the Huskers to get everything out of him at the plate and in the field before putting him on the mound. In potentially sacrificing a bit of energy from their leadoff batter and center fielder for at least a second game of the regional, its imperative Meyers makes the bump up worthwhile. The left-hander did not pitch in the Big Ten Tournament, so he is the most rested starter, and has been the most consistent starter. With Meyers on the mound, Nebraska has an all-in approach to take down Yale, to worry about a second game when they get there.

Stay true to themselves

Consistency has been the key for Nebraska all season. The Huskers throw strikes, they pick it, they put the ball in play. There isn’t anything overly sexy about the Huskers, they just compete and fins ways to win. That can’t change now. While Ben Miller and Scott Schreiber have power, they have not been power hitters this year. Both have been productive and would do well to keep their sound approach and not get too pull happy. The same for the Huskers on the bases. They run the bases well, but they’re not a base-stealing team. If they were to face Oregon State, the Beavers are no team to give outs to or end innings on the bases. Nebraska has played good baseball this season being methodical and smart, picking times to be aggressive. That will bode well in Corvallis.

Run into one, or a few

BUT it won’t hurt to run into a few long balls. The Oregon State staff is as stingy as a team can be in college baseball, it’s hard to manufacture a run off of them. If Nebraska can run into a few home runs that will help their cause as they are not a team that churns up stolen bases nor has a starter with a slugging percentage of at least .500. Relying on hit-and-runs or going first to third against a team average less than a walk AND hit combined in an inning isn’t ideal.

Required reading

Huskers locked in and ready to face anyone in Corvallis Regional -David Eickholt,

Big challenge awaits Yale baseball -Chip Malafronte, New Haven Register

49-4!?! Oregon State is making it rain in baseball -John Walters, Newsweek

Sweet swings or swoon? Which offense shows up holds key to Huskers’ regional chances -Evan Bland, Omaha World-Herald

Holy Cross not intimidated -Jennifer Toland, Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Road to Omaha: Winston-Salem Regional

A end-of-season slump had Maryland on the bubble come Selection Monday. Now, safely in the field, the Terrapins’ attention turns to Omaha. Though Maryland has struggled away from home, 16-18 in games not played at Bob “Turtle” Thomas Stadium, John Szefc’s team will be in familiar territory and the most postseason-experienced team of the regional. Here’s a Winston-Salem Regional with Maryland-Baltimore County, Wake Forest and West Virginia joining the Terps.

The teams

#1 Wake Forest

Record: 39-18, 19-11 in ACC; second in Atlantic division

Head coach: Tom Walters, eighth season

NCAA Tournament history: 13th appearance, last in 2016

Offense: .308 AVG, 116 2B, 3 3B, 96 HR, .510 SLG, 465 SO, .278 BB, .402 OBP, 38-53 SB-SBA

Pitching: 4.15 ERA, 11 SV, 507.2 IP, 223 BB, 498 SO, 1.37 WHIP, 102 2B, 10 3B, 41 HR, .248 BAA, 62 WP, 63 HBP

Defense: .976 fielding percentage, 15 passed balls, 41 stolen bases allowed, 16 caught stealing

Noteworthy: The Demon Deacons head into regional play at home full of power. Wake Forest’s 96 home runs are the second-most in the NCAA, and five players have at least 12 home runs: Gavin Sheets (20), Johnny Ailleo (18), Stuart Fairchild (15), Bruce Steel (12) and Keegan Maronpot (12). With a .308 team average, Wake doesn’t sell out power, four players have a batting average of at least .350.

#2 West Virginia

Record: 34-24, 12-12 in Big XII; fourth

Head coach: Randy Mazey, fifth season

NCAA Tournament history: 12th appearance, first since 1996

Offense: .288 AVG, 84 2B, 18 3B, 45 HR, .415 SLG, 413 SO, 245 BB, .370 OBP, 72-108 SB-ATT

Pitching: 4.14 ERA, 11 SV, 515.2 IP, 234 BB, 488 SO, 1.35 WHIP, 88 2B, 9 3B, 46 HR, .241 BAA, 35 WP, 52 HBP

Defense: .973 fielding percentage, two passed balls, 48 stolen bases, 26 caught stealing

Noteworthy: The Mountaineers were potentially inline to host a regional, sitting 25-15 with a top 25 ranking on April 28. West Virginia then lost their next two game against Oklahoma, starting a string of three straight Big XII series losses to end the regular season. But with series wins at Baylor, Oklahoma State and TCU, the Mountaineers showed they are deserving of their spot in the NCAA Tournament and can beat anyone in the field, a sentiment cemented in a 12-7 victory over Texas Tech in the conference tournament. Unfortunately WVU’s ability to go toe-to-toe with anyone took a hit with Michael Grove (3-1, 2.87 ERA, 61 SO, 47 IP) being lost to Tommy John.

#3 Maryland

Record: 37-21, 15-9 in Big Ten; fourth

Head coach: John Szefc, fifth season

NCAA Tournament history: Sixth appearance, last in 2015

Offense: .275 AVG, 87 2B, 15 3B, 60 HR, .429 SLG, 443 SO, 257 BB, .375 OBP, 101-123 SB-SBA

Pitching: 3.86 ERA, 14 SV, 507.2 IP, 169 BB, 476 SO, 1.32 WHIP, 78 2B, 12 3B, 39 HR, .258 BAA, 56 WP, HBP 61

Defense: .969 fielding percentage, 10 passed balls, 45 stolen bases allowed, 18 caught stealing

Noteworthy: This regional should be pretty friendly to Maryland. The Terps met West Virginia on April 11, winning the midweek game, 7-6 and they’re no stranger to Winston-Salem, the home of their former ACC peers Wake Forest. There were questions on Maryland’s spot in the NCAA Tournament after finishing the regular season with four straight losing weekends, but now that they’re in the field, all that matters is what happens going forward. Maryland has the talent to come out on top, as well as the edge in recent history, a regional win is not a long shot here.

#4 Maryland-Baltimore County

Record: 23-23, 11-9 in America East; tournament champions

Head coach: Bob Mumma, sixth season

NCAA Tournament history: Second, first since 1992.

Offense: .294 AVG, 93 2B, 7 3B, 27 HR, .416 SLG, 274 SO, 176 BB, .372 OBP, 44-63 SB-SBA

Pitching: 5.63 ERA, 7 SV, 388.2 IP, 163 BB, 271 SO, 1.57 WHIP, 102 2B, 17 3B, 37 HR, .291 BAA, 35 WP, 17 HBP

Defense: .969 fielding percentage, nine passed balls, 44 stolen bases allowed, 12 caught stealing

Noteworthy: UMBC opened the season 1-9 before finishing 22-14. The Retrievers’ strong finish ended in the America East tournament, where they brought home the tournament title for the first time in program history. The key number for UMBC is six, as the Retrievers are 13-3 when scoring at least six runs.

Three keys to Terrapin success

Blohm plays beyond his years

It was a strong year for freshmen in the Big Ten with Maryland’s Tyler Blohm coming out on top as the conference’s Freshman of the Year. In his first start after receiving the honor, Blohm struck out a career-high 10 batters in Maryland’s 8-5 win over Nebraska to stave off elimination. Maryland will need Blohm to continue his stellar play with elevated stakes. Maryland doesn’t have a true fourth starter to go to in the event the Terps fall into the losers bracket. Juniors Brian Shaffer and Taylor Bloom both have NCAA Tournament experience, helping Maryland to the Charlottesville Super Regional in 2015 as freshmen, and should be ready to go. It’s not Blohm’s turn to be a rookie who caps his debut season in grand style.

Shaffer shining

Perhaps the worst outing of his career, Shaffer, the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, was beat up in Maryland’s Big Ten Tournament opener by Iowa. In 6.1 innings, the Hawkeyes roughed up Shaffer for eight runs, seven earned, off 10 hits. Shaffer has been so dominant that the bloated outing only has his ERA up to 2.18. The reason for the minimal damage is the tournament outing sent Shaffer over 100 innings on the year, now at 103.1. It is the second consecutive season Shaffer has pitched more than 100 innings, creating just a little concern that his arm is starting to tire in front of his 16th start of the season.

Focus on the field

There’s a lot that can draw the attention of the Terrapins away from the field. Head coach John Szefc is in the mix for the open head coach position at Tennessee. Shortstop Kevin Smith is a potential top 75 draft pick in next week’s draft and Shaffer is expected to be drafted by the fifth round. But this is not Maryland’s first rodeo. Before missing last year’s tournament, the Terps appeared in back-to-back super regionals. That history and understanding what it takes to advance in June will help quiet the off-field noise.

Required reading

The Bar Has Now Been Raised for WVU Baseball -John Antonik,

Bob Mumma leads ‘amped up’ UMBC back to NCAA baseball tournament -Callie Caplan, The Baltimore Sun

Brian Shaffer’s baseball career has picked up velocity -Jonas Shaffer, The Balitmore Sun

Marty Costes’ diamond development a key for Maryland -Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Sun

Road to Omaha: Chapel Hill Regional


The last team in the NCAA Tournament, Michigan will begin regional action for the Big Ten with a 1 p.m. start Friday afternoon against Florida Gulf Coast. As the Wolverines look to reach the College World Series for the first time since 1984, it doesn’t matter if you’re the first team in or the last one. Where Big Ten peer takes on the first team in and the tournament’s top overall seed, Oregon State, Michigan will head to the Chapel Hill Regional hosted by the number two seed, UNC. Here’s a look at UNC, Michigan, Florida Gulf Coast and Davidson who rounds out the field.

The teams

#1 North Carolina

Record: 47-12, 23 in ACC; Coastal division champions

Head coach: Mike Fox, 19th season

NCAA Tournament history: 30th appearance, last in 2014.

Offense: .283 AVG, 105 2B, 19 3B, 55 HR, .437 SLG, 383 SO, 303 BB, .387 OBP, 76-102 SB-SBA

Pitching: 2.96 ERA, 15 SV, 535.2 IP, 218 BB, 513 SO, 1.22 WHIP, 68 2B, 8 3B, 35 HR, .221 BAA, 51 WP, 54 HBP

Defense: .979 fielder percentage, 12 passed balls, 28 stolen bases allowed, 14 caught stealing

Noteworthy: The tournament’s second overall seed, the Tar Heels return to the NCAA Tournament after a two-year absence. Finishing a half-game behind Louisville for the ACC championship, North Carolina is led by junior right-handed pitcher J.B. Bukauskas and shortstop Logan Warmoth, two probable first-round draft picks. But as talented as the Tar Heels are, only one player as NCAA Tournament experience. UNC will be at home, but it’ll be far from a walk in the park with elevated stakes and a fairly deep regional.

#2 Florida Gulf Coast

Record: 42-18, 13-8 in Atlantic Sun; conference tournament champions

Head coach: Dave Tollet, 15th season.

NCAA Tournament history: First appearance.

Offense: .282 average, 100 2B, 16 3B, 54 HR, .427 SLG, 450 SO, 296 BB, .384 OBP, 32-45 SB-SBA

Pitching: 3.65 ERA, 23 SV, 533 IP, 170 BB, 515 SO, 1.33 WHIP, 77 2B, 8 3B, 30 HR, .264 BAA, 28 WP, 32 HBP

Defense: .966 fielding percentage, 15 passed balls, 51 stolen bases allowed, 15 caught stealing

Noteworthy: FGCU played host to a pair of Big Ten schools in back-to-back weeks in March. Ohio State salvaged a weekend set, taking the Sunday game, 5-4, after falling 10-9 and 13-1. In the series opener FGCU scored six in the bottom of the ninth against the Buckeyes. The Scarlet Knights were unable to leave Fort Meyers with a win, being swept in the three-game set. The 5-1 showing against Big Ten schools came during a 23-3 start to the season which saw the Eagles crack the top 10 of polls.

#3 Michigan

Record: 42-15, 16-8 in Big Ten; second place

Head coach: Erik Bakich, fifth season

NCAA Tournament history: 23 appearance, last in 2015. 1953 and 1962 National Champions.

Offense: .284 AVG, 93 2B, 18 3B, 34 HR, .404 SLG, 392 SO, 258 BB, .380 OBP, 122-151 SB-SBA

Pitching: 3.26 ERA, 16 SV, 516.1 IP, 184 BB, 551 SO, 1.2 WHIP, 77 2B, 11 3B, 36 HR, .228 BAA, 48 WP, 43 HBP

Defense: .983 fielding percentage, 15 passed balls, 21 stolen bases, 19 caught stealing

Noteworthy: Though they were the last team in the field of 64, for the first time in nine years, Michigan has earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. The most decorated Big Ten program, 42 wins wasn’t enough for the selection committee to view the Wolverines as a top 25 team, although they have been ranked in a poll since mid-March. The Wolverines have an all-around game to win in any way, be it a pitcher’s duel or high-scoring slugfest, and the near-snub may be just what the team needed to put an 0-2 showing in the Big Ten Tournament behind them and take to Chapel Hill with a scorched Earth mentality.

#4 Davidson

Record: 32-24, 13-14 in Atlantic 10; tournament champions

Head coach: Dick Cook, 27th season

NCAA Tournament history: First appearance.

Offense: .277 AVG, 96 2B, 5 3B, 70 HR, .438 SLG, 403 SO, 235 BB, .368 OBP, 17-25 SB-SBA

Pitching: 4.54 ERA, 16 SV, 500 IP, 207 BB, 374 SO, 1.54 WHIP, 106 2B, 5 3B, 47 HR, .283 BAA, 40 WP, 42 HBP

Defense: .967 fielding percentage, six passed balls, 29 stolen bases allowed, 19 caught stealing

Noteworthy: The Wildcats, possibly most famous for being the college of NBA star Steph Curry, are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance and will open play against the tournament’s second-best team. That’s not an easy task, but Davidson can take solace in knowing UNC has a team without much NCAA Tournament appearance and they have shown they can match-up well against the Tar Heels. On May 9, Davidson lost a 10-inning game to North Carolina, 7-6, hitting four home runs off Tar Heel pitchers.

Three keys to Wolverine success

Bullpen bears down

Michigan entered the Big Ten tournament 36-1 when leading after eight innings. The record became 36-2 after a 6-4 loss to Northwestern on Wednesday, and Michigan saw it’s stay in Bloomington end with a 14-inning defeat to Indiana, another game decided late. Two relievers who entered the tournament with perfect 0.00 ERAs, Jackson Lamb and Mac Lozer, combined to allowed five earned runs in the 0-2 showing. At some point every reliever is touched up and for Lamb and Lozer to combine for for 47 appearances without allowing an earned run is incredible. For Michigan to succeed, the rough week in Bloomington needs to only be a hiccup and not a sign of a decline after heavy workloads.

Lugbauer swings the lumber

The Wolverines could use a power eruption from third baseman Drew Lugbauer to carry an offense which has been reliant on station-to-station baseball of late. Lugbauer leads Michigan with 11 home runs, adding 13 doubles, for a power production paired nicely with a .290 average. But the left-handed hitter has been stuck on 11 home runs since Michigan’s 14-4 win over Oklahoma on April 14. Michigan is only slugging .404 on the season entering the tournament, where runs are usually at a premium. There will need to be an ability to drive a run in from first base and nobody can do it better than Lugbauer.

Leverage the chip

Head coach Erik Bakich has not deferred to coachspeak when discussing the edge his team plays with. A May swoon kept the Wolverines out of the NCAA Tournament a year ago, and Bakich does not hide that the bitter ending has not been forgotten. Since the preseason, Bakich has spoke to a commitment to starting and finishing strong, using last year’s collapse as a reminder. Now, as the last team in the field, almost seeing a 40-win season go for naught, there is more fuel to Michigan’s fire. While the Wolverines have the skill to advance through the regional, they can’t be too focus on proving the doubters wrong. Michigan has excelled all year by playing quality baseball, inning to inning doing the small and little things right, that needs to continue.

Required reading

Back from hand injury, Ako Thomas is Michigan baseball’s catalyst -Mark Snyder, Detroit Free Press

Wolverines rested, ready for NCAA tournament -Angelique Chengelis

UNC, back again in NCAA tournament, likes its chances with Bukauskas on mound -Andrew Carter, Raleigh News & Observer

The Ten: Big Ten Tourney Bracket 1 Final

There will not be an undefeated team heading into the Big Ten Tournament title game. Saturday’s second semifinal saw Maryland take down Northwestern, 9-5, ending the Wildcats’ seven-game winning streak and forcing a second-winner-take-all semifinal. With a rematch on deck, here’s a look at the weekend’s first meeting, fourth in the last two weeks, between the Terrapins and Wildcats.

Terps start the game with homer-happy

It’s becoming easier to spot a spotted lion than it is to have a Big Ten Tournament game without a home run. The Terrapins got on the board first with a two-out home run to left field by Marty Costes, in the bottom of the first. The Terrapins doubled their pleasure in the second inning when Will Watson and Kevin Smith started the at-bat with back-to-back home runs to right field, pushing the fourth-seeded Terrapins in front, 3-0.

Smith’s Jekyll-Hyde day

The home run was the 11th of the year for Smith, who heads into the final weeks of likely his Maryland career. The junior shortstop is regarded as the Big Ten’s top positional prospect, capable of being drafted in the first three rounds of June’s MLB Draft. Smith’s stock is based on being a sure-handed shortstop, with some power, but there are questions about his hitting ability. After his second-inning home run, Smith struck out in the fourth and again in the fifth, the latter leaving the bases loaded in a tied game.

Hoscheit’s continued scored Earth tour

Maryland may have had the early lead, but with Joe Hoscheit anchored in the Northwestern three-hole, the Wildcats weren’t out of the game. Lifting his average to .361, Hoscheit went 2-for-4 with a run, two RBI and his second home run of the tournament gave Northwestern a 5-3 lead in the fifth. Leading Northwestern’s offensive attack, Hoscheit is 5-for-13 with five runs and three RBI this week.

Wildcats strike in the fourth

Trailing 3-0, Northwestern found its offense in the fourth, behind Hoscheit. The senior recorded a one-out single to start Northwestern’s rally. After a fielder’s choice and walk, Connor Lind hit a two-out, two-strike, double down the left field line. Lind and Jack Claeys scored in the next at-bat when Leo Kaplan lined a two-strike single up the middle, knotting the game, 3-3. Kaplan would move to second on a stole base and advanced to third when the throw to second by pitcher Ryan Hill was errant, but was stranded 90 feet away.

Umpire injury delay

After Northwestern scored two runs in the top of the fifth of Hoscheit’s second home run of the tourney, any momentum the Wildcats held was halted. Home plate umpire Daniel Jimenez was hit flush on the hand by a pitch from NU starter Josh Davis. The game was delayed forty minutes as Jimenez was tended to and a replacement umpire summoned.

Murphy’s Law

Entering the game in the seventh inning, Maryland right-handed pitcher John Murphy continued to give the Terrapins a boost. For the second time this tournament, Murphy pitched three innings of shutout baseball. Like his appearance against Purdue, the sophomore allowed just one hit in his relief outing. Though he did not strikeout eight batters again, sending two batters down on strike, Murphy was efficient in needing just 44 pitches to cap Maryland’s victory, likely being ready to pitch again in the championship if Maryland were to beat Northwestern one more time.

Wildcats unravel in the seventh

If Northwestern is unable to rebound and knock off Maryland in their rematch, the Wildcats can look back to the seventh and see self-inflicted wounds that doomed their season. As Maryland broke the tie, then open the game, Northwestern filled the box score with free bases, extra opportunities and miscues. The inning featured Northwestern issuing two four-pitch walks, a full count-walk, hitting a batter, unable to field a sacrifice bunt and a throwing error from shortstop. Maryland tacked on four runs to put the game away.

Northwestern’s missed opportunity

Spencer Allen’s team sat in the driver’s seat heading into Saturday’s game. Northwestern had more than 24 hours rest, playing the first game on Friday, while Maryland was coming off of a game that ended very early Saturday morning, shortly after 1:30 a.m. The Wildcats also needed beat twice to prevent a second trip to the Big Ten Tournament championship game. But with the Maryland win, it’s a one-game series, in a contest after NU used six pitchers. Northwestern is not out of the tournament, and the Wildcats have played well over the last month leading up to a spot in the semis, but the road ahead is much more difficult.

Terrapins avoid 2016 repeat

A year ago, Maryland entered Saturday play of the Big Ten Tournament in the same situation, needing to win two games after falling on Thursday. In Omaha, Maryland ran into the tournament’s hottest team, Iowa, and were turned back 11-0, bring their season to an end. On the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, the more wins for Maryland the better and John Szefc’s team did not see an exit from the tournament by Saturday’s dinner time. Maryland can remove any doubt from their regional prospects with two wins and have the potential to make this year’s day four a memorable one.

Uncertainty ahead

A game time of 3:27 pushed the start of Saturday’s second game between Iowa and Minnesota to 6:35 p.m. ET. With only two of the tournament’s 12 games played in under three hours, it doesn’t look like the second game between the Terps and Wildcats will start before the tournament’s 10 p.m. ET curfew. Needing to get one more game in before the title game participants are set, it is unsure if the Big Ten will break their curfew, if it is not met, or have Maryland and Northwestern play before the title game. Further puzzling the picture is a Sunday forecast of rain with the potential of lightning. It will either be a long Saturday or long Sunday for the Terps and Wildcats in pursuit of the tournament crown.

The Ten: Big Ten Tourney Bracket 2 Final

With the Big Ten Tournament back on schedule, Iowa and Minnesota opened Saturday’s semifinal action. Advancing through bracket play 2-0, the Hawkeyes sat one win from a return trip to the tournament title game. But if Iowa is going to have a shot at redeeming last year’s second-place finish it’ll come after a long day at Bart Kaufman Field. With a 9-3 win by the Gophers, the two will meet again Saturday afternoon with each’s season in the balance. Here’s a look at how Minnesota kept their season and bid for a second straight NCAA Tournament appearance alive.

Gophers strike first

Riding the momentum from Friday’s comeback victory against Indiana, Minnesota struck quickly in the start to their semifinal against Indiana. A one-out walk drawn by shortstop Luke Pettersen was followed by back-to-back singles from Micah Coffey and Toby Hanson. Hanson’s run-scoring single up the middle was his ninth hit in 16 at-bats, the start 4-for-5 game with three RBI. The quick start would be a sign of things to come from the trio of Pettersen-Coffey-Hanson.

The Real McCoy

After starting the tournament with an 0-for-4 showing against Maryland, Iowa shortstop Mason McCoy has showed his all-conference ability over the last two games. On the heels of a 3-for-4 game against Nebraska, the senior hit a two-run home run to left field, giving the Hawkeyes a 2-1 lead in their first at-bat. McCoy finished the game with two runs and a walk in four plate appearances, now leading the Hawkeyes with a .330 average.

Meyer’s magnificent outing

Minnesota sophomore right-hander Reggie Meyer didn’t start the must-win contest on the right foot, hitting the first batter he faced before surrendering the home run to McCoy. But the right-hander settled in and gave John Anderson exactly what he needed in the elimination game. Pitching a career-high eight innings, Meyer struck out seven batters, also a career high, allowing three runs off four its in a 122-pitch outing. Starting Saturday needing to win three games over two days to claim the tournament title, Meyer’s outing was critical in keeping all but one Minnesota reliever rested.

Minnesota pours it on in the third

Going 1-2-3 in the top of the second, Minnesota went 1-2-3-4 in collecting hits to start the top of the third. The inning started with Jordan Kozicky reaching on an infield single, then scoring on a double down the left field line by Luke Pettersen. Back-to-back singles by Micah Coffey and Toby Hanson tied the game, 3-3. After a sacrifice bunt, a single by Jordan Smith pushed Coffey across with Hanson scoring in the next at-bat off of a fielder’s choice by Eddie Estrada. The four-run outburst saw the Gophers jump out in front and never look back.

Pettersen punches it around

Minnesota’s leading hitter, Pettersen has perfected the small man’s game. Entering the tournament with a .343 average, Pettersen’s stout clip was the product of 60 hits in 175 at-bats, 55 of which were singles. In four tournament games, Pettersen has picked up three doubles, including a one to start the sixth, before scoring on a single up the middle by third baseman Coffey, scoring Minnesota’s ninth and final run. Scoring four runs in a 2-for-3 game, Pettersen is 5-for-11 in the tournament.

Gophers get it done when it matters

Minnesota’s big win was spurred by hits in big situations. The Gophers batted .370 (10-27) with runners on base, .500 with runners in scoring position over 12 at-bats and went a perfect 5-for-5 with a runner at third base with less than two outs. Minnesota racked up 16 hits against the Hawkeyes, reaching double digits in hits for the fourth time in four tournament games.

Lizarraga saves Iowa’s season

With the game out of reach, Iowa needed to shift its focus to the day’s second game. In doing so, the Hawkeyes received quite the relief outing from Sammy Lizarraga. With four innings of relief to end the game, Lizarraga kept the Gophers off of the scoreboard, scattering just four hits. The sophomore right-handed struck out four batters without issuing a walk, allowing Rick Heller to used just two relievers in the game. Through three games, the Hawkeyes have used just six relievers.

Adams still in postseason slump

The Big Ten Player of the Year has yet to offensive prowess which led to him receiving the honor. In three games, Adams is 1-for-12 with one RBI. Adams’ lone it was a big one, a single up the middle to give Iowa a 2-0 lead in Friday’s game against Nebraska. But with their backs against the wall, the Hawkeyes need their three-hole hitter to break out, ideally adding to his school-record 24-home run season.

At-large possibility for Minnesota?

With their victory over Iowa, Minnesota has warranted mention of being on the NCAA Tournament bubble. The win improved the Gophers to 36-20 on the season, with a 13-9 mark against teams rated in the RPI’s top 100 by Warren Nolan. Finishing third in the Big Ten, taking three of five games against Indiana, challenging themselves with a non-conference that featured Long Beach State and Missouri State, going 16-5 on the road, Minnesota’s resume is appealing, outside of an RPI that currently rests at 66.

Putting the power in perspective

McCoy’s home run was the 28th of the tournament, three more than the prior four tournament’s combined. All but one of the tournament’s 11 games have featured a home run, Thursday night’s 5-2, Purdue-Maryland contest the exception.

The Ten: Big Ten Tourney G7

The Wildcats’ run continues. Northwestern entered the tournament as the seventh seed, but the Wildcats were the conference’s hottest team. Taking on Minnesota in the winner’s-half of bracket one, Spencer Allen’s team picked up a 11-7 win, to advance to the semifinals. Here’s the 10 on highlights, notes and thoughts from Friday’s first contest.

The weather breaks

After two days of gloomy, dreary, wet, chilly, just not-fun weather, Friday’s action opened under sunny skies and warm weather. The weather helps the Big Ten get the tournament back on schedule before semi-final play begins Saturday, and should help the attendance at Bart Kaufman Field with the host Hoosiers set for an evening contest against the loser of the Gophers-Wildcats.

A very offensive week continues

With the temperature settling into the high-70s, low-80s, and a breeze out to left field, the conditions were there for a very offensive game, not that the week has been short on offense. The two teams combined for 21 hits and four home runs, as only one full inning was played scoreless, continuing the theme of the week.

Coffey, Hanson deliver big blows

Three of the home runs were hit by Minnesota, starting in the first inning with a two-run blast to right field by Micah Coffey. After Northwestern responded and grabbed a 5-2 lead after three innings, batting behind Coffey, Toby Hanson also homered to right, bringing the Gophers within two runs. In the heart of the order, Coffey and Hanson combined to go 5-for-9 with four runs and three RBI, doing their part to keep Minnesota in the see-saw contest.

Christie settles in nicely

After Coffey’s two-run home run in the first, Northwestern freshman right-handed pitcher Hank Christie settled in. Christie retired the next nine batters, until he surrendered the home run to Hanson. But the second home run didn’t rattle the rookie too much, retiring five of the next six batters, relinquishing only a two-out single in the fifth. Rebounding from the shaky start to pitch 5.1 innings, Christie helped saved the Northwestern bullpen for the weekend, helping the Widlcats head into play as one of the final four with a fairly rested pitching staff.

Schulze unable to find the third-out

While the NU freshman right-hander was able and turn in a serviceable start after a rough first inning, the same couldn’t be said about Minnesota’s freshman righty, Brett Schulze. Schulze retired the first two Wildcats, but a single and back-to-back walks loaded the bases before Connor Lind cleared them with a double to left center. Their two-run lead turning into a one-run deficit, the first inning was unfortunately a sign of things to come for Minnesota. Schulze did get out of the first, a fly out to right one pitch after Lind’s double ended the inning, but a leadoff walk to start NU’s second-inning at-bat brought the end to Schulze’s day.

Hoscheit’s out-of-this-world bat

Producing the best in-conference batting average in 18 years with a .468 average, Northwestern senior outfielder Joe Hoscheit continues to beat up Big Ten pitching. Scoring four runs, Hoscheit went 2-for-4, including a home run to left center field, providing the final run, and exclamation point on Northwestern’s victory. Hoscheit is swinging the Big Ten’s most lethal bat, at the forefront of the Wildcats’ surprising run in Bloomington.

The Wildcats were more clutch

Though the two teams were close in hits, Northwestern’s 11 hits edging Minnesota’s 10, when the hits came was the deciding factor. With two outs, Northwestern batted .500, picking up six hits in 12 at-bats while Minnesota managed only two hits in nine at-bats. With runners in scoring position, NU went 6-for-11 compared to another 2-for-9 showing by the Gophers. Minnesota did successfully record a hit in their lone at-bat with a runner on third and less than two outs, but NU’s .538 average with runners on base led to five hits in six at-bats where a runner was 90 feet from scoring with either one or not outs. In their second game against a top-three seeded team, the Wildcats were extremely clutch.

Anderson ejected

In the bottom of the seventh, Minnesota head coach John Anderson was ejected from the contest, making two consecutive games a head coach was ejected from a Big Ten Tournament game. In the final game of Thursday action, Maryland head coach John Szefc was ejected for arguing a non-hit by pitch call. The Terrapins would rather late, winning 5-2 under the direction of associate head coach Rob Vaughan. The Gophers were not able to duplicate the feat of the Terrapins, unable to rally under the direction of their associate head coach, Rob Fornasiere.

Minnesota’s quick turnaround

Due to weather and the length of games on Wednesday and Thursday, the tournament was two games behind schedule entering Friday. Fortunately, Friday only had two scheduled games, along with no rain in the forecast to make up the games. The result, with the Big Ten needing to get in as many games as possible before Saturday and narrow the tournament field down to four, Minnesota has a quick turnaround. The Gophers will play a second game on Friday, against Indiana, looking to keep their season alive.

Two down, two more for NU

With their seventh consecutive win, the team’s longest winning streak since 2003, Northwestern moves into the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. With two wins, taking down the tournament’s number two and three seeds, the Wildcats stand two wins away from their first Big Ten Tournament championship, which would put them in their first NCAA Tournament.

The Ten: Big Ten Tourney Nebraska

Nebraska used Purdue’s help to claim its first Big Ten baseball championship. With the Boilermakers winning its season-ending series at Minnesota, the door opened for the Huskers to grab the title. Entering the Big Ten Tournament as the top seed, the first foe for the Huskers was the Boilermakers. Nebraska didn’t return any favors to Purdue, capping the first day of action with a 15-9 win over boys from West Lafayette. Due to rain and the length of the day’s play, a reshuffled tournament schedule saw the Huskers have an off-day on Thursday. No fear, here’s the 10 on a mix of Wednesday highlights, thoughts and notes on Darin Erstad’s club.

No title hangover

The Huskers didn’t enter the game just going through the motions. Though they were fresh off of a 21-run output to claim the title and taking on the eighth seed, Nebraska stormed out of the gates. Back-to-back doubles to start the game were part of a four-run first inning. As the game wore on, the hot start was needed.

Hohensee answers the bell

Nebraska’s quick start was countered by Purdue putting up five runs in the top of the second. Though he relinquished a four-run lead, credit Nebraska starter Jake Hohensee for responding and taming the Boilermakers for the rest of his start. Pitching six innings, the right-handered surrendered only one other run, striking out six batters while scattering seven hits. After the rocky second, Hohensee tossed back-to-back 1-2-3 innings, keeping the Nebraska bullpen quiet.

MoJo maina

Husker faithful have questioned and expressed their disbelief in MoJo Hagge’s absence from the Big Ten All-Freshman team. In his first game after the honors were announced, Hagge showed an impressive all-around game. At the plate, Hagge went 2-for-5 with two runs, two RBI and a home run. Hagge showed an impressive glove in the outfield, including a leaping rob of an extra-base hit.

Miller and Schreiber bring big sticks

The heart of the Husker lineup provided serious thump in Nebraska’s 15-run output. DH Scott Schreiber picked up four RBI and scored four runs, hitting a home run and adding a double. Behind him, first baseman Ben Miller drove in three runs behind a pair of doubles in four at-bats. After a slow start to the season, Schreiber is batting .336 with Miller checking in at .300, provided a potent 1-2 punch.

Schleppenbach continues late-season tear

He bats eighth, but Nebraska second baseman Jake Schleppenbach has been on fire against Big Ten foes. In Nebraska’s 16-7-1 conference showing, Schleppenbach hit .352 with eight doubles and three home runs. The postseason hasn’t slowed the senior, as Schleppenbach went 2-for-4 with a walk, collecting a double and scoring two runs. Schleppenbach’s presence allows Nebraska to have a bottom of the order a guy capable of driving in a runner from first baseball.

Coming up clutch

The Huskers put up big numbers in big situations. Nebraska went 5-for-13 with two outs, 8-for-21 with runners on, 6-for-15 with runners in scoring position and a most impressive 5-for-6 with runners at third base and less than two outs. In 29 advancement opportunities, 19 Huskers moved up at least at base. In the 13-hit attack, Nebraska shined when it mattered most.

Setting up the weekend

After Hohensee pitched six innings, Erstad only needed to use reliever Robbie Palkert to finish the game. Purdue did score a run in each of the final three innings, but with a large enough lead Palkert wasn’t in any danger. In only using two pitchers to get through the opening game, the Huskers bullpen is rested for the weekend. All starters can take the mound without any extra pressure of going as long as possible, and even Palkert is in good shape to bounce back, tossing 44 pitches.

Losing streak snapped

Though Nebraska entered the tournament with a pair of second-place finishes, they were riding a four-game losing streak. Since finishing runners-up to Indiana in the 2014 tournament, back-to-back 0-2 showings befell the Huskers. Now, after claiming their first conference championship, an end to the dry-spell has Nebraska zeroing in on its first tournament title.

Rain give Huskers extra rest

While it rained on and off all, only one game, the third of the day, was slightly delayed, and each game was played without pause. But the slight setback caused the fourth and final game of the game to be pushed to Thursday. As a result, Nebraska’s game against the winner of Maryland-Iowa was delayed until Friday. The tournament’s Wednesday start meant the eight teams were on short rest for a second consecutive week, but in playing Friday, Nebraska starter Derek Burkamper will now have a full week of rest between starts.

Hawkeyes await

The winner of that Maryland-Iowa game was the Hawkeyes, moving on with a 9-8 victory. Rick Heller’s team was the lone conference club to take a weekend set from Nebraska, winning two of three games in Lincoln, April 14-16. The Huskers meet a Hawkeye team that has won four of its last five Big Ten Tournament games, finishing runners-up to Ohio State last year, ready to lay it all on the line in needing the tournament’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament to play next week.

The Ten: Big Ten Tourney G2

Northwestern’s white-hot finish to the regular season isn’t showing signs of cooling down. Against the Big Ten’s most dominant closer, the Wildcats mounted a three-run, last-at-bat rally, to take a stunning 6-4 victory in the second game of Wednesday play in Bloomington. Here’s the 10 highlights, moments and thoughts from Northwestern’s 6-4 win.

The Wildcats find their power

Northwestern’s initial 1-0 lead and its 3-1 third-inning advantage were both produced by home runs. Connor Lind started the scoring in the top of the second with a solo home run to right field. In the Wildcats’ next at-bat, Alex Erro pulled a two-run homer to right field, too. Their respective third and fifth home runs of the season, Lind and Erro’s four-base hits were a bit of a surprise as the catalyst to NU’s early offense. Northwestern finished the regular season with 23 home runs, only the 20 by Nebraska were fewer.

Erro shows ability beyond years

Erro’s fifth home run moved him into a tie for the team lead with Joe Hoscheit. In addition to showing a good amount of pop for  a freshman, Erro shows an understanding of the plate beyond what one would expect from a rookie. In going 2-for-5, Erro’s average is up to .293, but more impressively, in 215 at-bats, the second baseman has only struck out 15 times. Against Michigan starter Ryan Nutof, who set a career-high with 10 strikeouts, Erro did not go down on strikes once.

Slater’s soaring stock

Michigan senior center fielder Johnny Slater continued his all-around season. With a solo home run in the third inning to halve Michigan’s 3-1 deficit, Slater collected his fourth home run of the season. Entering the season with a career average of .207, going 1-for-3 with a walk, Slater’s average is up to .310, collecting 61 hits in 197 at-bats, with 11 doubles, seven triples and the four home runs. In center field, Slater has compiled an impressive 107 putouts, using good speed which has lead to 14 stolen bases in 14 attempts. Slater’s breakthrough season has caught the eye of scouts, his home run on Wednesday coming at a good time with 27 MLB representatives present.

Nutof settles in, racks up punchouts

With Erro’s home run, Nutof had allowed three runs off four hits, three extra-base hits, with only six outs under his belt. The Michigan bullpen started to rumble, but that would be the last trouble Nutof ran into. The right-hander scattered only two other hits over the next 4.1 innings of work, keeping Erik Bakich from turning to his bullpen earlier than desired, keeping Michigan in good shape to battle through the loser’s bracket. As he settled in, Nutof needed only 85 pitches to punch out 10 Wildcats, peppering the strike zone throughout his start.

Brdar dazzles in the field

There’s no other way to describe the defensive plays made by Michigan senior shortstop Michael Brdar, incredible.

Lawrence gives NU what it needs

After Michigan grabbed the 4-3 lead with two runs in the fifth, freshman right-handed pitcher Sam Lawrence gave everything head coach Spencer Allen could have asked for. While the Wildcats are taking to the week with an “all hands on-deck” approach to its pitchers, Lawrence made life easy with 3+ innings of one-hit, scoreless relief. Lawrence tossed 22 strikes in 34 pitches, striking out three Wolverines without a walk. Lawrence did plunk Wolverine Jake Bivens to start the ninth, but he put zeros on the scoreboard until Pete Hoffman could go 1-2-3 to secure the Wildcat win.

Lamb perfect no more

Michigan closer Jackson Lamb had defied logic all year, going through the regular season with a 0.00 ERA. It wasn’t a small sample either, the senior right-handed pitcher logged 28 innings over 25 outings. But in the new season that is the postseason, Lamb’s outing was forgettable, allowing back-to-back singles to start the ninth, before issuing a four-pitch walk to load the bases. Three batters and three base runners in, Lamb’s left without recording an out. All three runners he was responsible for scored as NU mounted its rally. Even with the three runs, Lamb’s ERA is a microscopic 0.96 and he’s still one save from having sole possession of Michigan’s single-season saves record.

Northwestern not engulfed in the moment

For a team making its first postseason appearance in seven years, Northwestern did not wilt under pressure, in fact, the Wildcats flourished. NU showed no intimidation by Nutof’s mid-90s fastball, taking the early lead on home runs, and were not phased by Lamb’s 0.00 ERA when entering the ninth trailing. Head coach Spencer Allen attested Northwestern’s readiness for the moment to playing postseason baseball for the last month, needing to get hot just to make the field. Now, winners of 8-2, there’s nothing to say Northwestern doesn’t have full belief they can’t win this thing.

Michigan isn’t resting on its resume

If you thought Michigan was resting on its top-30 RPI and 40-win season, tending to matters this week in go hard, but not all-out effort to be rested and ready for next week, you’d be wrong. In his postgame press conference, Bakich says his team has prepared since Sept. 1 to be champions and they will fight their way back through the tournament, one game at a time, to be champions. While Michigan appears to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament, Bakich is not assuming that, he wants the auto-big and the title that comes with it.

The Ten: Big Ten Tourney G1

The 2017 Big Ten Baseball Tournament started under gray skies and light rain coming down throughout the opening game between the tournament’s third seed Minnesota and sixth-seeded Indiana. In Bloomington, a comeback win for the Gophers saw the Hoosier faithful who braved the conditions leave Bart Kaufman Field in a gloomy mood. Here’s 10 highlights, moments and thoughts from Minnesota’s 5-4 win.

The weather was good enough

It was far from ideal game conditions, soggy and the temperature in the 50s, but the weather held off enough for the game to get in and played without any delay. Where up to 15 games need played by the end of Sunday to determine a conference champion, starting the tournament without a hitch is pretty important. To the benefit of the Big Ten, Bart  Kaufman Field has a turf field, the first time in the tournament’s history its been played on an artificial surface.

The Hoosiers strong support

And while the weather conditions weren’t the best to play baseball in, the steady stream of drizzle made sitting in the stands to watch the game pretty unbearable. Indiana was praised going into the tournament for the fan support it has built up over the last handful of years and the turnout by Hoosier Nation didn’t disappoint. Indiana’s athletic department deserves praise for embracing the tournament, and the fans earn a kudos for a strong turn out in subpar weather.

Indiana unable to take advantage

Though Minnesota out-hit Indiana, 10-7, IU had its share of advantages to take the tight contest. Minnesota starting pitcher Lucas Gilbreath issued two walks and tossed two wild pitches, and catcher Matt Stemper allowed a passed ball. The Hoosiers were successful in stealing three bases in three attempts, but a 2-8 showing with runners in scoring position doomed IU.

Gilbreath sharp enough

It was a pedestrian line, four runs allowed, all earned, off six hits in 5.1 innings, but Minnesota junior left-handed pitcher Lucas Gilbreath was good enough to keep his team in the game and give the Hoosiers a chance to win. The southpaw struck out six batters, tossing 53 of 90 pitches for strikes. In pitching into the sixth, Gilbreath helped save the Minnesota bullpen, John Anderson needing to only used Fred Manke and closer Brian Glowicki to secure the win.

Dedelow goes deep

Indiana has been the Big Ten’s most prolific home run-hitting team, entering the tournament with a conference-best 63. For the 27 MLB scouts on hand, the raw power up and down the IU lineup tickles their fancy. The Hoosiers’ home run attack is lead by senior outfielder Craig Dedelow, who collected 15 home runs during the final regular season of his career. Dedelow’s 16th home run of the year came in the fourth inning, giving Indiana it’s first lead of the game at 2-1. Dedelow leads a quartet of Hoosiers with at least nine home runs this season, where needing to go through the loser’s bracket, Indiana has the firepower to generate offense in a hurry.

Kozicky continues banner season

Named to the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team, Minnesota redshirt-freshman Jordan Kozicky dazzled in the regular season, compiling 48 hits in 141 at-bats for a .340 average. With an aggressive, fastball-seeking approach, Kozicky sent a two-run home run to left, in the bottom of the fifth, bringing the Gophers back within a run, 4-3, after Indiana jumped in front 4-1 with two runs in the top of the fifth. Kozicky’s fourth home run of the year came after two strikeouts in his first two at-bats, as he continues to be a spark plug atop the Gopher batting order.

Two-out hits the difference

Four of Minnesota’s five runs came with two outs. In the first, a single up the middle by Toby Hanson scored Terrin Varva, who doubled down the left field line two batters before. Kozicky’s home run came with two down and the winning run, Luke Pettersen scoring in the bottom of the seventh, came off a two-out single up the middle by Vavra. Adding further frustration to the Hoosiers and their inability to close out the inning, the hits by Hanson, Stemper’s sacrifice fly to score Coffey and Pettersen’s game-winning hit all came with two strikes.

Coffey’s heads up play

After Kozicky’s fifth-inning home run brought Minnesota within a run, the Hoosiers were set to find a bit of breathing room in their next at-bat. Third baseman Luke Miller opened the sixth with a single to left, moved to second on a throwing error off a sacrifice bunt attempt and advanced to third on an ensuing sacrifice bunt. On the first pitch from Manke, catcher Ryan Fineman skied a ball to center field, deep enough to have Miller cross home, giving IU a 5-3 lead. But Minnesota third baseman Micah Coffey, who earlier committed the throwing error, asked for an appeal, which was successful as Miller was determined to leave third early, erasing the run and getting Minnesota out of the inning. In their at-bat, it was Coffey who scored from third on a sacrifice to tie the game, 4-4.

Glowicki shows dominant form

Entering the game with a Hoosier on first, Glowicki was ask to record four outs to close the Gopher win. Picking up his 16th save of the season, Glowicki did just that. Using a fastball that the Bart Kaufman Field scoreboard said was between 91 and 94 MPH, Glowicki retired all four Hoosiers he faced, setting a new single-season saves record for the Golden Gophers. Glowicki is now in a tie with Louisville’s Lincoln Henzman for the most saves in the country.

At-large stays a possibility

Entering the tournament with an RPI of 81, Minnesota would need the Big Ten’s automatic bid to reach the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive season if its spot in the ranking stayed still. But in beating Indiana, the No. 28 RPI team, Minnesota a chance to make a strong move up the rankings. The upward trend has a chance to continue if two-see Michigan, the No. 29 RPI team, beats seventh-seed Northwestern to setup a meeting between the two teams. The odds are still against Minnesota to reach a regional via an at-large berth, but if it were to happen, today’s win was a must.



Get the latest posts delivered to your mailbox: