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.


Huskers claim first Big Ten championship

Behind a first inning blitz and a standout performance on the mound by Jake Meyers, Nebraska rolled past Penn State Saturday afternoon, 21-3, to claim its first Big Ten championship.

Nebraska jumped on the Nittany Lions for seven runs in the first and scored three more, tacking on two more crooked numbers on the scoreboard with a two-run fifth and five-run sixth, before an eighth-inning grand glam by Jake Schleppenbach put the exclamation point on the Husker victory. While the Huskers racked up 18 hits, led by Mojo Hagge and Ben Miller each picking up four hits in three-RBI afternoons, Meyers held Penn State to one hit on the afternoon, tossing six innings of scoreless baseball en route to setting a career-high for strikeouts with seven.

Since joining the Big Ten Conference in July 2011, Nebraska has finished in second place in baseball three times, 2013, 2014 and 2016. Breaking through this season with a 16-7-1 showing in Big Ten play, Nebraska claimed its first conference championship since winning the Big XII in 2005. In taking two of three games from Penn State, Nebraska won seven of eight conference series, only falling in a weekend set to Iowa, April 14-17.

The Huskers stellar play in conference action came after a rocky start to the season. Coming off of a second NCAA Tournament appearance in three years, Nebraska opened the season 2-6. But two of those losses were to the country’s #1 team, Oregon State, with another against a reigning College World Series participant in Oklahoma State, and one to Utah, the defending Pac-12 champions. The tough start against stout competition has paid dividends as the regular season comes to an end. Since the 2-6 start, Nebraska has won 32 of 45 games, finishing the regular season with a 34-18-1 mark.

The Big Ten championship is the first conference title head coach Darin Erstad has won as a collegiate head coach. Taking over the reigns of the program he once starred at, Erstad has compiled an 88-54-1 mark in Big Ten play, posting a winning conference season in every year except 2015.

Nebraska will now enter next week’s Big Ten Tournament as the top seed, looking to continue its seasons of first with a first Big Ten Tournament title. The Huskers have twice finished runners-up in the conference tournament, in 2013 and 2014, both times to Indiana.

What’s on the line Saturday

It comes down to the final day. Will the Big Ten have a first-time champion? A repeat champion? Or will the winningest program take home another trophy?

Three alive for Big Ten championship

The race for the Big Ten championship is down to three teams, Michigan, Minnesota and Nebraska. After Friday’s results, the Huskers are in control. If Nebraska beats Penn State, they have their first Big Ten championship ever and first conference crown since winning the Big XII in 2005. If Penn State upsets Nebraska and grabs its first series win over a ranked team since 2007, the door opens for Michigan. Michigan needs to beat Michigan State in addition to have Nebraska fall, to claim its first Big Ten championship since 2008 and take home a Big Ten-leading 36th conference championship. Minnesota, who wrapped up its regular season yesterday, will be watching the scores from East Lansing and State College. The Gophers need both, Michigan and Nebraska to lose, to successfully defend its conference championship.

Tournament seeding

Entering the day, the final four seeds of next week’s Big Ten Tournament are set. Iowa will be the tournament’s #5 seed, Indiana will open the conference tournament in Bloomington, next Wednesday at 10 a.m. as the tournament’s #6 seed, Northwestern secured a seventh-place finish with Purdue rounding out the field in eighth.

Here’s how things will shape up following today’s play.

If Nebraska wins and Michigan wins:

#1- Nebraska, #2- Michigan, #3- Minnesota, #4- Maryland.

If Nebraska wins and Michigan loses:

#1- Nebraska, #2- Minnesota, #3- Maryland, #4- Michigan.

If Michigan wins and Nebraska loses:

#1- Michigan, #2- Minnesota, #3- Nebraska, #4- Maryland.

If Michigan and Nebraska lose:

#1- Minnesota, #2-Nebraska, #3- Maryland, #4- Michigan.

The result of the day’s lone other game, Indiana and Ohio State, has no baring of how the standings will finish, relative to the conference tournament.



Nebraska 15-7-1  .674 33-18-1  .644 17-6-0 13-6-1 3-6-0 8-2-0 W1
Michigan 15-8-0  .652 41-13-0  .759 23-5-0 12-6-0 6-2-0 7-3-0 W1
Minnesota 15-8-0  .652 33-19-0  .635 17-14-0 16-5-0 0-0-0 6-4-0 W1
Iowa 15-9-0  .625 34-19-0  .642 19-4-0 9-12-0 6-3-0 7-3-0 W1
Maryland 15-9-0  .625 33-19-0  .635 20-3-0 8-14-0 5-2-0 4-6-0 L4
Indiana 13-9-1  .587 31-20-2  .604 15-8-1 13-10-1 3-2-0 7-3-0 W1
Northwestern 13-11-0  .542 24-28-0  .462 12-12-0 12-16-0 0-0-0 7-3-0 W5
Purdue 12-12-0  .500 29-25-0  .537 10-10-0 18-15-0 1-0-0 4-6-0 L1
Michigan State 10-13-0  .435 29-22-0  .569 10-7-0 14-13-0 5-2-0 6-4-0 L1
Illinois 9-15-0  .375 23-28-0  .451 12-11-0 10-15-0 1-2-0 5-5-0 L1
Ohio State 8-15-0  .348 22-33-0  .400 9-16-0 8-12-0 5-5-0 5-5-0 L1
Rutgers 7-16-0  .304 19-34-0  .358 8-10-0 11-24-0 0-0-0 2-8-0 L5
Penn State 4-19-0  .174 18-36-0  .333 10-12-0 6-21-0 2-3-0 4-6-0 L1

Where things stand

It’s roughly the midpoint of the final weekend, and the picture for the Big Ten championship is even more muddled than before. Before a hold-your-breath final 24 hours begins, here’s an update on who’s in the Big Ten Tournament, who is not, who’s alive for the conference championship and what needs done for each contender.

The Big Ten Tournament field

Six teams have clinched a spot in the tournament: Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota and Nebraska. After Purdue held on to beat Minnesota, 5-2, in the completion of their suspended Thursday contest, Illinois and Ohio State joined Penn State and Rutgers are teams eliminated from tournament contention. That leaves Michigan State, Northwestern and Purdue fighting for the final two spots.

As of 6 p.m. Eastern, with Northwestern and Purdue taking 2-0 series leads, here’s how the final three teams fighting for a berth shape up.

#7 Northwestern (12-11)

#8 Purdue (12-11)

#9 Michigan State (10-12)

Northwestern and Purdue will conclude their seasons today. If Northwestern beats Rutgers to finish a sweep, they’re in. The same for Purdue, cap a weekend sweep of Minnesota, they’re in. If both of those happen, there will be seeding to figure out as both can jump Indiana, currently sitting sixth at 12-9-1, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. In the head-to-head tiebreaker, Northwestern tops Purdue.

So it’s pretty simple, Northwestern and Purdue control their destiny, win their final game and there in. Both are also in if Michigan State falls in either of its final two games, while Purdue is in regardless of their outcome against Minnesota if either Michigan State or Northwestern suffers a loss. But what happens if either Northwestern or Purdue, or both, fall and the Spartans win their final two?

The Spartans own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Northwestern and Purdue. If Michigan State wins their final two games against Michigan, and either the Wildcats or Boilermakers lose, Michigan State is in the tournament. Michigan State is also in the tournament if both teams lose. In a three-way tie for seventh at 12-12, Michigan State and Purdue are in, Northwestern is not, based on record versus common opponents.

Right now, the Wildcats and Boilermakers are sitting pretty to end respective postseason droughts of seven and five years. At a minimum Michigan State needs to pull off a sweep of Michigan, and hope they get help from either Minnesota or Rutgers.

The battle for the championship

With the top two teams a combined 0-3 so far this weekend, it’s created a five-team race for the conference crown.

Currently the top five in the standings are

Nebraska: 14-7-1

Michigan: 14-8

Minnesota: 14-8

Maryland: 15-9

Iowa: 14-9

Nebraska controls its destiny. Beat Penn State twice and the Huskers have their first Big Ten championship. If the Huskers drop either of their final game, the door opens for Michigan and Minnesota. They can still win the championship with a loss, but then need Minnesota to lose its finale and Michigan to go at best 1-1 in their final two games.

Michigan needs to win its final two games to finish 16-8, if they do that and Penn State takes a game from Nebraska, the Wolverines have their 36th title. If they split their final two games with Michigan State, they’ll have to hope everything shakes out to where a 15-9 record, and tie with Maryland, yields the crown.

For Minnesota to win it, they need to take the finale against Purdue and finish 15-8. Then Michigan to do no better than split its final two against MSU and for Nebraska to drop a game against Penn State.

Maryland needs a lot of help Their Big Ten season finished last week, to win it outright, the Terrapins need Iowa and Minnesota to lose their finales, Nebraska to lose both of its remaining games against Penn State and Michigan to lose both of their games against the Spartans. For just a share of the crown, Maryland needs Minnesota to lose its finale, Nebraska to be swept by Penn State and Michigan to fall at least once to MSU.

The best Iowa can do is share the crown at 15-9 with Maryland. Iowa must win its finale at Illinois, then hope Minnesota and Nebraska end their seasons being swept and for Michigan to fall at least once to MSU.

Streaks and stats

With Ohio State not making the tournament, there’s a new leader for active postseason trips. The Buckeyes’ streak of six straight Big Ten Tournament appearances ends and now Indiana and Nebraska are the leaders with the 2017 tournament marking their sixth straight conference tournament appearance.

As mentioned, Northwestern and Purdue looking to reach the tournament for the first time since 2010 and 2012, respectively. The other six teams in the tournament all played in the eight-team affair last year in Omaha.

A Big Ten championship would be the first for either Maryland or Nebraska. Taking home the crown would be the 36th title Michigan has earned, the most in the Big Ten. Minnesota would become back-to-back champions and claim its 24th conference crown, third-most, Illinois sits second with 30. Iowa would snap a 43-year title drought if they won their eighth Big Ten championship, putting an end to the second-longest dry spell, only behind Northwestern who last won the conference in 1950.


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