March 16-19 Weekend review

 

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

Boilermakers steam past Santa Clara for best start in five years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power surges

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ohio State’s late-game struggles continue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick hits

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb. 17-20 Weekend Review

10 Innings Extra: TCU Provides Blueprint for PSU

College baseball is back. From coast to coast, Big Ten teams took the diamond opening weekend, looking to keep the conference’s upward momentum going. Here’s a roundup of the weekend that was.

Marquee Series: Minnesota at Irvine

The defending Big Ten champions opened their season at UC Irvine. But due to some of the heaviest rains Southern California has seen in recent year, the three-game series was shortened to a two-game matchup, as Friday’s game was washed away.

“It didn’t look like we would be able to get any games in, then to get two in a short time,” said Minnesota head coach John Anderson. “We saw a lot of positives.”

The delayed start didn’t set back the hot-hitting Gophers, who, after leading the Big Ten with a .323 average a year ago, quickly jumped out of the gates.

Before the first out was recorded, three Gophers crossed home. Junior third baseman Micah Coffey hit a bases loaded, two-run single to right field, by junior first baseman Toby Hanson singled up the middle. Irvine countered with two two-out runs in the home-half of the first, but a Coffey two-run double was the big hit in Minnesota’s three-run second. The wild affair saw Irvine cut the deficit to 6-3 after two innings, but another big inning was in store for Minnesota in the third.

Sophomore DH Eduardo Estrada hit a two-run home run to right field, with sophomore center fielder Ben Mezzenga adding a run-scoring single to center field, giving Minnesota a 9-3 lead after three plate appearances. In the first three innings, Coffey had four RBI, junior right fielder Alex Boxwell had two walks and a hit by pitch, with junior second baseman Luke Pettersen recording a pair of single.

Minnesota needed every run of its early offensive onslaught.

Irvine right fielder Adam Alcantara picked up an RBI-triple in a two-run third inning, helping the Anteaters close the gap to 9-5. Minnesota starting left-handed pitcher Lucas Gilbreath was relieved after three innings, giving way to Tyler Hanson. Hanson kept Irvine at bay for two innings, before a walk with two outs loaded the bases in the sixth innings.

A preseason All-American, Irvine DH Keston Hirua stepped to the plate in the big situation and delivered, hitting a bases-clearing double to center field on Gopher side-armer Tim Shannon. But Shannon induced a fly out in the next at-bat and held Irvine to three at-bats in each of the next two innings, before closer Brian Glowicki closed the door on the 9-8 win with two strikeouts in the ninth inning, including one of Hiura.

Minnesota picked up 15 hits, with Pettersen’s four, and three from senior left fielder Jordan Smith, who finished a home run shy of the cycle, as every starter recorded a hit.

The Gophers offensive momentum continued on Sunday, recording 12 hits. But it wasn’t enough to head back to Minnesota with a weekend sweep.

It was Alex Boxwell’s turn to pick up an extra-base hit, pulling a triple down the right-field line in the top of the first to give Minnesota the initial 1-0 line. A batter later, Pettersen punched a single up the middle to bring home Boxwell.

Unable to get more than three innings from Gilbreath on Saturday, starting pitcher Toby Anderson was unable to escape the second inning. Irvine loaded the bases with nobody out, before Hirua drew a walk to bring home a run. After an RBI-single, Alcantara hit a two-run double to left center. Another run-scoring hit would chase Anderson, bringing in freshman right-hander Brett Schulze in his collegiate debut. Schulze worked around the two-on, nobody-out situation to only concede one run, but Irvine’s big inning left them in front 6-2 after three innings.

“We have to throw more strikes, we have to pitch better,” Anderson said. “We knew it would take some time to get out pitching staff up to speed, but we’re confident they will be.”

Irvine’s lead grew to 7-2 in the fourth, before Minnesota was able to chip away. Coffey led off the sixth with a triple to right field, scoring on a Hanson single. Down, 7-3, Minnesota scored a pair of runs in the eighth, Boxwell and Pettersen recording RBI, to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. But with two outs, sophomore shortstop Terrin Vavra flew out to right field. Minnesota had one more chance in the ninth, as Coffey doubled to open the inning, allowing Minnesota to bring the tying run to the plate. But a fly out, strike out and grounder ended the game.

Pettersen finished the contest 4-for-5 with Coffey going 3-for-5 from the cleanup spot. Pettersen finished the weekend 8-for-9, with Coffey added five hits in 10 at-bats, four for extra-bases as Minnesota picked up 27 hits on the weekend.

“We didn’t have a lot of bad at-bats, they were all competitive at-bats,” Anderson said. “We got deep in counts, we made them work hard to get us out, fouled off a lot of pitchers and just had really competitive at-bats.”

Schulze pitched four innings of one-run baseball, holding Irvine to three hits. Relievers Reggie Meyer and Nick Lackney pitched the final two innings as the Gopher bullpen tossed 13 innings on the weekend, allowing four runs.

On the weekend, Anderson was glad to take a split from a tough opponent in a jumbled weekend. But knows there are things his teams needs to improve on as they seek a second consecutive NCAA Tournament berth.

“I was encouraged by our offense. We’ll have plenty of offense, we’ll be able to play defense, just have to clean it up a bit, but more importantly we have to throw strikes.”

Minnesota will see another Big West foe later in the year when Long Beach State heads to Siebert Field in May. For now, the Gophers return home where they will play this weekend against Seattle University, the first baseball games played at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Trending topics

Big O leads to two Ws for Wasikowski

The Mark Wasikowski era in West Lafayette is off to a swinging start.

Named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week, the first Boilermaker to win the honor since 2012, junior right-handed Tanner Andrews pitched seven innings of one-run baseball, holding Texas State to two hits with nine strikeouts. The stellar pitching performance was more than enough for a lineup locked in, leading Purdue to its first season-opening victory in four years.

Purdue pushed three runs across in their first at-bat of the season, tacking on five more by the end of the fourth. In a four-RBI day, sophomore first baseman Jacson McGowan picked up run-scoring doubles in the first and fourth innings, around an RBI-single in the third. The Bobcats scratched out a run in the fourth, but Purdue never lost control of the game.

It was another three-run first inning that saw Purdue make it 2-for-2 on the weekend in the first game of a Saturday doubleheader.

Alongside McGowan, freshman Mike Madej and junior Logan Poisall each hit a home run in the first inning for Purdue to start the twinbill in a big way. After scoring a run in the second, Purdue’s four-run first was matched by a four-run third, to have a 9-0 lead. Texas State struck for six runs in the third, but were unable to get any closer than the three-run deficit. Purdue added a run in the sixth, and two in the ninth, with Texas State also scoring a pair in the final inning to make it a 12-9 win.

The high-scoring continued in third game of the weekend, with Texas State being able to climb back and grab a victory. Purdue enjoyed leads of 8-3 and 10-5, before back-to-back four-run innings gave the Bobcats a 13-11 victory. The teams fought to a weekend split with Texas State grabbing the finale 14-5.

Weather wrecks havoc

Before the season’s first pitch was tossed, forecasted inclement weather saw a handful of Big Ten teams adjust their schedules. But even the precautions and changes weren’t enough to steer clear of Mother Nature.

The torrential rains that hit California Friday, leading to mudslides and flooring, shortening the Irvine-Minnesota series, made its way into Arizona on Saturday and Sunday. Nebraska saw the final two games of its neutral site series against UC Riverside washed away. Northwestern’s series at Arizona State needed the final two days of the weekend to play the finale.

It wasn’t just out west where weather impacted or interrupted games. In Texas, Illinois’ opener versus Wisconsin-Milwaukee was delayed nearly six hours, while Penn State’s weekend capper at TCU was moved up to beat the rain. Rain put a halt in Iowa’s first victory of the year, the Hawkeyes waited out a two-hour and forty-one-minute rain in a 4-2 win over South Florida.

Offensive explosions

Nine of the 13 Big Ten programs scored at least nine runs in one game this weekend, going 13-1 in such games. Here’s a rundown of the gaudy offensive performance.

Illinois- 10-2 win vs. Milwaukee, Friday

Indiana- 12-3 win vs. Gonzaga, Friday

Maryland- 9-7 win vs. Alabama State, Sunday

Michigan- 10-7 win vs. Seton Hall, Sunday

Michigan State- 9-2, 9-7, 19-7, 14-5 victories over Abilene Christian

Minnesota- 9-8 win vs. UC Irvine, Friday

Ohio State- 15-10 win vs. Delaware, Saturday

Purdue- 9-3, 12-8 wins vs. Texas State, 13-11 loss vs. Texas State

Rutgers- 17-6 win vs. Miami, Sunday

Of note

Michigan State finished the weekend with a .401 team average. Senior second baseman Dan Durkin was named the Big Ten Player of the Week after an 11-RBI weekend.

Michigan sophomore second baseman Ako Thomas stole six bases in six attempts, as Michigan stole a conference-best 12 on the weekend.

Ohio State hit two grand slams in their wild win over the Blue Hens. The Buckeyes used a seven-run seventh inning to capture the victory.

Michigan State’s Marty Bechina and Ohio State’s Zach Ratcliff, on Saturday, were joined by Rutgers’ Jawuan Harris and Penn State’s Willie Burger, on Sunday, as players to hit two home runs in one game this weekend.

Quick hits

Terps scuffle, fall from polls

Maryland entered the season as the lone Big Ten team in the NCBWA poll. After a 1-2 weekend in Clearwater, Fla. the Terps’ ranked status was short-lived and the Big Ten now without a ranked team. A five-run sixth inning doomed No. 22 Maryland in their opening, falling 8-3 to Ball State. In a battle of ranked clubs, Maryland was unable to keep pace with No. 8 Louisville, outslugged 10-7. The Terrapins salvaged the weekend with a 9-7 win over Alabama State.

Indiana’s see-saw weekend

Indiana went 2-2 in Surprise, taking two games against Gonzaga between dropping a pair of contests to #7 Oregon State. The first game of a Friday doubleheader, nine hits were collected between the Hoosiers and Beavers in a 1-0 Oregon State win. IU’s bats rebounded for a 12-3 against the Zags, led by freshman Jake Matheny connecting on a pair of home runs. On Sunday, Indiana made it 2-for-2 against Gonzaga with a 5-1 victory. But, the weekend ended on a sour note, unable to top Oregon State again, falling in the weekend finale 4-1. The Hoosiers finished the weekend with a 1.59 ERA, but were held to 10 hits against Oregon State in their two defeats.

Illini freshmen arms show promise

Illinois opened the weekend 1-3, splitting a pair of games against Milwaukee, falling twice to host Lamar. After opening the year with a 10-2 win over the Panthers, three straight defeats sent the club back to Champaign looking for answers. As Dan Hartleb’s club gets back to work, they do so with a trio of freshmen pitchers coming off of strong debuts. Right-hander Ty Weber started the weekend finale for the Illini and pitched 4.2 innings of scoreless baseball. Cyrillo Watson pitched in relief twice, with the right-hander tossing four innings, allowing one run, matching Weber with three strikeouts. Southpaw Zack Jones was also used twice out of the bullpen, pitching a total of 3.1 innings, conceding one run off two hits while racking up five punchouts.

Hello…and hello, again!

In kicking off a new season, it’s only appropriate to say hello and introduce those who are new to the Big Ten. Here’s a look at transfers new to the Big Ten with the potential to have a big impact with their new clubs. The Big Ten has seen transfers pay immediate dividends over the last five years, with the likes of Indiana’s Caleb Baragar, Michigan’s Cody

Here’s a look at transfers new to the conference with the potential to have a big impact with their new clubs. The Big Ten has seen transfers pay immediate dividends over the past few years, with the likes of Indiana’s Caleb Baragar, Michigan’s Cody Bruder and Michigan State’s Jordan Zimmerman, who will be next?

Also, as we say hello to a few new guys, we re-introduce a few players returning to competition that look to figure prominently into the success of their team.

Welcome to the Big Ten

Iowa 1B Jake Adams

A two-year standout at Des Moines Area Community College, Adams will step into the first base vacancy created with the graduation of Tyler Peyton. While Peyton was a do-it-all, two-way talent, Adams is your prototypical first baseman, a physical presence with big raw power. Earning All-American honors in 2016, Adams batted .360 with 25 home runs and 75 RBI for DMACC, slugging .860 a year after slugging 17 long balls. If Adams can produce just half of his gaudy JUCO power numbers at the Division I level, the 6-for-2, 250-pound Hawkeye will be a force to reckon with.

Iowa C Tyler Cropley

Heading into his fourth season in Iowa City, Rick Heller has relied heavily on the JUCO ranks to deepen the Hawkeye roster in rebuilding the program. Leading Iowa to three consecutive 30-win seasons, Heller has found the right talent to spearhead Iowa’s charge. Like Adams, junior catcher Tyler Cropley is expected to be another instant performer. Cropley transfers in from Iowa Western, where he hit .403 as a sophomore in 2016. The batting line is impressive, but what the Hawkeye staff most raves about is Cropley’s speed and athleticism. Cropley is expected to be the Hawkeyes leadoff batter and is versatile enough to play center field if needed. He’s viewed as the best catcher Heller and staff have had to date.

Michigan OF Miles Lewis

Lewis arrives in Ann Arbor with previous Division I experience, a standout season to boot. Lewis was named the Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year in 2016 but needed a new home when North Dakota cut its baseball program. Receiving interest from across the country, Lewis, a native of Hudson, Wis., opted to return to the Midwest to join the Wolverines. In 45 games for the Fighting Hawks, Lewis batted .360 with five doubles, two triples and three home runs, stealing 20 bases.

Ohio State 2B Noah McGowan

Take a look at Ohio State’s starting second baseman and one may think he belongs on the gridiron, not diamond. A stout six-foot, 210-pound athlete, Noah McGowan’s father did play football at Stanford, but baseball is the choice for the Buckeye. McGowan arrives in Columbus by way of McClennan Community College, one of three Buckeyes from the Texas junior college, along with pitchers Reece Calvert and Dustin Jourdan. Last year, McGowan batted .393 with seven home runs, scoring 43 runs in 43 games for the Highlanders. McGowan looks to be a heart of the lineup threat.

Maryland OF Will Watson

Maryland head coach John Szefc received a good player from LSU-Eunice a year ago in Madison Nickens. Appearing in 56 games, Nickens led Maryland with 40 runs scored, finished second on the team with eight home runs, batting .260 in the process. The Terps hope similar production comes from junior outfielder Will Watson, another product from LSU-Eunice. Watson carried a .312 average next to a .482 on-base percentage and .518 slugging percentage for the junior college in 2016, driving in 40 runs while scoring 57 in 57 games.

Purdue LHP Nick Wojtysiak

An assistant at Oregon, and Arizona before that, Purdue head coach Mark Wasikowski knows how to mine the west coast for talent. As he looks to rebuild the Boilermaker program, he brings in Nick Wojtysiak, a native of Arizona, to help bolster Purdue’s bullpen. From Fountain Hills, Ariz., Wojtysiak attended and pitched for Pepperdine in 2015. After totaling four innings in four games, Wojtysiak moved on to pitch Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix for the 2016 season. Now, the southpaw, with a 90-mile-per-hour fastball and slider combination, looks to find a home in West Lafayette.

Welcome back

Michigan LHP Michael Hendrickson

Michael Hendrickson shined bright for Michigan in 2016. But as bright as his season was, it was also short. Starting the season as a long-relief option, before making a March 2 start against San Jose State, Hendrickson pitched 10.2 innings over three games. Scattering three runs for a 2.53 ERA, Hendrickson’s stats continued to stand out with 16 strikeouts next to only two walks. Limiting opponents to a .158 average, Hendrickson’s season ending after his 4.2-inning out against the Trojans, sidelined for the rest of the year with ulnar nerve injury. Reading to return to action, Hendrickson has a chance to emerge from a deep Wolverine pitching staff and take a spot in the Michigan rotation.

Nebraska RHP Jake Hohensee

Jake Hohensee missed all of the 2016 season recovering from offseason Tommy John surgery, but the last time the Husker right-hander saw extended action, he showed what he’s capable of. Making 12 relief appearance in 2015, Hohensee tossed 17.1 innings, conceding just four earned runs for a 2.08 ERA. Hohensee’s team-best ERA stood next to 14 strikeouts and six walks, holding the opposition to a .167 average over 60 at-bats. Hohensee will likely be limited to one outing per weekend, but he can play a big role for the Huskers in being a reliable relieve, capable of shutting down an opponent.

Ohio State RHP Jake Post

Jake Post last saw action for Ohio State in April 2015, providing a strong bullpen option for Greg Beals as the Buckeyes cracked the polls for the first time since 2010. A forearm strain, which ultimately led to Tommy John surgery prior to the 2016 season, sidelined Post for the final month of the season, one where the Buckeyes stumbled and went from potential regional host to outside of the NCAA Tournament. A fifth-year senior whose fastball sits in the low-90s, Post brings leadership and a live arm to the Buckeyes. Carrying a 2.12 ERA over 29.2 innings in 2015, Post holds a career 3.48 ERA in 108.2 innings on the mound, with 89 strikeouts next to 35 walks.

Michigan State LHP/1B Alex Troop

Alex Troop was viewed as a bit of a wunderkind when he arrived in East Lansing, in the fall of 2014. Having speed, power and arm strength, it wasn’t a matter of when Troop would be a force for the Spartans, but where he best fit. Troop pitched in 13 games, making seven starts, while playing 26 games in the field, making 14 starts in the outfield. Overall, the numbers were pedestrian, a 5.27 ERA in 42.2 innings, and a .226 batting average in 53 at-bats, but flashes of promise showed. That promise turned into production in 2016, albeit briefly. In four relief outings, Troop lowered his ERA to 1.64, striking out 14 batters with three walks in 11 innings. At the plate, Troop batted .372 over 12 games, grabbing six doubles and a home run. His season was cut short with a broken scaphoid bone in his left thumb, forcing a cast on his hand until June. No lingering issues, Troop is expected to take the ball on the mound on Friday nights for Michigan State and settle in at first base when not pitching. Troop has the ability to make an impact at the plate, on the mound and in the field, and likely won’t need long to reintroduce himself to college baseball.