The fourth weekend of the season saw action on multiple Big Ten diamonds for the first time this season as the non-conference slate winds down. From Lincoln to College Park, teams are starting to settle in around the conference, and look to round into form with the conference season approaching.
Maryland, Michigan stay hot with sweeps
The Big Ten’s lone ranked team, Michigan, and the only team to begin the season with a ranking, Maryland, are powering through March, living up to the high expectations.
Wolverines continue tear
After eight games in California, Michigan returned closer to home with three games at Lipscomb. Snow and unseasonably cold temperatures for Nashville moved Saturday’s game into a Friday doubleheader. The Wolverines did a bit of everything in taking both games, knocking off the Bisons 11-2 and 4-3.
In the first game, Michigan received an outstanding start from junior left-handed pitcher Oliver Jaskie. Racking up a career-high 11 strikeouts, Jaskie held Lipscomb to one run off three hits in six innings, improving to 2-0 on the season. The bottom of the U-M lineup carried the day in support of Jaskie. Drew Lugbauer, Jonathan Engelmann and Johnny Slater, the 7-8-9 batters, combined to go 4-for-10 with four runs and seven RBI, Lugbauer and Slater each connecting on a home run. Lugbauer’s two-run home run in the top of the seventh followed Lipscomb scoring in the bottom of the sixth to cut Michigan’s lead if half, 2-1.
Michigan grabbed the initial lead in the nightcap, but needed a last at-bat rally to sweep the day. A 1-0 lead in the top of the third was matched by a Bison run in the home-half. Lipscomb added a run in the fourth and one in the eighth to take a 3-1 lead to the ninth inning. Sophomore Miles Lewis opened the inning with a single, followed by Harrison Wenson drawing a walk. Michael Brdar reached on a fielding error that allowed Lewis, cutting the deficit in half. Pinch-hitting, Engelmann’s big day continued in sending game-winner through the left side, scoring Brdar and Wenson and giving Michigan a 4-3 lead. Senior right-handed pitcher Jackson Lamb tossed a scoreless ninth to close the game.
Pitching was the story on Sunday as Michigan shutout Lipscomb, 5-0. In five innings of work, junior left-handed pitcher Michael Hendrickson held Lipscomb to two hits, their only hits on the day. The Lipscomb hitting effort was doubled by Brdar himself, the senior shortstop going 4-for-4 with two runs and two RBI, on a day he hit his second home run of the season. Wenson connected for his fourth longball of the year and leadoff batter Ako Thomas went 2-for-3 with two walks.
The three-game sweep pushes Michigan’s record to 12-3 on the season, winning for the 10th time in 11 games.
Maryland handles Bryant
Before falling to North Carolina Tuesday night, Maryland rebounded from a rocky first two weekends, where the team sat 1-5, with a lengthy winning streak. Taking on Bryant for three games at home at Bob Smith Stadium, the Terrapins swept the weekend to run their winning streak to eight games.
In the series opener, junior right-handed pitcher Brian Shaffer struck out eight batters while allowing one run off five hits over seven innings as Maryland rallied late for a 7-1 victory. Bryant scored first, picking up doubles and singles in consecutive at-bats with two outs in the top of the fourth. Bryant starter Steve Theetge held the Terps in check for five innings, but a Will Watson RBI-single in the sixth tied the game, before Madison Nickens lifted a sacrifice fly to put Maryland in front. John Szefc’s team scored three runs in the seventh behind a two-RBI hit from Watson and tacked on two more in the eighth to close the scoring.
Weather also forced Maryland to sit out of action on Saturday, the Terrapins opting to double-up and play two on Sunday.
With temperatures in the low-30s, Maryland pitchers made sure the Bulldog bats stayed cold. Five pitchers combined to hold Bryant to eight hits in 18 innings, Maryland winning both games on Sunday, 9-2 and 4-0.
Winning the first game decisively, three runs in the bottom of the first would be all junior right-handed pitcher Taylor Bloom needed. Evening his record to 2-2 on the season, Bloom scattered four hits in seven innings, allowed two unearned runs in a 104-pitch effort. Sophomore right-hander John Murphy needed 18 pitches over the final two innings to cap the victory. Starting with an RBI-double in the bottom of the first, sophomore outfielder Marty Costes led the Maryland attack, going 3-for-3 with three runs. In the cleanup spot, first baseman Brandom Gum went 2-for-4 with a home run, two RBI and three runs, as Maryland scored two runs in each of the third, fifth and sixth innings.
Gum provided Maryland with the first run of the night cap, a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first scoring center fielder Zach Jancarski who drew a leadoff walk. A three-run outburst in the bottom of the fourth ended the scoring on the day, spurred by shortstop Kevin Smith driving a two-run double to right field. As Maryland improved to 9-5 on the season, freshman left-hander Tyler Blohm earned his third win in four decision, tossing six scoreless innings, surrendering only three hits and one walk, striking out six batters.
IU and RU show resilency in weekend wins
Two clubs looking to right the ship, the crimson and cream of Indiana and the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers were red-hot at the plate in winning weekends.
For Indiana, the Hoosiers bounced back in a big way after falling to Middle Tennessee State, 5-3 on Friday. In their home opener, a 3-0 deficit after two innings was too big for the Hoosiers to battle back from. But it would be the last time the team trailed against the Lightning. IU erupted for 23 hits en route to a 12-1 win on Saturday. Every
But it would be the last time the team trailed against the Lightning. IU erupted for 23 hits en route to a 12-1 win on Saturday. Every
IU erupted for 23 hits en route to a 12-1 win on Saturday. Every starter recorded a hit, with Matt Gorski, Jake Matheny and Luke Miller picking up three hits, Craig Dedelow led the offense with a 4-for-5 game, picking up two doubles. Indiana scored a run in the second, before erupting for seven in the third, adding a tally in the fourth and three in the fifth. Brian Hobbie pitched six innings of one-run baseball to record his first victory of the season.
Indiana’s offensive output was cut in half in the rubber match, but the third Big Ten team to toss a shutout allowed IU to cruise to a 6-0 victory. Andrew Saalfrank pitched six innings, striking out six batters, allowing just three hit. Matt Lloyd and BJ Sabol allowed one hit each, respectively over two and one innings to clinch the shutout. Leadoff batter Alex Krupa picked up his second home run in as many games, opening the game with a leadoff home run to provide the Hoosiers with all the offense they would need on the day. Ryan Fineman and Jeremy Houston each picked up a pair of hits.
Rutgers followed the Indiana script, dropping the opening game before picking up two straight victories to end the weekend with a series win.
Against North Florida, the Ospreys were too much to hand on Friday night, the Atlantic Sun program rolling to a 15-1 victory.
But the Scarlet Knights showed their mettle, rebounding with a 2-1 victory on Saturday. Making his first start since May 10, 2015, senior right-handed pitcher Gaby Rosa pitched seven innings of one-run baseball, holding North Florida to three hits. The sterling start from Rosa allowed Rutgers to make the most of two runs. In the top of the second, third baseman Milo Freeman was hit by a pitch and scored on a double to right center by Chris Folinusz. The two would be back at it in the fourth, giving RU the winning run. Freeman and Christian Campbell picked up back-to-back singles before Folinusz sent a liner to center field, plating Freeman for the go-ahead run. Freeman and Folinusz each went 2-for-3 to pace Rutgers at the plate. Two scoreless innings of relief from Max Hermann closed the game.
RU carried its momentum into Sunday, where an 18-hit attack powered the team to victory. Rutgers scored in all but the second, sixth and eighth innings, as all nine batters reached base safely. First baseman Mike Carter picked up four hits in five at-bats, driving in five runs, to lead a 3-4-5 heart of the order that went 11-for-17. On the mound, Campbell was the benefactor of the offensive onslaught, moving to 2-0 on the year with five innings of work, allowing four runs, three earned, while holding North Florida to five hits.
Opportunities squandered versus ranked foes
The Big Ten has had a rough go against ranked teams this season, and this past weekend was no different. Games against Coastal Carolina, Florida Gulf Coast and South Carolina provided the conference with opportunities to take down the number 21, 24 and nine teams in this week’s NCBWA poll. While Michigan State wasn’t sharp enough to take a game in two tries against South Carolina, Illinois and Ohio State did finish the weekend with a win over a ranked foe. But both were left to stomach ninth-inning collapses that cost each a weekend victory.
Against FGCU, Ohio State carried a 9-4 lead into the ninth inning of Friday’s weekend opener, before several miscues put an end to the Buckeyes upset bid. Ohio State pitchers issued two walks and hit a batter, with two errors, the latter on would-be inning-ending double play, leading to a 10-9 walk-off defeat. Florida Gulf Coast enjoyed a 13-1 victory on Saturday to take the series from Ohio State before Greg Beals’ team bounced back on Sunday. But again having to sweat out a ninth inning. Ohio State scored three runs in the first, and responded to a FGCU run in the third with one in the fifth. An insurance run in the seventh would prove vital as FGCU scored three times in the ninth, but this time OSU left the tying run on base, escaping with a 5-4 win.
The Illini started their weekend with a win over Coastal Carolina, 7-6, giving the Illini its first win over a defending national champion since 1965. The see-saw affair saw CCU score three runs in the second, but Illinois responded with four in the fourth, powered by Anthony Drago hitting a three-run home run in the inning. The Chanticleers regained the lead with two runs in the fifth, adding a run in the sixth, but Illinois crossed home twice in the seventh and score the winning run in the eighth. Four pitchers worked the final three innings to shore up the marquee victory.
With weather moving up Sunday’s game to Saturday, the start of a long day at the park was shaping up to be a special one. Freshman right-handed pitcher Ty Weber carried a no-hitter into the eighth, ending the day after 7.2 innings of one-hit and one-run baseball. Illinois holding a 2-1 lead since the first inning, was unable to clinch a weekend win when back-to-back one-out home runs lead to a walk-off victory for Coastal Carolina, 3-2. Illinois did receive a no-hit start from sophomore pitcher Luke Shilling, the right-hander pitched five hitless innings but also walked seven batters. Two runs in the sixth and four in the seventh gave CCU a 6-0 victory, with Illinois held to five hits and committing four errors in the rubber match.
Nebraska salvaged a home series against Western Carolina, taking Sunday’s game, 10-0, after dropping the first two games of the weekend. Western Carolina won 5-2 on Friday, and 8-2 on Saturday, but the Catamounts could not crack Jake Meyers, the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week. The Husker starting pitcher tossed a shutout, scattering five hits, walking one batter with four strikeouts, needing 104 pitches to toss the complete game. Every Nebraska batter recorded a hit in a 13-hit output, lead by right fielder Scott Schreiber going 3-for-5.
In back-to-back weekends, Northwestern has played its best baseball on the west coast. The Wildcats split a four-game set at Santa Clara in the first weekend of March, and now have their first weekend victory of the season. NU split a Friday doubleheader against Portland, falling 5-2 before rebounding with a 6-4 victory. In the rubber match, a three-RBI game from Ben Dickey propelled the ‘Cats to a 9-5, seven-inning win.
Mark Penn State as another club who fared well in the Pacific time zone. The Nittany Lions only had four hits in their weekend opener at Sacramento State, but it was enough for four runs in a 4-2 victory. Corner outfielders Jordan Bowersox and Nick Riotto each slugged a home run in support of junior right-hander Sal Biasi. Biasi struck out nine while holding Sacramento State to two runs, in 5.2 innings. Nick Distasio tossed the final 3.1 innings, allowing just one hit, to give PSU the win. An 11-3 loss on Friday evened the series, but Penn State returned to State College with a second consecutive series win, picking up a 6-1 victory. Sophomore first baseman Willie Burger went 3-for-5 with two runs and four RBI, hitting his third home run of the season and added a double from the cleanup spot. A quartet of pitchers held Sacramento State to two hits, led by Cole Bartels pitching 3.2 innings in his first career start.
Against Cal State-Northridge, Purdue ended an extended weekend in Los Angeles County with a win. CSUN won the first game, 16-8, but pitchers ruled the day in game two. Each team limited to scoring in only one inning, CSUN’s four-run second topped Purdue’s one-run ninth in the win. Another four-run inning spelled doom for Purdue on Sunday. The Boilermakers scored twice in the top of the fifth to enjoy a 4-1 lead, but the Matadors struck for four runs in their fifth-inning at-bat, en route to a 5-4 victory. On Monday, Purdue’s bullpen and the big bat of Nick Dalesandro produced a 9-3 win. Four pitchers, Ross Learnard, Kyle Schweiger, Cameron Williams and Nick Wojtysiak combined to pitch 6.2 innings of one-run relief. The Purdue ‘pen held a 2-2 tie from the third inning on, allowing for a six-run eighth to be the decisive inning. Going 4-for-5, Dalesandro picked up two doubles and a pair of singles, scoring twice, his double to right field with a runner on igniting the 10-at-bat eighth.
Minnesota started the weekend strong with a 5-2 victory over Missouri State, but the Bears were a tough out at the plate the rest of the weekend, turning back the Gophers 7-2 and 12-3 to win the weekend in Minneapolis. Lucas Gilbreath struck out six batters in five innings on Friday, earning the victory in allowing three runs, one earned. Sunday’s game was the final contest for the Gophers in U.S. Bank Stadium for the season.
Iowa split its weekend in Port Charlotte, Fla., playing four games in the Snowbird Classic. The Hawkeyes dropped a 10-1 game to Villanova on Friday and were topped by Bucknell, 7-1 on Saturday. But after combining for two runs in the two defeats, Rick Heller’s group crossed home 23 times in taking a Sunday doubleheader against Lehigh. Iowa used an eight-run second inning to win 15-7 in the first game and racked up 18 hits to roll to an 8-3 win in the finale.