Rosement, Ill. – Minnesota was voted the preseason favorite to claim the 2019 Big Ten Baseball Championship as selected by the conference coaches and announced on Wednesday. The coaches voted on the top six teams and also selected three students from their own squads to a Preseason Honors list. The Gophers were followed in the preseason poll by Michigan in second place, No. 3 Illinois, Indiana in fourth place, No. 5 Ohio State and Nebraska and Purdue tied for sixth place.
The Golden Gophers posted a 44-15 record last year en route to their 24th Big Ten Championship, the 2018 Big Ten Tournament Championship and an NCAA Super Regional berth. The Gophers became the first team since 2014 (Indiana) to win both the regular season and tournament titles in the same year. Minnesota is led into 2019 by preseason honorees pitcher Patrick Fredrickson, pitcher and outfielder Max Meyer and outfielder Ben Mezzenga. Fredrickson, the 2018 Big Ten Pitcher and Freshman of the Year, finished with a team-best 9-0 record and 73 strikeouts while leading the rotation with a 1.86 ERA, while first-team All-Big Ten honoree Meyer tied the program record with 16 saves while posting a 2.06 ERA. Mezzenga played in all 59 games and led the team with a .466 on-base percentage, while finishing second on the team with a .383 batting average.
The Wolverines finished 2018 with a 33-21 overall record. Last season, Dominic Clementi led the Wolverines with a .368 batting average and earned an All-Big Ten Conference First-Team selection, while Jesse Franklin and Jordan Nwogu captured All-Big Ten Freshman Team honors to go with numerous freshman All-America accolades. Franklin finished the season with a team-leading .588 slugging percentage and 10 home runs, while Nwogu posted a .349 batting average with a .571 slugging percentage and a .442 on-base percentage.
The Fighting Illini reached the Big Ten Tournament semifinals in 2018, finishing the year with a 33-20 overall record. Among Illinois’ preseason honorees is Michael Massey, the 2018 ABCA/Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner for second base, who finished the year with 166 assists and a .996 fielding percentage. Left-handed pitcher Andy Fisher, who went 6-3 on the year with a 3.96 ERA in 15 appearances, appears on the list of honorees along with right-handed pitcher Quinn Snarskis, who went 6-1 on the season with a 2.84 ERA in 73 innings pitched.
Indiana accumulated a 40-19 overall record a year ago and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight year and eighth time overall. Among the Hoosiers’ preseason honorees are First-Team All-Big Ten selections Matt Gorski and Matt Lloyd, and transfer right-handed pitcher Tanner Gordon. Gorski led the Hoosiers in batting average (.356), hits (79) and total bases (123), while Lloyd threw 23.1 innings, striking out 22 batters and only allowing four earned runs, ending the season with a 4-2 record, seven saves, and a 1.54 ERA.
Ohio State finished the 2018 season with a 36-24 record and the team’s 21st appearance in the NCAA Tournament and second in the past three seasons. The Buckeyes return junior outfielder Dominic Canzone, sophomore catcher Dillon Dingler and junior first baseman Conner Pohl. Canzone finished second in the Big Ten in hits (80), fourth in doubles (18) and sixth in runs scored (51) last year, while Dingler batted .244 with 31 runs scored, 21 walks and 17 RBI in 53 games. Pohl, a Third-Team All-Big Ten honoree, batted .279 (64-for-229) with 41 runs scored, five doubles, seven home runs, 49 RBI and 36 walks in 60 starts last season.
Nebraska posted a 24-28 record last year and are led into 2019 by preseason honorees shortstop Angelo Altavilla, right-handed pitcher Chad Luensmann and infielder/catcher Luke Roskam. Last season, Altavilla started 46 of his 48 appearances with 32 starts at shortstop, 12 starts at third base and two starts as the designated hitter, while ranking in the top five on the team in runs scored (35), RBIs (28) and walks (30). Roskam led the Huskers in walks (34), while ranking third in home runs (5), RBIs (46) and total bases (82). Luensmann returns this season after having Tommy John surgery last year.
Purdue made its third appearance in the NCAA Tournament last season and the first since 2012, finishing with a 38-21 record. The Boilermakers return junior outfielder Skyler Hunter and sophomore outfielder Ben Nisle, while welcoming a transfer catcher in Zac Fascia. Hunter started all 59 games for the Boilermakers and led the team in hits (78) for the second year in a row, while Nisle batted .304 with 28 runs scored, seven home runs and 43 RBI in 58 games.
The 2019 Big Ten baseball season is set to begin on Friday, Feb. 15. The preseason poll, featuring the top six teams, and the complete Preseason Honors list can be found below.
2019 BIG TEN BASEBALL PRESEASON POLL (top six teams and ties)
5 Ohio State
2019 BIG TEN BASEBALL PRESEASON HONORS LIST
Andy Fisher, LHP, Sr., Illinois
Michael Massey, 2B, Jr., Illinois
Quinn Snarskis, RHP, Sr., Illinois
Tanner Gordon, RHP, Jr., Indiana
Matt Gorski, OF, Jr., Indiana
Matt Lloyd, UTIL/RHP, Sr., Indiana
Jack Dreyer, LHP, So., Iowa
Cole McDonald, RHP, Sr., Iowa
Chris Whelan, OF, Sr., Iowa
AJ Lee, SS, Sr., Maryland
John Murphy, RHP, Sr., Maryland
Hunter Parsons, RHP, Sr., Maryland
Dominic Clementi, DH, Jr., Michigan
Jesse Franklin, OF, So., Michigan
Jordan Nwogu, OF, So., Michigan
Marty Bechina, SS, Sr., Michigan State
Indigo Diaz, RHP, Jr., Michigan State
Mason Erla, RHP, So., Michigan State
Patrick Fredrickson, RHP, So., Minnesota
Max Meyer, RHP/OF, So., Minnesota
Ben Mezzenga, OF, Sr., Minnesota
Angelo Altavilla, SS, Sr., Nebraska
Chad Luensmann, RHP, Jr., Nebraska
Luke Roskam, C/INF, Jr., Nebraska
Hank Christie, RHP, Jr., Northwestern
Jack Dunn, SS, Sr., Northwestern
Alex Erro, 2B, Jr., Northwestern
Dominic Canzone, OF, Jr., Ohio State
Dillon Dingler, C, So., Ohio State
Conner Pohl, 1B, Jr., Ohio State
Dante Biasi, LHP, So., Penn State
Parker Hendershot, DH/IF, So., Penn State
Ryan Sloniger, C, Sr., Penn State
Zac Fascia, C, Jr., Purdue
Skyler Hunter, OF, Jr., Purdue
Ben Nisle, OF, So., Purdue
Mike Nyisztor, OF, So., Rutgers
Harry Rutkowski, LHP, So., Rutgers
Kevin Welsh, INF, Jr., Rutgers