Indiana Tabbed as Coaches’ Preseason Favorite

Rosemont, Ill. — Indiana was voted the preseason favorite to claim the 2018 Big Ten Baseball Championship as voted on 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 Hoosiers were followed in the preseason poll by Nebraska in second place, No. 3 Minnesota, Maryland in fourth place, No. 5 Michigan and Iowa in sixth place.

Indiana accumulated a 34-24-2 overall record a year ago and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. Among the Hoosiers’ preseason honorees are Academic All-Big Ten honoree Luke Miller and second-team All-Big Ten selections Matt Lloyd and Logan Sowers. Miller tied for third in the Big Ten in runs (52), tied for eighth in home runs (10), and was 11th in total bases (109) last season. Lloyd was Indiana’s primary closer, tying for fourth in the conference in saves (9), while Sowers led the Big Ten with 19 doubles, was third in total bases (127) and fourth in home runs (13).

The Cornhuskers return as the defending Big Ten Champions. Nebraska posted a 35-22-1 record last year and are led into 2018 by preseason honorees right-handed pitcher/outfielder Luis Alvarado, left-handed pitcher Jake McSteen and outfielder/first baseman Scott Schreiber. Last season, Alvarado saw time in the outfield as well as on the mound as the Huskers’ co-closer with Chad Luensmann, while ranking third on the team in runs scored (39). McSteen played in 22 games as a reliever and posted a 4-0 record for the Cornhuskers to go along with a 2.04 ERA. Schreiber led the Husker offense in most statistical categories, including batting average (.330), slugging percentage (.494), hits (77), RBIs (51), home runs (7) and doubles (15) to earn first-team All-Big Ten recognition.

The Golden Gophers posted a 36-20 record last year and are led into 2018 by preseason honorees infielder Micah Coffey, first baseman Toby Hanson and infielder Luke Pettersen. Coffey, a second-team All-Big Ten honoree, appeared in 51 games for the Gophers, hitting .340 with 69 hits and 46 RBI. Hanson started all 57 games at first base, posting a .319 batting average and leading the team with 57 RBIs, earning him third-team All-Big Ten honors. Pettersen appeared in 56 games in 2017 and led the Gophers with a .354 batting average with 69 hits.

Maryland finished the season with a 37-22 record last year. The Terrapins return junior outfielder Marty Costes, who started all 61 games. Costes, a returning first-team All-Big Ten selection, hit .322 on the year, tied for the team lead with 13 home runs and notched a slugging percentage of .548. Also representing Maryland on the Preseason Honors list are junior infielder Nick Dunn, who batted .261 with a career-high five home runs last season, and sophomore left-handed pitcher Tyler Blohm, who made 16 starts, posting a 3.48 ERA in 75.0 innings pitched a year ago.

The Wolverines finished 2017 with their 23rd NCAA Tournament appearance and a 42-17 overall record. Junior outfielder Jonathan Engelmann ended the 2017 season with a .339 slugging percentage and a .341 on-base percentage, scoring 33 runs and adding 30 RBI. Junior outfielder Miles Lewis started all 59 games in left field for the Wolverines and finished the season with a team-leading 14 doubles. Ako Thomas, a junior infielder for the Wolverines and 2017 first-team All-Big Ten selection, led the team with a .994 fielding percentage and a .354 batting average.

The Hawkeyes claimed their first Big Ten Tournament title last season, finishing the year with a 39-22 overall record. Among Iowa’s preseason honorees are Tyler Cropley, a second-team All-Big Ten and All-Tournament selection who hit .268 with 41 runs and 36 RBIs in 2017, along with right-handed pitcher Zach Daniels, who went 7-3 on the year with a 3.22 ERA in 24 appearances. Outfielder Robert Neustrom, a second-team All-Big Ten honoree who started all 61 games and hit .310 with 79 hits, 41 runs, and 55 RBIs, rounds out the list.

The 2018 Big Ten baseball season is set to begin on Friday, Feb. 16. The preseason poll, featuring the top six teams, and the complete Preseason Honors list can be found below.

2018 BIG TEN BASEBALL PRESEASON POLL (top six teams)
1. Indiana
2. Nebraska
3. Minnesota
4. Maryland
5. Michigan
6. Iowa

2018 BIG TEN BASEBALL PRESEASON HONORS LIST
Michael Massey, INF, So., Illinois
Zac Taylor, OF, Jr., Illinois
Jack Yalowitz, OF, Jr., Illinois
Matt Lloyd, INF, Jr., Indiana
Luke Miller, INF, So., Indiana
Logan Sowers, OF, Sr., Indiana
Tyler Cropley, C/OF, Sr., Iowa
Zach Daniels, RHP/INF, Jr., Iowa
Robert Neustrom, OF, Jr., Iowa
Tyler Blohm, SP, So., Maryland
Marty Costes, OF, Jr., Maryland
Nick Dunn, INF, Jr., Maryland
Jonathan Engelmann, OF, Jr., Michigan
Miles Lewis, OF, Jr., Michigan
Ako Thomas, INF, Jr., Michigan
Riley McCauley, RHP, Jr., Michigan State
Bryce Kelley, OF/LHP, So., Michigan State
Jake Lowery, RHP, Sr., Michigan State
Micah Coffey, INF, Sr., Minnesota
Toby Hanson, INF/OF, Sr., Minnesota
Luke Pettersen, INF, Sr., Minnesota
Luis Alvarado, RHP/OF, Sr., Nebraska
Jake McSteen, SP, Jr., Nebraska
Scott Schreiber, OF, Sr., Nebraska
Hank Christie, SP, So., Northwestern
Jack Dunn, INF, Jr., Northwestern
Alex Erro, INF, So., Northwestern
Dominic Canzone, OF, So., Ohio State
Ryan Feltner, SP, Jr., Ohio State
Seth Kinker, RHP, Sr., Ohio State
Jordan Bowersox, OF, Jr., Penn State
Justin Hagenman, SP, Jr., Penn State
Mason Nadeau, OF, So., Penn State
Tanner Andrews, SP, Sr., Purdue
Ross Learnard, RP, Sr., Purdue
Harry Shipley, INF, Sr., Purdue
Jawuan Harris, OF, Jr., Rutgers
Nick Matera, C, Jr., Rutgers
John O’Reilly, SP, Sr., Rutgers

Newcomers to know

More and more, freshman are entering Big Ten programs ready to produce from day one. Left-hander pitcher Tyler Blohm was a weekend staple for Maryland last year, making 16 starts, a year after Jawuan Harris stole a Big Ten-leading 37 bases as a rookie for Rutgers. Jake Bivens, Chad Luensmann and Logan Sowers are a few of the other players with big debut seasons in recent years.

But freshman aren’t alone as players who have made sizable contributions in their first year on a Big Ten campus.

The Big Ten has seen transfers make immediate marks in recent years. Matt Llyod was a two-way standout for Indiana last year, serving as a power-hitting closer. Purdue reliever Ross Learnard set multiple program records en route to All-America honors, while the accolades were seemingly endless for Jake Adams, the 2017 Big Ten Player of the Year, after the 29-home run season he put together as a driving force behind Iowa’s Houston Regional club.

Here’s a rundown of the players new to the Big Ten you need to know entering the 2018 season.

Freshmen

Maryland outfielder Randy Bednar

Baseball America’s preseason Freshman of the Year, and the publication’s top 2020 Big Ten draft prospect, Bednar was a 27th-round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves before arriving in College Park. The Maryland staff believes Bednar can develop into an elite top-of-the-order threat and strong two-way player.

Michigan shortstop Jack Blomgren

Likely sooner than later, Blomgren is expected to emerge as Michigan’s everyday shortstop. Although he hails from Wisconsin, a state with a relatively short high school season and climate not conducive to year-round repetitions, Blomgren arrives in Ann Arbor with advanced defensive skills and a glove that’s college-ready at a premium position.

Michigan outfielder/infielder Jesse Franklin

Michigan saw 11 players drafted from its Chapel Hill Regional team, leaving Erik Bakich’s program with a fill holes to fill. One player who spurned a professional opportunity is Jesse Franklin, a Washington native who said no to more than $1 million from the hometown Seattle Mariners. Franklin will start his career as a first baseman/DH due to a labrum injury from high school, but when healthy, Michigan expects an elite, left-handed, center fielder who can run, throw and hit.

Michigan State catcher Adam Proctor

Few players, regardless of class, may be able to match the raw power Adam Proctor brings to the plate. Joining a program known for physicality and imposing figures, by the time Proctor’s career in East Lansing ends, he may have better numbers than those of former mashers Ryan Krill, Jimmy Pickens, Blaise Salter and company.

Minnesota right-handed pitcher/first baseman Max Meyer

Minnesota produced one of the Big Ten’s best two-way players in recent years in 2016 Big Ten Player of the Year Matt Fiedler. A right-handed pitcher and outfielder, Fiedler is the comp the Minnesota staff places on Meyer, a good athlete with a power fastball and easy stroke, Meyer maky DH and come out of the bullpen as a closer in year one.

Nebraska outfielder Jaxon Hallmark

Jaxon Hallmark left an impressionable mark on the Husker staff in the fall, showing an ability to make an impact with his bat and versatility with his glove. As a senior, Hallmark earned District 3 6A Pitcher MVP and District 3 6A Defensive MVP honors. Media reports out of Lincoln give Hallmark glowing reviews, a likely starter from day one for the reigning Big Ten champions.

Northwestern outfielder David Dunn

Northwestern head coach Spencer Allen was able to head to the Peachtree State to pluck a talented prep. Able to clock a 60-yard spring time of sub-6.5 seconds, Dunn brings an explosiveness to the Wildcat lineup, expected to man center field while using his speed to provide a threat on the bases to compliment his developing hit tool.

Rutgers left-handed pitcher Harry Rutkowski

A 28th-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds, left-handed pitcher Harry Rutkowski looks the part of a big league pitcher with a 6’2, 230-pound frame. He also possess the type of stuff that has Rutgers head coach Joe Literrio envisioning a big role in Rutkowski’s first season. Rutkowski pounds the strike zone with a fastball that touches the low-90s, with an advance feel and mound presence.

JUCO transfers

Iowa right-handed pitcher Brady Schanuel

A two-time MLB draft pick, Schanuel hopes to be the latest impact transfer for Rick Heller. After going 10-3 with a 1.83 ERA as a freshman at Parkland Community College, Schanuel went 10-1 with a 2.13 ERA, striking out 130 batters in 80.1 innings in 2017. Even after two dominant seasons, Schaneul arrives in Iowa City a bit raw, but with a big, mid-90s fastball the right-handed has a high ceiling and will open the season as the Hawkeyes #3 starter.

Maryland third baseman Taylor Wright

A native of Vancouver before attending Colorado Northwestern Community College, Wright enters his third year of college baseball as Maryland’s expected third baseman. With a lean 6’3, 180-pound frame, Wright is a strong athlete with good bat-to-ball skills and plate discipline, in two years at CNCC Wright drew 56 walks against 40 strikeouts.

Michigan State second baseman Bailey Peterson

A big hole was left for Michigan State at second base with the graduation of Dan Durkin. But the pain will be lessen if Bailey Peterson plays up to the potential Jake Boss sees in the Kellogg Community College transfer. Peterson has a bat-first skill set, similar to former Spartan and All-Big Ten selection Jordan Zimmerman, but isn’t a slouch in the field and brings above-average speed to the bases.

Ohio State outfielder Malik Jones

A two-year standout at Weatherford Community College in Texas, the Buckeye staff views Malik Jones as a top-of-the-order table setter, using speed to be a threat on the bases and cover plenty of ground as the everyday center fielder. In two years at Weatherford, Jones stole 47 bases, but also picked up 34 doubles for the Coyotes.

Purdue left-handed pitcher Ryan Beard

Mark Wasikowski knows it’s a tall task to expect a transfer to step in as a weekend starter, but that’s the role left-handed pitcher Ryan Beard will take on. From College of Southern Idaho Junior College, Beard pitched to a 1.04 ERA and .177 batting average against over 69.1 innings in 2017, using a commandable, low-90s fastball to attack hitters.

Division I transfers

Illinois outfielder Zac Taylor

An 10 Innings preseason All-Big Ten selection, Taylor, a native of Downers Grove, Ill., was a impact player in his two seasons at Houston before transferring to Illinois. Taylor stole 32 bases in 38 attempts in two seasons as a Cougar, before exiting the American Athletic Conference with a bang, batting .375 and slugged .813 with six hits and three runs, one triple and two home runs, while driving in four runs during the 2016 conference tournament.

Indiana right-handed pitcher Connor Manous

Indiana returned nearly every pitcher from its 2016 Lexington Regional team, yet a newcomer looks ready to step into the weekend rotation. Right-handed pitcher Connor Manous has shown outstanding stuff to Chris Lemonis in staff in the offseason. A native of Munster, Ind., Manous, the Chicago Post-Tribune 2016 Player of the Year, was a University of Miami recruit out of high school, but returned home after the fall semester last year as a freshman.

Rutgers right-handed pitcher Karl Blum

A graduate transfer from Duke, Karl Blum joined decided to head back to his home state and join younger brother Kevin as a Scarlet Knight over the season. From Toms River, N.J., Blum is expected to be a key reliever out of the Rutgers bullpen for Joe Literrio, a role he performed well in during his time in the Atlantic Coast Conference. In 2017, Blum held a 3.18 ERA in 28.1 innings, striking out 20 batters in 21 outings.

10 Innings Preseason All-Big Ten

First Team

Position
Player
Class
School
AVG
OBP
SLG
2B
3B
HR
R
RBI
SB/ATT
C
Tyler Cropley
Sr.
Iowa
.268
.371
.459
8
2
9
41
36
6/10
1B
Toby Hanson
Sr.
Minnesota
.319
.350
.477
14
4
5
35
57
3/3
2B
Ako Thomas
Jr.
Michigan
.354
.462
.396
7
0
0
41
21
23/28
SS
Terrin Vavra
Jr.
Minnesota
.308
.396
.418
8
4
2
36
19
7/9
3B
Micah Coffey
Sr.
Minnesota
.340
.396
.493
15
2
4
35
46
3/4
OF
Marty Costes
Jr.
Maryland
.322
.429
.548
9
3
13
45
46
5/5
OF
Robert Neustrom
Jr.
Iowa
.310
.358
.486
16
1
9
41
55
10/14
OF
Jack Yalowitz
Jr.
Illinois
.335
.409
.590
9
3
12
42
44
10/15
DH
Scott Schreiber
Sr.
Nebraska
.330
.376
.494
15
1
7
45
51
0/0
UTIL
Matt Lloyd
Sr.
Indiana
.301
.393
.554
16
0
11
36
46
1/4
L/R
Pitcher
Class
School
IP
W-L
ERA
SO
BB
BAA
SV
LHP
Tyler Blohm
So.
Maryland
75
8-6
3.48
71
35
.227
0
RHP
Taylor Bloom
Sr.
Maryland
89.1
7-2
3.83
53
25
.289
0
RHP
Riley McCauley
Jr.
Michigan State
25.2
1-0
2.10
49
11
.224
9
LHP
Ross Learnard
Sr.
Purdue
46.1
6-0
0.58
37
10
.196
4
RHP
Matt Lloyd
Jr.
Indiana
32.1
3-2
2.23
20
6
.241
9

Second Team

Position
Player
Class
School
AVG
OBP
SLG
2B
3B
HR
R
RBI
SB/ATT
C
Nick Dalesandro
Jr.
Purdue
.297
.357
.387
8
1
3
38
42
13/14
1B
Jacson McGowan
Jr.
Purdue
.292
.347
.500
15
3
8
24
50
4/5
2B
Michael Massey
So.
Illinois
.330
.360
.483
12
1
6
22
36
4/7
SS
Angelo Altavilla
Jr.
Nebraska
.316
.407
.406
14
1
1
38
39
2/3
3B
Luke Miller
Jr.
Indiana
.272
.331
.464
15
0
10
52
42
2/2
OF
Dominic Canzone
So.
Ohio St.
.343
.390
.458
4
3
3
22
36
13/15
OF
Jawuan Harris
Jr.
Rutgers
.269
.377
.468
9
2
8
39
26
23/30
OF
Zach Jancarski
Sr.
Maryland
.325
.434
.454
17
2
3
50
26
20/30
DH
Logan Sowers
Sr.
Indiana
.291
.356
.536
19
0
13
34
43
2/3
UTIL
Luis Alvarado
Sr.
Nebraska
.283
.324
.381
12
2
2
39
25
5/5
L/R
Pitcher
Class
School
IP
W-L
ERA
SO
BB
BAA
SV
LHP
Nick Allgeyer*
Jr.
Iowa
LHP
Tommy Henry
So.
Michigan
31
3-1
3.19
39
11
.263
1
RHP
Jonathan Stiever
Jr.
Indiana
77.1
4-4
4.31
57
9
.275
0
LHP
Sam Lawrence
So.
Northwestern
47.1
5-3
2.85
24
12
.274
2
RHP
Luis Alvarado
Sr.
Nebraska
15.2
0-0
1.72
15
7
.182
10

Third Team

Position
Player
Class
School
AVG
OBP
SLG
2B
3B
HR
R
RBI
SB/ATT
C
Chris Folinusz
Sr.
Rutgers
.283
.325
.391
9
0
2
21
22
3/3
1B
Willie Burger
Jr.
Penn St.
.280
.333
.409
6
0
5
22
27
2/3
2B
Nick Dunn
Jr.
Maryland
.261
.345
.384
13
1
5
40
32
8/8
SS
Harry Shipley
Sr.
Purdue
.266
.405
.337
9
1
1
42
23
24/31
3B
Marty Bechina
Jr.
Michigan St.
.263
.396
.426
8
1
7
34
29
11/13
OF
Skyler Hunter
So.
Purdue
.323
.355
.388
9
2
0
28
34
8/13
OF
Bryce Kelley
So.
Michigan St.
.353
.416
.436
7
3
0
34
21
13/18
OF
Zac Taylor**
Jr.
Illinois
DH
Chad Roskelly
Sr.
Michigan St.
.324
.427
.463
6
0
3
19
24
2/2
UTIL
Jordan Kozicky
So.
Minnesota
.325
.421
.476
11
1
4
38
28
3/3
L/R
Pitcher
Class
School
IP
W-L
ERA
SO
BB
BAA
SV
LHP
Connor Curlis
Jr.
Ohio State
62.2
5-3
4.02
58
19
.237
0
RHP
Ryan Feltner
Jr.
Ohio State
62.2
1-5
6.32
57
28
.293
0
RHP
Alec Rennard
Sr.
Michigan
65
6-2
4.43
65
15
.251
0
RHP
Jake Hohensee
Sr.
Nebraska
80
7-3
4.39
57
28
.243
0

*Missed the 2017 recovering from Tommy John surgery

**Sat out the 2017 per NCAA requirements after transferring from Houston

Video Board Installations Set for Bart Kaufman Field

Bloomington, Ind. — Indiana Athletics today announced plans for new LED video boards at Bart Kaufman Field and Andy Mohr Field, set to be installed prior to this season’s home openers for Indiana baseball and softball.

“We are thrilled to have this vision of ours now become a reality,” said baseball head coach Chris Lemonis. “To have a video board at Bart Kaufman Field, one of the premier college baseball stadiums in the Midwest, will take our already great game day atmosphere – for both our fans and players – to the next level. I want to thank Fred Glass and all of our administration for their continuous support of Indiana baseball. I’m incredibly excited for our fans to experience a new era of Indiana baseball come our home opener on March 7th.”

“Andy Mohr Field is one of the top venues in college softball,” said softball head coach Shonda Stanton. “Adding this video board will only increase the experience for fans to enjoy a sport that is fast-paced and dynamic. I want to thank Fred Glass and all involved for making this become a reality for our program.”

The board at Bart Kaufman Field will measure 26.8 feet high by 48.7 feet wide. At Andy Mohr Field, the board will be 16 feet high by 27 feet wide.

Indiana will work with Anthony James Partners, Prismview and the University Architect’s Office on the installation of the boards. IU baseball opens its home schedule on March 7 against Cincinnati, while softball begins play at Andy Mohr Field on March 16 by hosting the Hoosier Classic.

Road to Omaha: Lexington Regional

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

The teams

#1 Kentucky

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

Head coach: Nick Mingione, first year

NCAA Tournament history: Seventh appearance, last in 2014.

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

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

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

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

#2 Indiana

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

Head coach: Chris Lemonis, third season.

NCAA Tournament history: Sixth appearance, last in 2015

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

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

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

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

#3 North Carolina State

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

Head coach: Elliott Avent, 20th season

NCAA Tournament history: 29th appearance, last in 2016

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

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

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

Noteworthy: The Wolfpack are in the NCAA Tournament for a third straight season. NCSU started the season ranked sixth by D1Baseball.com. North Carolina State obviously didn’t have the season on par with such lofty expectations, but they have played their best baseball of late, taking their final three ACC series, going 8-1, with sweeps of Pitt and Boston College before taking two of three against Clemson.

#4 Ohio

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

Head coach: Rob Smith, fifth season

NCAA Tournament history: 16th appearance, last in 2015

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

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

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

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

Three keys to Hoosier success

Miller and Sowers can’t swing and miss

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

Steady Stiever

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

Bullpen steps up

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

Required reading

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

A guide to the NCAA baseball regional in Lexington -Kentucky.com

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

Pack Readies for Indiana -Rob McLamb, Scout.com

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.

 

Indiana’s Kruger named Big Ten Freshman of the Week

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana baseball freshman right handed pitcher Cal Krueger has been named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week, the conference office announced on Monday.

Krueger led the Hoosiers to a 10-2 victory over Penn State in his start on the mound on Sunday. The Jasper, Ind. native struck out four batters in 6.0 innings of work, while only allowing one run on five hits.

This is Krueger’s first career weekly honor from the Big Ten. The last Indiana Freshman of the Week came this season when Andrew Saalfrank earned the honors on March 13. Jake Matheny was Indiana’s other Freshman of the Week honoree on Feb. 22.

Indiana’s Lloyd Earns National and Big Ten Honors

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana Baseball sophomore utility player Matt Lloyd was named one of Collegiate Baseball’s National Players of the Week on Monday. In addition, Lloyd picked up Big Ten Player of the Week honors for the first time in his career.

Indiana has picked up back-to-back Player of the Week honors from the Big Ten for the first time since March 31 and April 8 of 2014 when Dustin DeMuth and Sam Travis were recognized. The Hoosiers have four weekly conference honors this season (Alex Krupa – Player of the Week on 3/20; Andrew Saalfrank – Freshman of the Week on 3/13; Jake Matheny – Freshman of the Week on 2/20).

Lloyd was effective in Indiana’s 4-0 week as a hitter and a pitcher. He hit .643 on the week with nine hits, four home runs, two doubles, 10 RBI and six runs scored. The Canada-native also made three relief appearances, striking out four while tallying two saves. The sophomore had two, four-hit games in the series sweep at Northwestern and collected three home runs in game one of the series on Friday, marking the first time a Hoosier has accomplished the feat since Josh Phegley in 2009.

Lloyd kicked off the Northwestern series on Friday by going 4-for-5 in that first game with the three home runs, five RBI and three runs scored. He hit his fourth home run of the day in the second game of the Friday doubleheader. Lloyd capped off the series sweep with a 4-for-5 effort on Sunday, hitting two doubles, driving in two runs and scoring twice, while also picking up the save in that contest. He added an additional save in midweek action against Cincinnati on Wednesday.

Five primed for breakout seasons

The Big Ten has produced a first-round pick each of the last three seasons, with Kyle Schwarber, Tyler Jay and Cody Sedlock emerging as one of the country’s top talents. Again, the Big Ten is not short of standout individual talent with Maryland’s Kevin Smith and Nebraska’s Jake Meyers receiving preseason All-American honors.

But beyond those two, there are several players ready to step into greater roles, capable of putting together noteworthy seasons. Here’s a look at five players primed for breakout seasons.

Maryland Soph. OF Marty Costes

It might not be fair to list Maryland sophomore outfielder Marty Costes as a player primed for a breakout season, he did lead Maryland with nine home runs, the most by a Big Ten freshman, after all. But if even gradual improvements are seen across the board, Costes has a chance to be the Big Ten’s Player of the Year and an All-American. Costes batted .260 in his freshman year, collecting 10 doubles with a pair of doubles, to reach 21 extra-base hits. The power, a .216 isolated slugging percentage, wasn’t terribly compromised with outrageous strikeouts, 21% of at-bats ended in strikeouts, while 28 walks spurred Costes to a .363 on-base percentage. During the Big Ten Tournament, Costes said he didn’t have the best approach as a freshman, there were times he’d chase bad pitches. With a year under his belt and better knowledge of the game, a banner year may be on deck.

Ohio State Jr. OF Tre’ Gantt

Tre’ Gantt emerged as a dynamic player for Ohio State in the second-half of the 2015 season. Arriving on campus in time for the winter semester, Gantt wasted no time getting up to speed and making an impact for the Buckeyes, batting .311 as a freshman over 74 at-bats. But Gantt had labrum surgery following the 2015 season and a slow start to his sophomore campaign led to a step backward offensive. Gantt did show a little more pop in year two, after collecting just one double and one triple in 2015, the outfielder picked up eight doubles, but he was unable to consistently reach base, finishing the season with a .255 average and .311 on-base percentage. More than a year removed from the surgery, the Buckeyes expect Gantt to excel in 2017, as a switch from right field to his natural center field position to help. Slated to start on opening day for the first time, with the departures of Ronnie Dawson and Trom Montgomery, the opportunity is there for Gantt to assert himself as the leader of the Buckeye outfield.

Indiana Jr. RHP Brian Hobbie

Since he arrived in Bloomington, Indiana junior right-handed pitcher Brian Hobbie has looked the part of a big-time college pitcher. Standing six-foot-seven, weighing 227 pounds, Hobbie is a physical presence on the mound. Long-limbed, the ball seemingly crosses home plate in no time. Hobbie does possess a low-90s fastball, a heavy offering that can continually induce weak contact, so his pitches have enough giddy-up. Hobbie has shown flashes of brilliance but the Hoosiers are waiting for everything to come together. Sporting a 6.27 ERA over 18.2 innings as a freshman, Hobbie took a step in the right direction as a sophomore, lowering his ERA to 2.08 in 8.2 innings. But after striking out 19 batters against six walks in 2015, Hobbie walked five and struck out three in 2016, contributing to a decrease in usage. Hobbie’s best 2016 effort came in the summer, earning Prospect League Pitcher of the Year honors after holding an 0.82 ERA over 54.2 innings. As Indiana needs to replace its entire rotation, the innings will be there for Hobbie to make an impact.

Minnesota Soph. OF Ben Mezzenga

With Dan Motl batting .336, dialing up 19 doubles and playing superb defense, the opportunities for Ben Mezzenga to make an impact for Minnesota were limited. Making four starts, Mezzenga picked up three hits in 21 at-bats. But don’t think Mezzenga didn’t try his best to leave his mark. Mezzenga stole three bases in three opportunities, to help him score seven runs. In the summer, with a full season of reps, Mezzenga showed why the Gophers are high on him heading into the new season. In 34 games with the Eau Claire Express, Mezzenga batted .321, scored 39 runs, and continued his base stealing prowess, swiping 22 bags. Able to run 60 yards in 6.6 seconds, Mezzenga is viewed as one of the best Minnesota athletes since two-sport standout Eric Decker, with a chance to be an impact the game with the bat, his glove and on the bases.

Illinois Soph. 3B Bren Spillane

Those who cover Midwestern high school baseball saw Illinois’ Bren Spillane as one of the most college-ready players in the high school class of 2015. With an advanced feel for hitting and the ability to hit with power, Spillane was viewed as a player capable of stepping in and contributing from day one for an Illini tweet hit hard that June by the draft. But Spillane suffered a concussion towards the end of his final prep season, and the effects lingered throughout his freshman year. Limited to just two starts and five total games, Spillane went hitless in nine at-bats before Illinois opted to hold him out for the rest of the season. With no symptoms, Spillane looks to have a big second season, this past fall proof of what he’s capable of. In Illinois’ intra-squad Blue and Orange series, Spillane had a three-home run game, a second multi-hit contest and capped the week with two RBI. Dan Hartleb and staff expects Spillane to be a force in the heart of the Illini lineup as the team seeks a fourth regional appearance in seven seasons.

 

Five more to watch

Northwestern Jr. RHP Tommy Bordignon

Penn State Soph. INF Connor Klemann

Purdue Soph. C Nick Dalesandro

Michigan State Jr. FHP Andrew Gonzalez

Michigan Jr. RHP Jayce Vance

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