Expect a Roaring Twenties for the Big Ten

Contrary to popular belief, relative to the rest of college baseball, the Big Ten before the 2010s was not a perpetually undersized, flea-ridden, runt of a dog. Yes, when the calendar turned over to Jan. 1, 2010, the Big Ten was entering a 34-year drought since its last national champion, Ohio State, in 1966. But the Atlantic Coast Conference had a longer drought, not fielding a conference member as the national champion since Wake Forest in 1955. Now, it had been more than a quarter of a century since a Big Ten team even appeared in Omaha, Michigan in 1984, and, yes, that was a black eye the conference donned. But the outside perspective that the Big Ten was a one-bid conference and nothing else overlooked or did not appreciate:

The Big Ten had three three-bid years in the 2000s (2000, 2007, 2009) and another three years of receiving two bids (2001, 2003, 2005).

Three Big Ten teams won a regional Penn State (2000 Montclair Regional), Ohio State (2003 Auburn Regional), Michigan (2007 Nashville Regional)

Three schools hosted a regional Minnesota (2000), Ohio State (2001), Michigan (2008)

Ohio State hosted a super regional in 2003.

For those that knew of those successes and followed baseball in the Big Ten, there was reason to be optimistic about what was to come for the conference over the next decade. In the last year of the aughts, the title race went down to the final day and the conference had four regional worthy clubs, where the one left out, Illinois, took a weekend series at LSU, the eventual national champions. In reaching a regional for the first time since 1996, it appeared Indiana was ready to join the upper tier of programs, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio State, teams who expected to be in a regional on a yearly basis. There was excitement for a new decade, that 2009’s success would lead to more such successes.

Then the 2010s happened.

And did they happen, that excitement of more conference success became a reality.

The decade begin with a seismic change, as conference realignment led to the Big Ten adding Nebraska joining in July of 2011. Then just three years later, the Big Ten welcomed Maryland and Rutgers, suddenly the conference’s roster of baseball team’s grew 30%. The TV-driven expansion led to an unprecedented windfall of money for Big Ten athletic departments. The cash infusion led to a facility boom that touched every corner of the Big Ten’s now expanded footprint.

Alongside the changes that were occurring away from the ballpark, on in some instances enhancing the ballpark, a new era was under way on the field. Indiana’s breakthrough season in 2013 ended the Big Ten’s College World Series drought. Big Ten program’s played host to regionals in four consecutive years (Purdue in 2012, Indiana in 2013 and 2014 and Illinois in 2015). The 2015 season produced two super regional participants, Maryland, who knocked off #1 national seed UCLA, and #6 National Seed Illinois. On three occasions, the Big Ten produced a record five NCAA Tournament clubs, 2015, 2017, and 2019. And in 2019, the decade’s final year providing the conference’s crescendo, with Michigan’s run to national runners-up, coming one game shy of ending the Big Ten’s national championship drought.

The 2010s were nothing short of a transformative decade for baseball in the Big Ten.

Now, what’s in store for the 2020s?

Before looking ahead, one final look back needs to occur. Well, two.

After the 2010 season, when longtime Ohio State head coach Bob Todd retired, Indiana’s Tracy Smith was a finalist for the vacant Buckeye position. He removed himself for consideration on a drive home to Bloomington, thinking through what he already had, what he will have and what might he have. In providing insight into why he made that decision, Smith addressed the landscape of the Big Ten, felt confident his goals could be achieved at IU and, with conviction, not merely optimistic coachspeak, predicted within five years a team would make it to the College World Series. It didn’t hurt that it was less than a month after a then no-name Kyle Schwarber had committed to IU and maybe Smith knew something the rest of the world would find out three years later, but to this day his words felt prophetic.

So too did words spoke by Erik Bakich. It was the summer of 2013 and Bakich was on the phone following a recruiting trip to New England, where he evaluated potential Wolverines during an Area Codes workout. After returning Michigan to the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2010, and with a year of Big Ten baseball under his belt, Bakich spoke to what he saw in the conference. Giving testament to the Big Ten’s academic prowess across the board, the great college towns and the nationally-recognized brand power athletic departments that litter the conference, Bakich felt it wouldn’t be long before the Big Ten was truly recognized as a Power Five conference on the diamond, rubbed shoulders and stood toe-to-toe with the Big XII and Pac 12 on a regular basis. Well, since 2015, the Big Ten has placed 22 teams in a regional, in near lockstep with the 23 of the Big XII and Pac 12. More words spoken into existence.

In looking ahead at what is to come, the past has showed us that even thoughts and beliefs that may seem outlandish, may not be so.

And now, on the precipice of a new decade of baseball, it’s time to time that same excitement and optimism that was present 10 years ago, and anticipate another step forward. No longer will it be only within one’s imagination where a weekend of multiple regionals are played on Big Ten campuses. There will be a day when Big Ten teams meet in Omaha, in June, not May. And yes, there will be a national champion from the Big Ten. (But please don’t envision a day of Wisconsin baseball, because that may mean the world will end the next day.)

The 2010s were a wonderful decade for the Big Ten. The conference grew. Legendary turned programs over to some of the finest coaches in the country. The Big Ten won, celebrated superstars, captured hearts and showed it is not to be scoffed at any longer, it can run with the pack.

Now it’s time to take it all and leave no doubt there is bite with this bark.

 

20 Things to Watch for in 2020, 11-20

With five teams in last year’s NCAA Tournament, including the national runner-up, it’s safe to say Big Ten baseball is reaching new heights in modern college baseball. Entering a new season, and a new decade, there is a lot to look forward to. With new coaches leading three programs, two clubs breaking Baseball America’s preseason poll, and a handful of different players receiving preseason All-America praise, there are endless storylines around the conference as the calendar creeps towards February.

Kicking off 10 Innings’ preseason coverage, here is the first 10 of 20 things to watch through Big Ten baseball in 2020.

20. Northwestern overachieving, again

Let’s get this one out of the way. Spencer Allen’s Northwestern Wildcats will again exceed expectations in 2020. Northwestern painfully finished on the outside of the top eight last year, where a confluence of events, including a lightning delay, occurred on the final day to keep the ‘Cats home for the postseason. At 11-13 in Big Ten play, Northwestern finished one game behind a three-team tie for sixth. Per usual, few outside of Evanston expected Northwestern to hover near .500, they finished 24-27, and so is the case again this year. Perfect Game projects Northwestern to finish 12th, with D1Baseball.com slotting Northwestern 10th in their preseason table. Year over year Northwestern has been a tough out, and they aren’t too far removed from their 2017 Big Ten Tournament runner-up showing. They may still be a year away when it is all said and done, but don’t take the Wildcats as walk-overs, their history under Allen shows they’re anything but.

19. Will the Penn State pitchers get a little support

Focusing on a different breed of cats, will the Nittany Lions find some much-needed potency at the plate? Here’s a fun Did You Know: the Big Ten leader in team-ERA during conference play last season was….Penn State. In their 22 conference games, Penn State hurlers pitched to a 3.38 ERA and held the opposition to a .233 average. Unfortunately, .233 was still .015 better than what Penn State batters did at the plate in conference play. Last in average, PSU had the second-fewest stolen bases and third-fewest extra-base hits. The morbid offense play a significant role in Penn State going 0-8 in one-run conference games, as they were held to two or fewer runs in half of their 22 Big Ten games. Pitching coach Josh Newman has done wonders with the PSU arms. Now it’s time for Penn State to supplement their staff with some punch at the plate.

18. Better January weather = better February records?

The first day of team practice for the spring season came on Jan. 24. For more than a few schools the weather was favorable enough to escape indoor tunnels and facilities to practice outside. So far through the last week of January, the conditions have similarly held up. With the likes of Michigan, Maryland and Rutgers taking advantage and repeatedly practicing outside, will practicing in truer settings lead help them get out of the gates better? Of course, since this is the Big Ten, any reprieve in weather in January will lead to unwelcome conditions throughout April.

17. This year’s JUCO star

Two of the last three Big Ten Player of the Year winners have been players in their first Big Ten season after transferring from a junior college, Iowa’s Jake Adams in 2017 and Michigan’s Jordan Brewer last year. The JUCO ranks have played quite a role in the Big Ten’s upward trend over the last decade with the likes of Matt Lloyd, Mason McCoy, Noah McGowan, Jordan Parr and Tyler Peyton being key players in strong years for their respective clubs. Will there be another player that seemingly comes out of nowhere to take the conference by storm that was playing at a junior college last year? Likely so, but who will it be?

16. Fredrickson’s form

Minnesota right-handed pitcher Patrick Fredrickson didn’t come from the junior college ranks, but he was a newcomer that had a banner season two years ago. Becoming the first freshman named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, Fredrickson spurred Minnesota to the 2018 Big Ten championship and Corvallis Super Regional appearance. Looking to join Ohio State’s Alex Wimmers as back-to-back Big Ten Pitcher of the Year recipients, Fredrickson battled injury and his stuff backing up last year, en route to a 5.56 ERA with 30 walks in 43.2 innings. The Gopher staff has worked this offseason to tweak Fredrickson’s motion, making it shorter, to increase his command of his offspeed. If Fredrickson can return to his 2018 form, that will go a long way in the Gophers doing the same, and putting their 29-27 season far behind them.

15. Maryland’s ballyhooed freshmen

Per D1Baseball.com, Maryland is home to the #3, #8 and #10 “Impact Freshmen” in the Big Ten, as well as four of the top 16 and five of the top 20. Viewing the freshmen as one, D1Baseball.com and Prep Baseball Report ranked Maryland as having the #7 freshman class in the country. Will the hype turn into a happy College Park? As Fredrickson and classmate Max Meyer showed in 2018, a pair of extremely talented rookies can make quite the impact. It’s worth watching what kind of seasons right-handed pitcher Nick Dean, and outfielders Bobby Zmarzlak and Tucker Flint have with high expectations.

14. Illini arms under Allen

After eight seasons developing and leading Illinois’ pitchers, assistant coach Drew Dickinson moved on to become the pitching coach at Virginia. Illini pitchers experienced tremendous success under Dickinson’s watch, most notably Tyler Jay and Cody Sedlock, respectively the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year in 2015 and 2016. A testament to Dickinson, himself the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year in 2002, neither Jay nor Sedlock, two eventual first-round draft picks, were blue chip recruits before arrive in Champaign and developing under Dickinson’s guidance, nor was Garrett Acton, last year’s Big Ten-leader in saves with 19, tied for the most ever by a Big Ten pitcher. It will now be up to Mark Allen to coach up and deploy Acton and the rest of the Illini staff as he sees fit. Allen arrives in Champaign after serving as the pitching coordinator for the San Francisco Giants, ending a nine-year stay in professional baseball.

13. The 2020 iteration of #Hellerball

Iowa has been at the forefront of learning and implementing data, utilizing enhanced technology and thinking outside of the box in player development. Which might be exactly why nobody can really say what #Hellerball is. Playing off of the name of head coach Rick Heller, #Hellerball doesn’t really represent any style of baseball. And that in itself is probably the Iowa way. The Hawkeyes do an incredible job of creating an identity around the abilities and talents of their players. In years where you have Jake Adams, Mason McCoy and Robert Neustrom, you don’t have to put as much in action, execute every first-to-third perfectly and be terrors on the bases. In years where there isn’t that punch in the lineup, you do need to do all of those things in order to create runs. Every year it seems Iowa finds a way to squeeze as much out of their players as any, continue to refine their process of player development. It’s to be determined what type of outfit Iowa rolls out in 2020, but whatever version of #Hellerball it is, it will likely optimize the talents on the lineup.

12. Big Ten vs. Big XII

There are a few Big Ten vs. Big XII matchups that will be worth watching in 2020. Over the last five years, the Big Ten has produced 22 NCAA Tournament teams to the Big XII’s 23. The conferences are closer in quality than many might assume. These five showdowns will give the Big Ten an opportunity to solidify that sentiment.

Nebraska @ Baylor, Feb. 14-16

TCU @ Minnesota, Feb. 22-24

Iowa vs. Kansas, March 10-11

Maryland @ TCU, March 13-15

Minnesota @ Texas Tech, March 20-22

11. Goff at the helm of the Boilermaker engine

Greg Goff will enter his first season leading a Big Ten program unlike any other in recent years. Purdue is only two years removed from appearing in an NCAA Regional. In recent years when a coach has left a program that so soon removed from a regional, they’ve left the program in a great spot. Coming off of hosting the 2014 Bloomington Regional, Indiana’s Tracy Smith left to go to Arizona State and then Chris Lemonis had the Hoosiers in a regional the following year. Lemonis guided the Hoosiers to the 2018 Austin Regional, before leaving to go head Mississippi State’s program, which led to Jeff Mercer stepping in and doing something Lemonis didn’t in leading IU to a Big Ten title, before he also put IU in a regional. But as Mark Wasikowski left Purdue to be the head coach at Oregon, he is did so after the Boilermakers finished 20-34 and 12th in the conference. For coaches that stepped into a setting where they’re program is coming of such a finish, they are usually an entirely new staff entering an unknown environment. Greg Goff was on Wasikowski’s staff, so too was Cooper Fouts, who Goff retain. So all that said, it’s really hard to know what may change under Goff, whether Purdue needs a rebuild, if they’re more like 2018 or more like 2019. We shall see.

Greg Goff Named Head Coach of Purdue Baseball

West Lafayette, Ind. – Greg Goff is remaining part of the Purdue baseball staff and taking over as the Boilermakers’ head coach, bringing over 450 victories and 14 years of experience to the top position at Alexander Field.

Previously a head coach at four universities, Goff originally joined Purdue as an assistant coach in July 2017. He succeeds his friend and longtime colleague Mark Wasikowski, who returned to the University of Oregon as the Ducks’ new head coach this week.

Goff has previously served as the head coach at Campbell University (2008-14), Louisiana Tech University (2015-16) and the University of Alabama (2017) as well as Division II University of Montevallo (2004-07). He also helped lead the Boilermakers to a memorable 38-win season in 2018, punctuated by the program’s third NCAA Regional bid in program history. Purdue finished second in the Big Ten standings and was also the runner-up at the Big Ten Tournament in Goff’s first year with the program.

“Greg is highly respected by our student-athletes and was an important part of Mark Wasikowski’s staff as we have worked to position Purdue baseball for sustained success,” Purdue vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics Mike Bobinski said. “He is a lifelong baseball person and an experienced and successful head coach who led multiple programs to their highest level of success. Greg understands Purdue and our expectations for academic and athletic success.”

As a head coach, Goff’s teams won over 40 games six times. Campbell was one of only eight Division I programs to win 40-plus games for three straight years from 2012 to 2014, posting 131 total victories during that span. He also won 42 games in his final season at Louisiana Tech, helping lead the Bulldogs to an NCAA Regional bid. Montevallo was a DII College World Series qualifier under his guidance.

“It is an absolute privilege to lead the Baseball program at Purdue,” Goff said. “I take the responsibility of representing Purdue, our alumni and our players very seriously and gratefully. I am humbled to be a part of what Purdue is and what it means to be a Boilermaker. We are committed to build on the winning tradition that coaches such as Alexander, Schreiber and Waz have built.

“My family and I look forward to great things and to contribute to our Purdue baseball mission with great citizens, successful student-athletes, commitment to the community and of course, competing for championships at the national level. I want to thank Mike Bobinski and Dr. Ed Howat for their trust and confidence. My family and I appreciate and embrace this opportunity. Boiler Up!”

Along with bringing an upbeat personality to the dugout and contagious energy to his role as the first-base coach, Goff has helped numerous Boilermakers develop offensively the last two years. He has played a leading role in coaching the base running and outfield defense. He also filled in as the program’s pitching coach for a few games during a 2018 home sweep of Michigan while Steve Holm was with his wife for the birth of their second child. Purdue has compiled a 28-15 record at Alexander since Goff joined the coaching staff, headlined by a program-record 13-game home win streak to close the 2018 campaign. That represents Purdue’s best two-year mark at home since 2011 to 2012.

Goff has coached nine future big leaguers and over 50 MLB Draft picks, highlighted by Cy Young award winner Brandon Webb while he was the pitching coach at Kentucky (2000-03). Longtime big leaguer and World Series champion Joe Blanton also pitched for Goff at Kentucky.

In Goff’s final season at Campbell (2014), the Camels qualified for their first NCAA Regional in 24 years. Two years later, he led Louisiana Tech to its first Regional bid in 29 years. The 2014 Camels and 2016 Bulldogs both won at least one game in their Regionals, with La Tech coming through the loser’s bracket to reach a Regional final at Mississippi State.

Goff’s teams have had a losing record only five times in his 14 years as a head coach. Four of those five seasons were his first at a respective university. He has led his teams to some impressive turnarounds. In just two seasons, Louisiana Tech went from 15-35 the year before Goff’s arrival to 42-20 in 2016, ending a 29-year NCAA Regional drought in the process. At Campbell, he inherited a team that was 11-45 in 2007. But under Goff, the Camels posted a winning record (27-24) in his second season and won 40 games by his fifth year (2012). Purdue’s win total also jumped from 29-27 in 2017 to 38-21 in Goff’s first year on the staff in 2018.

Along with his years as the pitching coach at Kentucky, Goff served as an assistant at Southeast Missouri State (1998-99) and his alma mater Delta State (1994-97) before becoming a head coach for the first time in the summer of 2003 at Montevallo. It was at SEMO in the late 1990s where he first worked with Wasikowski. They helped lead the RedHawks to an NCAA Regional in 1998.

“I would like to thank Coach Wasikowski for providing the opportunity for my family to come to West Lafayette and be a part of the Boilermaker baseball program. I know the entire program from players to staff to the administration wish Mark and his family well. In my time at Purdue, I have grown extremely attached to an institution that is recognized academically as one of the finest in the world. I regard the leadership and administrators of the University and Athletics Department as the finest I’ve had the honor of working with in my career.”

In his two years at Purdue, Goff helped develop and organize new community events for the program like the preseason fan fest and first pitch dinner. Both events proved very popular and helped generate preseason interest going into the last two campaigns. He has also served as the director of Purdue baseball camps.

Goff was named the South Central Region Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association at both Louisiana Tech (2016) and Montevallo (2006). He was the 2013 Big South Coach of the Year at Campbell after leading his team to a school-record 49 wins and a conference title. Montevallo won a combined 100 games over his final two seasons, posting a new single-season record both years.

Montevallo finished third at the 2006 Division II College World Series as the Southeast Region champions. It was the program’s first appearance at the DII World Series. In his four years at Montevallo, he compiled a 152-84 record.

During the 2016-17 school year, Alabama’s 3.259 team grade-point average established a program record.

A Jackson, Tennessee, native, Goff played collegiately at both Delta State and Jackson State Community College. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from DSU. He and his wife, Tina, are the parents of four daughters: Kara, Kiley, Kolby and Kenzie. Kara plays softball at LSU.

Minnesota Tabbed Big Ten Baseball Favorite

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)

1 Minnesota

2 Michigan

3 Illinois

4 Indiana

5 Ohio State

6 Nebraska

6 Purdue

 

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

Big Ten baseball’s 19 things to look forward to in ’19

The next time the calendar reads the 15th, it will be opening day for the Division I college baseball season.

Although teams are still a little more than a week for holding spring practice, the upcoming season is getting closer and closer, it’s time to focus on the 2019 version of the Road to Omaha.

Kicking off preseason coverage, what is 10 Innings looking forward to most this season? Here’s 19 things to look forward to over the 2019 campaign.

1) Does Minnesota cement its dynasty?

The reigning Big Ten champions had a season for the ages in 2018, appearing in a super regional for the first time in program history. (Minnesota had reached the College World Series before the current NCAA Tournament format.) Going 44-15, the Gophers claimed a second Big Ten title in three years. Every five years or so, the Big Ten sees a program jump to the front of the pack and run off with multiple titles in a short window. Before Indiana went back-to-back in 2013-14, Michigan claimed three straight from 2006-08. At the turn of the millennium, Minnesota were Big Ten champs from 2002-04. And going on 25 years now, Ohio State finished atop the Big Ten standings for five straight seasons, starting in 1991. With a deeper returning lineup than many may believe, and arguably the deepest pitching staff in the conference, and a challenging pre-conference schedule to lead the Gophers into the Big Ten battle-tested, is another title in store, cementing Minnesota as the dominant program of the 2000’s second decade?

 

2) Will there be another 20-home run star?

Etching his name into the Big Ten record book, Jake Adams’ lone season at Iowa was historic, grabbing the nation’s attention with a 29-home run season in 2017. The record appeared to be in danger less than a year later as Illinois’ Bren Spillane opened the 2018 season on a historic tear. An ankle injury saw the Illini first basemen miss a few games in the middle of the season, slowing his momentum, forcing Spillane to finish with only 23 home runs. Will the 2019 season have another slugger emerge and rewrite school records in the process? Michigan’s Jesse Franklin is the conference’s returning home run leader with 10, but’s worth nothing he was able to reach double digits as a freshman.

 

3) Mercer’s homecoming

On their third coach in five years, Indiana will see if the highs over the last decade can be carried over into next one. And if that’s the case, it’s likely first-year head coach Jeff Mercer will be the lone Hoosier head coach for a long, long time. Mercer, an Indiana native, is now in charge of steering the baseball program he’s always dreamed of leading. After two strong years at Wright State, leading the program current Penn State coach Rob Cooper built up, Mercer brings leads an All-Indiana staff to a program he’s determined to make Indiana’s signature college baseball team. Indiana returns a strong roster from last year’s Austin Regional runners-up team, and are now lead by a coach viewed as one of college baseball’s top young coaches. Putting it all together, does 2019 become a very special season in Mercer’s homecoming?

 

4) March 6-8 tournaments

If you’re looking to get a pretty big bang for your buck with a jam-packed Big Ten weekend, March 6-8 is a weekend to circle. On opposite coasts, a pair of tournaments have two Big Ten teams participating, and a third tournament features some bluebloods of college baseball. Circle this weekend and watch the fun unfold, especially in the Pacific Northwest where two of the Big Ten’s expected top teams can go a long way in show they’re also two of the country’s top teams.

Dodgertown College Baseball Classic

Michigan @ UCLA, @ USC, vs. Oklahoma State

Greenville Drive 1st Pitch Invitational

Michigan State vs. Western Carolina, Ohio State, Furman, Appalachian State

Ohio State vs. Furman, Michigan State, Western Carolina

Seattle Baseball Showcase

Indiana vs. Washington, Oregon State, San Diego

Minnesota vs. Oregon State, San Diego, Washington

 

5) Who bounces back?

Five key players I want to see if there is a bounceback season in 2019, players team will ask a lot of, after struggling in 2018:

Nebraska senior shortstop Angelo Altavilla

Penn State junior left-handed pitcher Dante Biasi

Maryland senior shortstop AJ Lee

Michigan senior second baseman Ako Thomas

Illinois senior outfielder Jack Yalowitz

 

6) Seeing if Rutgers takes the next step

The 2019 season will be Rutgers fifth as a Big Ten member. The Scarlet Knights are 0-for-4 in participating in a Big Ten Tournament. But after a staff shakeup, 2018 saw progress for Joe Literrio’s club. Rutgers went 25-25 on the season, a seven and one-half game improvement over the 2017 season, and finished at least .500 for the first time since 2014. Now the onus is for Rutgers to avoid unraveling in the Big Ten. On April 11, Rutgers was 18-11 overall and claimed Big Ten wins over Penn State and Michigan State before finishing 7-14. Literrio has worked to increase the talent level in Piscataway, and the Scarlet Knights should have one of its better rosters going back to Todd Fraizer’s days. Now it’s time to see if potential meets production and Rutgers takes the next step and shows they are ready to meet the Big Ten’s upward trend.

 

7) Max Meyer at the plate

Armed with a weapon of a wipeout slider, Minnesota closer Max Meyer pitched his way to All-America honors and onto USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team in 2018. It doesn’t hurt Meyer’s fastball can comfortably sit in the mid-90s, too. But for everything he did and can do on the mound, Meyer arrived in Minnesota as a two-way player. The dominance Meyer exhibited on the mound as a freshman took the bat out of his hands after 30 at-bats,. But the Gophers are set to unleash the two-way Meyer this spring. Either in left field or at DH, Meyer was a high school shortstop but he will not see the infield to keep his arm fresh, Minnesota plans to insert Meyer in the heart of their lineup. With Meyer focusing just on hitting and baserunning this fall, reports out of Minneapolis were glowing. The Gopher staff believes Meyer has just as much potential at the plate as Matt Fieller showed in 2016, when that two-way Gopher batted .366 and slugged .525 en route to honor Big Ten Player of the Year honors. If that’s the case, the most dynamic player in the country may be Meyer.

 

8) Purdue as a hunted

Purdue head coach Mark Wasikowski has garnered national attention for the job he has done in West Lafayette. And it’s certainly just praise. It took only two years to take Purdue from the Big Ten’s basement and into a regional. The Boilermakers did not hide that they used preseason predictions of finishing outside of the Big Ten’s top six for motivation. But now, after finishing second in the conference and drawing slaps on the back and repeated praise, is the same hunger there? How Purdue fares this year, and if there is sustained success now and in the years to come, may be more indicative of Wasikowski’s coaching ability than last season. With high expectations, does Purdue keep moving along?

 

9) Is this the year Michigan finishes strong?

Michigan enters the season as Big Ten favorites by national outlets, and ranked in some polls. The Wolverines are looking to reach the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years, and many predict them to do so. But is this the year that Erik Bakich’s team finishes May with a head of momentum? A 2-9 finish to the 2016 cost U-M a potential NCAA Tournament berth, as did last year’s 2-7 swoon to conclude the season. And in the year Michigan did play in a regional, the Wolverines went 0-2, that on the heels of an 0-2 showing in the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan has won 111 games over the last three seasons, nothing at all to sneeze at, the how each season has finished has left more to be desired out of Ann Arbor. The Wolverines are set to have a number beside their name to open the season, will they have one with the final out is recorded?

 

10) Seth Lonsway’s debut

Before Patrick Fredrickson and Meyer helped guided Minnesota to a top 10 finish, the freshman pitcher expected to turn heads was Ohio State southpaw Seth Lonsway. Able to run it into the mid-90s, and turning down a six-figure offer from the Cincinnati Reds to head to Columbus, Lonsway was the Big Ten’s top recruit according to Baseball America. But how a high school course was registered with the NCAA Clearinghouse prevented Lonsway to being eligible as a freshman, unable to contribute to Ohio State’s regional-bound club. Now, with the Buckeyes needing to replace their entire rotation, the time couldn’t be better for Lonsway to debut and hopefully be the impact, blue-chip prospect Greg Beals needs as the Bucks seek a third regional in four years.

 

11) A dynamic freshman class

More and more, freshman are making a big impact in the Big Ten, and this year figures to be no different. Ohio State is set to rely on a quartet of freshman arms, in addition to Lonsway, as they seek to end a 10-year title drought. Illinois has a ballyhooed recruiting class, with high-ceiling rookies at catcher (Jacob Campbell), shortstop (Branden Comia), and on the mound (Aidan Maldonando). Nebraska shortstop and right-handed pitcher Spencer Schwellenbach may by the most dynamic freshman Nebraska’s had as a Big Ten member, while teammates Bo Blessie and Colby Gomes headed to Lincoln after esteemed prep careers. Maryland sees a bright future in Maxwell Costes, the younger brother of former standout Marty. Minnesota likes their freshman haul, Michigan has another banner coast-to-coast class, as do in-state peer Michigan State. Gone are the days of seeing teams rely on upperclassmen to lead them to titles and into the postseason. Freshman are continually being expected to contributor in key roles and this year’s crop should have plenty that step up and do just that.

 

12) Will ninth innings being a collective roller coaster?

Last year, five Big Ten closers recorded at least 13 saves:

Minnesota’s Max Meyer- 16

Ohio State’s Seth Kinker- 15

Purdue’s Ross Learnard- 15

Illinois’ Joey Gerber- 14

Nebraska’s Jake Hohensee- 13.

Only Meyer returns. Iowa and Michigan will also be without their saves leader in 2018, forcing at least half of the Big Ten’s ninth-inning duties up for grabs around the conference. As Meyer, Kinker and Learnard were on teams playing the in the NCAA Tournament, it certainly helps Omaha-aspiring teams to have a stopped at the end of the bullpen. Who will step up in those roles this year, or will everyone but John Anderson be on edge as the last few outs are attempted to be recorded?

 

13) High how does Matt Gorski’s draft stock rise?

One of the best all-around Big Ten prospects of the last five years, Indiana’s Matt Gorski has shown an ability to play multiple positions, run, get on base and hit with pop. Entering the season as the top positional Big Ten prospect in a quick, by way of a quick informal poll of scouts, just how high can Gorski’s stock rise? In 2016, Nebraska’s Ryan Boldt and Ohio State’s Ronnie Dawson were the respective 53rd and 62nd overall picks of the draft, can Gorski go higher? Before those two, other high outfield draft picks include Michigan’s Ryan LaMarre, 62nd in 2010 and Minnesota’s Mike Kvasnicka, 33rd in 2009.

 

14) More Big Ten/Pac-12 showdowns

The Big Ten and Pac-12 split 28 games last season; a 12-12 draw in the regular season, before Minnesota twice beat UCLA in the Minneapolis Regional, then twice falling to eventual national champion Oregon State in the Corvallis Super Regional. Although there is not a Big Ten/Pac-12 / DQ Classic this year, the 2019 schedule is still loaded with contests between the two Rose Bowl-linked conferences that should make for fun viewing. In additional to the March 6-8 tournaments keep an eye on:

Nebraska vs. Oregon State, Feb. 21-24

Michigan State @ Arizona State, March 1-3

Arizona State @ Nebraska, May 10-12

Arizona @ Penn State, May 16-18

 

15) And marquee Big Ten-Big XII series

And it’s not just the Pac-12 that the Big Ten has quite the buffet of contests against. These five series versus Big XII schools have the potential to be resume bullets come NCAA Tournament selection time.

Purdue @ Texas, Feb. 22-24

Iowa @ Oklahoma State, March 1-3

Baylor @ Nebraska, March 8-10

Michigan @ Texas Tech, March 21-23

Oklahoma @ Minnesota, April 19-21

 

16) Illinois’ ability to repeat history

Taking a short trip down memory lane, Illinois should have been in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Going 32-21 overall, and 17-7 in the Big Ten, the Illini put together an NCAA-worthy resume, including a sweep of SEC champion Florida, scoring 11 runs against one in two contests against the Gators. But Dan Hartleb’s team was only good enough to be one of the first teams outside the field of 64 in the eyes of the selection committee. That snub helped fuel the fire of Illinois in 2015, as the Illini blitzed the Big Ten, winning 21 of 22 games, put together a 27-game winning streak, earned the No. 6 national seed and hosted the program’s first super regional. Now, after Illinois was one of the first teams outside of the 2018 NCAA Tournament, returns their entire rotation and six starters, is history set to repeat itself and a pissed off Orange and Blue club leaves no doubt of its regional worthiness?

 

17) Patrick Fredrickson’s encore

In the 25 seasons of the Big Ten naming a Pitcher of the Year, only once has a pitcher earned the honor in two consecutive seasons: Ohio State’s Alex Wimmers, 2009-2010. There has also been another one-time feat, that is of a freshman claiming the title, which happened last year as Minnesota right-handed pitcher Patrick Fredrickson was name the top freshman and pitcher in the conference. With a Big Ten-best 1.86 ERA, Fredrickson turned in a perfect 9-0 season and seemingly turned heads every weekend, brilliant from start to finish. Now that Big Ten batters will have their second go at the lanky righty, can he keep opposing batters to a .209 batting average? Is another All-America season in store? Few will have had the expectations that are being placed on Fredrickson heading into year two, it’ll be fun to see if he lives up to them and resets an already high bar.

 

18) Can the Big Ten host multiple regionals?

For all of the postseason progress the Big Ten has made over the last half-dozen years-a team in Omaha, multiple national seeds, three different regional hosts, multiple years with at least five regional participants and four different super regional participants-one accomplishment has remained outside of the conference’s grasp: multiple regional hosts. Under the NCAA Tournament’s current format, never have two Big Ten programs hosted a regional in the same tournament. With the conference sending at least three teams to the tournament in every year since 2015, it seems it’s only a matter of time before that happens. Will the 20th anniversary of the current format of the 64-team tournament be the year it happens?

 

19) The end of winter

Just kidding, this is the Big Ten, prepare for a mid-April cancellation to due cold temperatures and snow. And just as the Midwest and East Coast is blanketed in a fresh cover of snow, it’s time to welcome to the college baseball season.

The Big Ten’s newest assistants

The transition from the summer offseason to the fall practice season isn’t complete without a rundown of new faces. Yes, the Big Ten is welcoming another talented freshman class, headlined by several players saying no to professional organizations, but they will also be new faces in the in the coaches’ boxes and in the dugout as part of the coaching staff.

With an entirely new staff in Bloomington as head coach Jeff Mercer leads the Hoosiers, to two new assistants up the road in West Lafayette under Mark Wasikowski, rounded out by promotions in Columbus and Minneapolis, heres a look at the new full-time assistants coaches in the Big Ten.

Read more

Purdue Baseball’s 2019 Schedule Announced

West Lafayette, Ind. –Headlined by another home-heavy stretch run, 24 dates at Alexander Field highlight Purdue baseball’s 2019 schedule unveiled by head coach Mark Wasikowski.

The Boilermakers again have five home weekends on the slate, including a non-conference series vs. Southeast Missouri State as part of a nine-game homestand from April 23 to May 7. Penn State (March 29-31), Iowa (April 12-14), Michigan State (May 3-5) and Ohio State (May 16-18) also visit Alexander Field for Big Ten weekends.

Purdue will enter the 2019 campaign riding a 13-game home win streak that dates back to April 24. Only North Carolina (18) and Stetson (17) will have longer active home win streaks going into 2019. The home opener at Alexander Field is set for March 12 vs. Milwaukee.

From April 23 through the May 18 regular-season finale, the Boilermakers are scheduled to play 13 of their 16 games at home. The only road trip during that stretch is a short one to Champaign-Urbana for a weekend series at Illinois (May 10-12). Purdue has not played at Illinois Field since April 2015, making it the longest active stretch without visiting a Big Ten ballpark.

Weekend series at fellow 2018 NCAA Regional qualifiers Southern Miss (Feb. 15-17), Texas (Feb. 22-24) and Oral Roberts (March 1-3) headline the non-conference schedule. Texas advanced to the College World Series after winning the Big 12 Conference regular-season title. Southern Miss and Oral Roberts both won their league’s regular-season and tournament titles.

Three trips to the state of Nebraska are in the mix for the Boilermakers this spring. Along with the Big Ten Tournament returning to TD Ameritrade Ballpark in Omaha, Purdue is also scheduled to play at the home of the College World Series when it visits Creighton for a non-conference series from March 8 to 10. The Boilermakers’ late-season surge this past spring included three straight wins in Omaha as part of a run to the Big Ten Tournament championship game. Meanwhile, after not playing Nebraska during the regular season each of the last two years, Purdue is scheduled to visit Haymarket Park in Lincoln (April 5-7) for the first time since May 2015.

Big Ten play opens the weekend of March 22 to 24, with the Boilermakers visiting Northwestern. The two short conference trips to the league’s Land of Lincoln contingent provide a nice balance with the longer trips to the eastern (Rutgers, April 19-21) and western (Nebraska) edges of the league.

While a Big Ten weekend series vs. Indiana is not part of the conference schedule this year, the rivals will square off for a non-conference midweek game again. The April 10 matchup will be played in Bloomington this season.

In-state opponents Valparaiso, Indiana State, Butler, Purdue Fort Wayne and Ball State all visit Alexander Field for midweek action. Xavier is also back on the schedule for the first time since a six-year midweek series ended in 2004. The Musketeers visit West Lafayette on May 14.

The Boilermakers’ spring break series at Jacksonville State (March 15-17) will be played at the newly renovated Rudy Abbott Field at Jim Case Stadium in Alabama. Jax State is an Ohio Valley Conference rival of Southeast Missouri, which visits Alexander Field in April. Purdue coaches Greg Goff and Wasikowski were assistant coaches together at SEMO in the late 1990s.

With first-time opponent Milwaukee on the schedule this year, it is believed to be Purdue’s first game against a team from the state of Wisconsin since UW Madison discontinued its program following the 1991 campaign.

A full list of gameday promotions and special dates at Alexander Field will be released in February or early March. Feb. 15 is the national opening day of the 2019 college baseball season.

SCHEDULE BREAKDOWN
• Home Games: 24
• Road Games: 32

• Big Ten Home: Penn State, Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State
• Big Ten Road: Northwestern, Nebraska, Rutgers, Illinois
• Big Ten Non-Play: Indiana*, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota
• Big Ten Tournament: May 22 to 26 (TD Ameritrade Park – Omaha, Nebraska)

• Season-Opening Series: at Southern Miss
• Early 4-Game Weekend Series: at Texas and at Oral Roberts (Saturday Doubleheaders)
• Spring Break: 3-game series at Creighton, back in Indiana for midweek games vs. Milwaukee and Indiana State, 3-game series at Jacksonville State
• Non-Conference vs. Indiana: April 10 in Bloomington
• 3 Trips to Nebraska: March 8-10 at Creighton, April 5-7 at Nebraska, May 22-26 at B1G Tournament in Omaha
• Midweek: Ball State (2), Indiana State (2), Indiana, Butler, Xavier, Milwaukee, Bowling Green, Valparaiso, Purdue Fort Wayne, Chicago State
• Long Homestand: Purdue plays 9 straight games at Alexander Field from April 23 through May 7, hosting Southeast Missouri and Michigan State for weekend series during that stretch

• 2018 NCAA Tournament Qualifiers: Southern Miss, Texas, Oral Roberts, Indiana, Ohio State
• First-Time Foes: Milwaukee, Bowling Green
• Been a While: There are four opponents on the schedule that Purdue has not played in at least 12 years – Creighton (1989), Xavier (2004), Jacksonville State (2004), Texas (2005)
• Purdue has not played at Illinois (April 11-13) or Nebraska (May 9-11) since 2015
• Iowa (April 3-5) and Penn State (May 14-16) have not played at Alexander Field since 2015
• The Boilermakers have not played Michigan State since April 2016

Cooper Fouts Hired as Purdue Baseball Assistant Coach

West Lafayette, Ind. — Purdue baseball head coach Mark Wasikowski has completed his coaching staff for the 2018-19 school year with the hiring of Pepperdine recruiting coordinator and Indiana native Cooper Fouts as an assistant coach. Fouts joins recently hired pitching coach Elliott Cribby, assistant coach Greg Goff and director of operations John Madia to round out Wasikowski’s staff.

Fouts brings 13 seasons of collegiate coaching experience to West Lafayette, highlighted by five seasons over two stints at Wasikowski’s alma mater Pepperdine (2011-12, 2016-18). In his new role, Fouts will lead the recruiting efforts alongside Cribby. In addition, Fouts will coach and develop Boilermaker catchers and assist with the Purdue offense.

Fouts was born in Kokomo, Indiana, living there until his family moved to Indianapolis in 1990. He has three aunts that are Purdue alumnae and a cousin that is a current student. He attended high school in Las Vegas after his family moved west in 1994.

“Cooper has established himself as one of the hardest working assistants in college baseball,” Wasikowski said. “His energy, work ethic and positive attitude are all trademarks of what Cooper brings to the table. In addition to assisting in the development of multiple MLB draft picks, he has also constructed NCAA Regional teams at his previous stops. We are thrilled to bring Cooper, his wife Bri and their three children back home to the state of Indiana to join the Boilermaker Family.”

“My family and I are very grateful for the opportunity Coach Wasikowski has provided me to join the Boilermaker Baseball family,” Fouts said. “Coach Waz has done an amazing job putting Purdue baseball back in the national spotlight, and I am excited to work alongside him and the rest of the staff. When you combine a world class education and playing in the Big Ten, Purdue University is an unbelievable choice for any student-athlete looking to excel. Boiler up!!”

Fouts graduated from Las Vegas’ baseball powerhouse Bishop Gorman High School in 2001. He was selected in the 26th round of the MLB Draft by the Oakland Athletics, but opted to enroll at the College of Southern Nevada. After one season, he made the move to the Division I level. He played in over 150 games as a three-year starting catcher for Texas Tech from 2003 to 2005.

Fouts helped Pepperdine win West Coast Conference titles in 2012 and 2018. He worked under current Baylor head coach Steve Rodriguez during his first term with the Waves. Wasikowski and Rodriguez were both starting infielders on Pepperdine’s 1992 College World Series championship team.

Current Pepperdine head coach Rick Hirtensteiner brought Fouts back to Malibu in the summer of 2015. Fouts has also served as an assistant coach at Utah Valley (2013-15), College of Southern Nevada (2007-10) and Lubbock Christian University (2006). His final season at CSN featured Bryce Harper winning the Golden Spikes Award and being selected No. 1 overall in the 2010 MLB Draft. The Coyotes won 52 games and finished third at JUCO World Series that season.

In Lubbock, Fouts caught future big leaguer Dallas Braden as well as his brother Nathan during his three seasons as a Red Raider.

In his second stint at Pepperdine, Fouts’ recruits helped the program post an 11-win improvement in 2018. The Waves won the WCC with a 17-10 record after being 8-19 the year prior. Pepperdine’s 2012 team won 36 games and was a finalist at the Palo Alto Regional.

Pepperdine has had multiple players drafted for seven consecutive seasons. All-American utility man Jordan Qsar, who led the WCC with 63 RBI and also recorded seven saves, headlined the Waves’ 2018 draftees.

Fouts also served as a recruiting coordinator at Utah Valley, where he helped the Wolverines win 71 games over three seasons. But more importantly, he helped build a roster that went on to lead UVU to 37 wins and an NCAA Regional berth in 2016 as the Western Athletic Conference Tournament champion.

In Fouts’ final season at College of Southern Nevada, nine pitchers were drafted that June and 14 more student-athletes were signed by NCAA Division I programs. CSN won three conference titles, two Region 18 championships and Western District tournament in 2010 during his four seasons on the coaching staff.

Fouts was part of a pair of NCAA Tournament wins as a junior at Texas Tech. He helped TTU’s 2004 team win 40 games and earn the No. 2 seed at the Atlanta Regional. As the Red Raiders’ starting catcher in all four games of the regional, he helped TTU defeat Mississippi State twice and earned a spot on the All-Regional Team. He was recognized as honorable mention All-Big 12 as a senior after again being among the top defensive backstops and top-throwing catchers in the league.

Fouts earned his bachelor’s degree in exercise sports science from Texas Tech in 2006. He and his wife, Bri, were married in 2010 and have three children – Harper, Emmit and Nash.

Elliott Cribby Named Purdue Baseball’s Pitching Coach

West Lafayette, Ind. — Purdue head coach Mark Wasikowski has announced the hiring of Seattle University associate head coach Elliott Cribby as the Boilermakers’ pitching coach.

Cribby helped lead Seattle to 30-plus wins in 2015, 2016 and 2018. The Redhawks won a program-record 37 games and the Western Athletic Conference title in 2016. Three of the four SU players drafted this year were pitchers, headlined by lefty Tarik Skubal being selected in the ninth round. Another incoming signee that Cribby recruited was drafted in the 11th round. Cribby also coached Nick Meservey to WAC Pitcher of the Year honors in 2016.

“We are so excited to have Elliott and his wife Shannon joining the Boilermaker Family,” Wasikowski said. “Elliott is one of the most respected pitching coaches in the country and our student-athletes will benefit greatly from his expertise. Coach Cribby is known as one of the nation’s top recruiters and has been in high demand for several years from top-25 programs. We are fortunate to have the Cribby Family joining us here at Purdue.”

Cribby also pitched collegiately in Seattle at the University of Washington. He has been the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Seattle University since 2014. Previously, he was the pitching coach at Abilene Christian (2013) and the head coach at Mount Si High School (2011-12) in Snoqualmie, Washington.

“I am thrilled for the opportunity Coach Wasikowski has provided me to join the Boilermaker Baseball family,” Cribby said. “Mark has annually shown the country that he is very good at what he does and I am excited to join forces. Combined with a world-class education and tremendous athletic support, Purdue University is an exciting place to be for the very best student-athletes to grow and develop. Boiler up!”

Cribby replaces Steve Holm, who was hired as the head coach at Illinois State on June 22. Holm was also a successful pitching coach in the WAC at Sacramento State before joining Wasikowski’s first coaching staff at Purdue in the summer of 2016.

Cribby served as the pitching coach of the BRAVE team in USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars in both 2015 and 2016. The 2015 squad won gold at the event. He led Mount Si to a state title in 2011.

Voted the best recruiter in the WAC by his fellow coaches in a D1Baseball.com poll, Cribby helped build a Seattle roster that featured multiple MLB draft picks in 2015, 2017 and 2018. The Redhawks had 18 players or recruits drafted total in his five years. His recruits earned Freshman All-America honors for three straight seasons from 2015 to 2017. Among those honorees, pitchers Zach Wolf and Skubal both went on to be drafted. Wolf recorded a pair of 10-save seasons and Skubal eclipsed the program’s all-time strikeouts record while fanning 106 in 80 innings as a senior.

Seattle’s pitching staff led the WAC in strikeouts for three straight seasons from 2014 to 2016. The 2016 team was tops in the conference in almost every pitching statistic and among the top 20 nationally with a 2.72 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That season’s staff recorded 448 strikeouts vs. 165 walks while surrendering only 18 home runs in 501 2/3 innings.

Cribby made at least 20 appearances in each of his three seasons at the University of Washington. As a teammate of Tim Lincecum in 2006, he recorded seven wins and 10 saves while pitching in 29 of the 61 games. He was named honorable mention All-Pac-10 that season and selected to the Rogers Clemens Award watch list going into the 2007 campaign. He made 70 career appearances for UW, recording 13 saves and a 2.13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 151 1/3 innings. He was seventh in program history in saves and appearances entering the Huskies’ 2018 campaign.

Cribby earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Washington. He was selected as UW’s Sociology Student of the Year as a senior in 2008 and was also named to the Pac-10’s All-Academic Team. He earned his master’s in intercollegiate athletic leadership in 2009.

Cribby and his wife Shannon were married in December 2012.

Four Big Ten teams to play in 2018 NCAA Tournament

On Monday afternoon, the NCAA announced four Big Ten teams have been selected to play in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. The 2018 tournament marks the third time in four years at least four Big Ten teams will participate in a regional tying. The conference record of five was set in 2015 and tied last year.

Hours after winning their 10th Big Ten Tournament title, securing the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, Minnesota was announced on Sunday night as one of 16 host institutions for this weekend’s round of regional play. The Gophers were named the tournament’s No. 14 overall seed, before it was announced conference peers Indiana, Ohio State and Purdue, were tabbed as at-large selections, joining Minnesota in the 64-team tournament field.

For the fifth time in six years, Indiana is back in the NCAA Tournament. Heading to the Lone Star State as the No. 2 seed in the Austin Regional, where Texas is the top seed, The eighth time the Hoosiers will be on the road to Omaha, the Hoosiers were regional participants in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2017. Indiana enters regional play with a 38-17 record, including a 14-9 mark in the Big Ten to finish fifth.

Already safely in the field, and heading into the unveiling of the tournament field knowing they will be at home, Minnesota now knows they will be joined in the Minneapolis Regional by No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Gonzaga, and No. 4 seed Canisius. at 41-13, the Big Ten regular season and tournament champions will be in their second regional in three years, playing at home during the regional round for the first time since 2000.

Late movement around the country saw Ohio State bow out of the Big Ten Tournament on the NCAA Tournament bubble team, but Greg Beals has the Buckeyes safely back in a regional for the second time in three years, heading to the Greenville Regional, as the No. 3 seed, where East Carolina is the host. A year after going 22-34, the 2018 NCAA Tournament is the first time since 2009 the 36-22 Buckeyes have earned an at-large big to the NCAA Tournament, their 21st overall appearance.

Rounding out the Big Ten’s contingent of NCAA Tournament teams is the club with the most unlikely appearance. Just two years after finishing 2-22 in the Big Ten, second-year head coach Mark Wasikowski guided the Boilermakers to a second-place finish in the regular season before finishing as runners-up in the Big Ten Tournament. Now, Purdue will look to further cement the program’s turnaround, selected as the No. 2 seed in the Chapel Hill Regional, hosted by North Carolina. Purdue heads to Chapel Hill with a 37-19 record, and one of the country’s hottest teams, winning 21 of their last 24 games.

The NCAA Tournament begins on Friday, June 1, on the 16 regional host sites. Regional play is a double-elimination format, among the four teams in each regional, with the winner advancing to next weekend’s best-of-three super regional. If all No. 1 seeds advances, the tournament’s top eight seeds will host super regional play. The NCAA will announce the sites of the super regionals on June 5, upon the completion of regional play.

The super regional winners will participate in the 2018 College World Series, held at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, the site of last week’s Big Ten Tournament. The last Big Ten team to reach the College World Series was Indiana in 2013. The Big Ten’s last national champion was Ohio State in 1966. Illinois, Indiana, and Purdue are in search of their first national championship, with Minnesota claiming three of the conference’s six titles, winning in 1956, 1960, and 1964. Michigan were national champions in 1953 and 1962.

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