The first Big Ten team to see action this season is Northwestern. N.U. is in Phoenix, Arizona and will open the year Thursday versus Kansas State. The battle of Wildcats is scheduled to begin at 7pm EST/8pm CT.
KSU's offense is led by a pair of outfielders. Steve Murphy is coming of a .338/3/40 season. His average and rbi total were the best on the club in '04. Murphy also had the highest OPS on the Wildcats with an .882 mark. Terry Blunt had Kansas State's second highest average last year at .305. Blunt was also second in homers with four.
Another player to watch for in KSU's lineup is ex-Illinois standout Eric Eymann. The former Freshman All-America selection will be playing shortstop for the 'Cats.
KSU lost it's top three winners from its pitching staff, so Coach Brad Hill will hand the ball of to a new group of weekend starters this year.
From a Northwestern perspective, 1B Mark Ori paces the attack. Last year, Ori hit .382/0/23 and had a .938 OPS. DH/OF Anthony Wycklendt, SS Jon Mikrut and 2B Caleb Fields are all returning starters. Wycklendt and Mikrut tied for the team lead in round-trippers with six. Wycklendt led the Wildcats in stolen bases with 5, while Mikrut's 41 rbi were also good for first on the ballclub. Fields is entering his sophomore campaign after hitting .271 as a freshman.
Dan Brauer will lead Coach Paul Stevens' staff. Brauer won six games in 2004. He held opponents to a .233 average while striking out 96 and walking 26 in 89.1 innings of work. George Kontos will also be a party of the N.U. rotation. The sophomore started nine games a year ago.
There is no sign of an audio feed from either school as of yet. I will try to provide an update, if possible Thursday night.