Tuesday, April 19, 2005

TV Time

While watching this evening's contest between Tulane and LSU, I learned that the first night game in the history of Michigan's Ray Fisher Stadium is going to be televised by ESPN. Friday night's game between the Wolverines and arch-rival Ohio State is being covered by ESPNU and broadcast on ESPN. The national television coverage has pushed the start time back to 7:00pm. Here is the Michigan press release.

ESPN is already running promos for the game on their "Bottom Line" feature at ESPN2. I know the university was hoping for a record crowd and they are pre-selling tickets at their website. I encourage all Michigan, Ohio State and baseball fans to attend. (I, unfortunately, had to cancel my plans on attending due to a surprise party.)

It's great to see college baseball make a return to ESPN and cable television in general. It's even better to see the Big Ten get some airtime. Hopefully, the schools will put on a good show.

Gassner Gets Win

Former Purdue standout Dave Gassner posted a win in his big league debut Saturday. The lefthander helped the Minnesota Twins defeated the Cleveland Indians, 6-4. Here is the game story from the Twins' website. Here is the boxscore.

Gassner is a BTH favorite and we congratulate him on his first win in The Show. We hope he has many, many more.

And Then There Were Six

The number of Big Ten regulars with an OPS of 1.000 or higher is now six. Illinois' Dusty Bensko maintains the top spot at 1.190. Zach Boswell of Indiana follows at 1.111. Third is Boswell's teammate, Jay Brant at 1.084. Pat McMahon, Northwestern, is next at 1.063. Drew Davidson, Bensko's Illini teammate, is fifth at 1.050. Matt Butler of Michigan holds down the final spot at 1.005.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Friday Recap

Illinois 4 Michigan 3
Iowa 6 Indiana 0
Michigan State 2 Ohio State 0
Penn State 13 Minnesota 5

Tim Day (MSU) and Luke O'Loughlin (Iowa) were the pitching stars Friday. Day shutout the Buckeyes and O'Loughlin shutdown a potent Hoosier lineup. Day, a redshirt junior, hurled a complete game allowing eight hits. Hawkeyes' righthander O'Loughlin pitched eight scoreless innings walking only two. IU managed just five hits in those eight frames. Iowa is tied for third in conference play at 6-3.

Illinois rallied behind an eighth inning bases loaded single from Chris Robinson to beat Michigan in front of the Illini's biggest crowd since 1998. The Illini (8-1) are now alone in first place as Penn State (6-3) pounded Minnesota (7-2) ace Matt Loberg. The Nittany Lions banged out twenty hits and inched closer to the top of the Big Ten themselves.

I continued to be surprised. I never would have imagined OSU getting blanked on a Friday night at home versus MSU. Nor did I envision Iowa keeping pace with Indiana's bats. Penn State's victory only avoids the surprising tag because I cannot figure out Minnesota this year. Illinois' triumph was expected here, as the Illini are starting to look like the class of the Big Ten, but Michigan's continuing slide is far beyond baffling.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Weekend Preview

Let's start with the conference match-ups this weekend.

Michigan State (3-5, 12-17) @ Ohio State (3-5, 17-10)
Minnesota (7-1, 15-13) @ Penn State (5-3, 17-10)
Michigan (1-7, 18-10) @ Illinois (7-1, 18-8-1)
Indiana (2-6, 18-12) @ Iowa (5-3, 11-15)
Northwestern (4-4, 14-12) @ Purdue (3-5, 9-19)

A couple of projections still have the Big Ten getting two schools into the NCAA Tournament field. I'm a bit surprised by that idea, but embrace the concept nonetheless. If forced to pick which two schools, right now, I would take the conference leaders-Illinois and Minnesota.

However, that opinion can change pretty rapidly. Two weeks ago, I would have thought Ohio State and Michigan were locks for post-season play. Now, both need to compile both quantity and quality victories to regain their pre-conference stature.

In the end, I'll guess that the conference's regular season champion as well as the conference tourney champ will get in. Based on the unexpected outcomes thus far, I cannot believe that regular season winner will claim the conference tournament title as well.

Allow me to suggest some other reading to prepare for the weekend's action. Boyd Nation's Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha, his weekly column, can be found here. Will Kimmey, of Baseball America, offers his weekly preview here. Sports Weekly's Dana Heiss Grodin's weekly college baseball feature is here.

Top Ten In Big Ten OPS

This week only ten conference regulars have an OPS above 1.000. The list is headed by Illinois' Dusty Bensko at 1.178. In second place is Zach Boswell of Indiana at 1.158. Third and fourth are held down by two more members of the Fightin' Illini. Drew Davidson is third at 1.136 and J.R. Kyes makes his first appearance on the list in the fourth slot with a 1.133 OPS. Indiana secondbaseman Jay Brant completes the first five at 1.109.

The final group is led by Matt Butler of Michigan at 1.074. Seventh place belongs to Northwestern catcher Pat McMahon at 1.070. Another backstop, Iowa's Kris Welker is right behind at 1.053. Michigan State's Ryan Basham is ninth at 1.025. Joe Kemp of Indiana closes out the field at 1.011.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Here are this week's polls:

Baseball America
Collegiate Baseball
Sports Weekly/ESPN

I have a cold, so I may have missed something, but did anyone notice Illinois receiving a single vote in any of the polls? I expected Baseball America to give the Illini a snub. Even the Sports Weekly/ESPN poll omission doesn't surprise me much, but neither Collegiate Baseball or the NCBWA have the Illini ranked?

If Minnesota and Michigan were both ranked reasonably high at the beginning of the season, how can Illinois get stiffed when they lead the conference? I know people complain about the college football polls, in large part as they help determine a championship match-up, but college baseball polls are definitely an interpretative art form.

Saturday, April 09, 2005


Illinois 12 Michigan State 3
Minnesota 5 Indiana 0
Iowa 13 Michigan 12
Northwestern 3 Penn State 2
Purdue 7 Ohio State 1

Illinois 9 Michigan State 2
Illinois 6 Michigan State 5
Minnesota 7 Indiana 1
Minnesota 5 Indiana 4
Michigan 4 Iowa 2
Iowa 5 Michigan 3
Penn State 4 Northwestern 2
Penn State 2 Northwestern 1, 14 innings
Ohio State 6 Purdue 4
Ohio State 5 Purdue 1

Illinois and Minnesota may lap the rest of the field. The Illini and Gophers are now 7-0, three games clear of Penn State and Northwestern. Regardless of Sunday's results Illinois should start to merit some votes in the polls come Monday. I don't expect the Fightin' Illini to be ranked, but they do deserve to be included amongst the schools garnering votes.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Up To The Minute

Friday's Big Ten contests have begun. Illinois, behind another solid outing from Brian Blomquist(6-1), beat Michigan State 12-3. Dusty Bensko had five RBI for the Illini.

Penn State and Northwestern are tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the eighth. Sean Stidfole struck out eight Wildcats in six and two-thirds innings. Jon Mikrut has both NU runs batted in.

Iowa just posted a ten run eighth inning to take the lead over Michigan, 13-11. Andy Cox has three hits and three RBI for the Hawkeyes. Kyle Bohm has five RBI for Michigan.

Ohio State and Purdue get underway at 6:30 pm EST.

Matt Loberg is having another Pitcher of the Week type performance. The Gophers starter has pitched eight innings of shutout baseball. Loberg hasn't walked a batter and has fanned four Hoosiers while yielding only six hits. Jeremy Chlan has two hits and two RBI for Minnesota.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Swisher Goes Yard Twice

Ex-Ohio State star Nick Swisher hit two homeruns in Oakland's 9-0 win over Baltimore. Swisher, who became famous (infamous?) in the book Moneyball, had a so-so spring training. A couple of A's fan sites were kind of down on Swisher fearing he was more hype than substance. However, BTH hopes that this is a sign the former Buckeye can live up to the hype.

Upsets And More Upsets

What in the wide world of sports is going on? Illinois just lost it's second consecutive game to Western Michigan, this time to the tune of 22-15, and Oakland just beat Ohio State, 6-5, in Columbus by scoring three runs in the top of the ninth. If that wasn't enough, and it is, Northern Iowa shutout Minnesota, 2-0.

Losing games to WMU, OU and NIU isn't going to boost the schools' respective RPI numbers or help the conferences' image one tiny bit. (In the interest of honesty, I should point out that I am a former Oakland University student and I do root for the Golden Grizzlies. They have the ability to become a baseball power in the Mid-Con, but that's a post for another day.)

Every time I start to get the sense Big Ten baseball is turning the corner, these are the kind of scores that pop-up. These results will not help the conference's chances of landing more than a single bid, the conference tournament winner, to the NCAA tournament field.

In other Big Ten scores, Indiana dropped Indiana State, 6-4. Penn State beat Pittsburgh, 9-0. Michigan beat Central Michigan, 7-2. Iowa is playing Nebraska on CSTV tonight. Good luck to the Hawkeyes.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Stidfole Streak Continues

Penn State's Alan Stidfole extended his scoreless inning streak Sunday. In blanking the Boilermakers, Stidfole has pitched twenty-one consecutive scoreless innings. The mark has garnered the PSU hurler some national attention including a note in Will Kimmey's wrap-up at Baseball America.

Players Of The Week

Drew Davidson, Illinois, and Matt Loberg, Minnesota, are the Big Ten's Player and Pitcher of the Week, respectively. Both players helped power their schools to sweeps this weekend. Davidson's Illinois team took four games from Ohio State, while Loberg's Gophers won every game from Michigan. It was the second week in a row that Loberg earned the POTW honor.

Big 16 In OPS

This week finds sixteen members of the Big Ten Conference carrying an OPS mark above 1.000. The top dog is Indiana's Zach Boswell with an OPS of 1.232. In second place is Michigan outfielder Matt Butler at 1.215. Butler is followed by Jay Brant, Indiana (1.188), Brant's IU teammate Corby Heckman (1.166) and Matt Lewis of Penn State (1.162).

The next five spots go to Joe Kemp of IU (1.149), another Hoosier, Ryan Parker at 1.140, Ryan Basham of Michigan State (1.133), Illinois' Dusty Bensko (1.130) and two players tied for tenth in on base plus slugging percentage. Neal Gorka of Purdue and Jason Zoeller of Ohio State have identical 1.078 OPS figures.

Trevor Huisinga of Illinois leads the final wave at 1.051. The Illini outfielder is followed by Iowa's Andy Lytle at 1.050, the Fightin' Illini's Ryan Rogowski at 1.041, Pat McMahon of Northwestern records a 1.039 mark while Michigan's Kyle Bohm closes out the group with a 1.013 OPS.

As is standard around here, the numbers are not guaranteed to be exact. They are mostly done, as is much of the blog, solely for my entertainment purposes.

Monday, April 04, 2005

So Much For Multiple Bids

I've finally got some of my side interests taken care of, plus I've dismissed the technical difficulties that plagued my sidebar link section (notice it has returned to it's rightful place at the top of the page), so it's time to get back to Big Ten Hardball.

Heading into to the opening weekend of conference play, I would have guessed that Michigan and Ohio State were heading for NCAA tournament play. After this weekend, I'm not sure either can get it without winning the conference tournament. In fact, I don't know if the Big Ten can land more than the single bid the conference tournament winner claims.

Michigan, who headed to Minnesota nationally ranked and on a winning streak, got stomped on by the Gophers. The defending conference champions played like it this weekend taking all four games from the boys from Ann Arbor.

The Buckeyes appeared to have all kinds of momentum heading into their conference tilt with the Illini. So much for momentum. Itch Jones' squad dispatched OSU in four straight contests. Now, the Gophers (4-0) and Illini (4-0) sit atop the Big Ten while Michigan and Ohio State, arguably the conference favorites five days ago, are in the cellar and winless (0-4) in conference play.

While a tip of the hat is in order for both Illinois and Minnesota, on the surface, this doesn't bode well for the conference's NCAA tournament bids. I suppose Illinois or Minnesota could go on to dominate conference play, but if neither wins the conference tournament, would the other get a nod from the committee?

The same holds true for Michigan and Ohio State. Their remaining schedules feature games of note mostly against Big Ten opposition. Games versus Central Michigan and Oakland are not going to help your RPI. Even if they both dominate their remaining schedules', I'm not sure either would merit an at-large berth. A conference tournament victory would seem like a must now.

Still, I should not jump to conclusions. There is quite a bit of time remaining. The conference could still pull off more than a single entry into the NCAA field. However, with Minnesota and Illinois having either played poorly against tough competition (the Gophers) or not having any victories of significance (the Illini), and Michigan and Ohio State getting swept right out of the gate in conference play, it's hard to imagine how two of these four teams can make the NCAA tournament field.

I should mention there are six other schools still vying for a Big Ten championship. Northwestern, Penn State, Michigan State, Purdue and Iowa all have two wins. All but NU (2-1), have two losses, as well. Indiana is the only one not mentioned and they sit at 1-2 in conference play.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Conference Action Opens

Illinois and Minnesota posted big wins on Friday. The Illini dropped Ohio State, 7-1, while the Gophers dispatched the #18 Wolverines, 1-0. Pitching was the story in both games. Brian Blomquist continued his fine season by posting a complete game triumph over the Buckeyes. Blomquist is now 5-1.

The red-hot Wolverines got cooled down by the Gophers' combination of Matt Loberg and John Gaub. Loberg (4-2) went eight innings, Gaub the final stanza. Jim Brauer went eight innings for Michigan, but took his first loss of the year (4-1). Fox Sports Net North is televising Sunday's final game of the Michigan-Minnesota series.

In the other Big Ten games yesterday, Michigan State beat Iowa, 3-1 and Penn State was three better than Purdue, 6-3. The Northwestern/Indiana series begins Saturday afternoon.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, this is a hectic week, so I haven't posted as much as I would have liked. Hopefully, in a few more days most of the craziness will have passed.