It's another sign that spring must be here--Big Ten Conference baseball play has finally arrived. This weekend's opening slate of games looks like this:
Indiana (7-11) @ Michigan State (9-9)
Northwestern (3-15) @ Michigan (11-7)
Purdue (11-6) @ Illinois (11-6)
Ohio State (12-5) @ Iowa (10-8)
Penn State (4-16) @ Minnesota (10-8)
If forced to select the series of the weekend, I'd take the battle between Purdue and Illinois. The Boilermakers have been steady throughout the pre-season. Amongst their early victories is a triumph over # 7 North Carolina. The Illini enter the Big Ten portion of their schedule red hot. They are returning home from a 7-0 road trip.
Friday's opener features two of the best arms in the conference. In a battle of righthanders, Illinois' Brian Blomquist (1-2) takes on Purdue's Jay Buente (3-0). Blomquist, a pre-season all-conference selection, has a 2.16 ERA. Buente's 1.70 ERA is good for third in the Big Ten, while his 36 strikeouts pace the conference.
In the other games, conference leader Ohio State travels to Iowa. If the Hawkeyes' starters, led by Jeff Maitland (2-0, 2.30), can keep the Buckeyes' bats in check until closer Tim Gudex arrives, then Iowa may prove triumphant. Gudex is leading the Big Ten in wins (3) and saves (4). However, not only does OSU lead the conference in team batting average, but the Buckeyes pitching staff leads the Big Ten in team ERA, as well.
Freshman J.B. Shuck leads the entire conference in ERA at a dazzling 1.12. OSU sophomore Cory Luebke is ninth overall at 2.96. Friday starter Dan DeLucia has three wins and is holding opponents to a .228 batting average. Both Shuck and DeLucia are tied for the conference lead in wins.
I'll defer to each university's weekly release (see link on school above) for previews on the Wolverines playing host to NU, the Hoosiers trip to East Lansing and Penn State's visit to Minnesota. I would, however, like to provide a few additional links for your reading pleasure.
David Murray of the Michigan Daily provides this inspirational story on Michigan walk-on Matt Fisher. Daily Collegian staff writers Corey Mclaughlin and Chris Weeden look ahead to Penn State's Big Ten schedule.
Brandon Castel of The Lantern provides a recap of Ohio State's midweek home win over Toledo. Butler's 6-5 win over Indiana is the topic of review by Jake Brown of the Indiana Daily Student. Enjoy the weekend.