I've always wanted to do a midterm conference award post. Today, I appear to have the time, so let's look at some potential award winners and other things of note as we approach the halfway point in the Big Ten schedule.
Surprise of the Year: Northwestern
Was there any other choice? The Wildcats conference run continues to amaze. Well, at least, it amazes me. Even with their 9-3 Big Ten mark, NU is only playing .375 overall (12-20). Although, in Northwestern's defense, I believe their strength of schedule was the highest in the conference heading into the year.
Coach of the Year: Rich Maloney, Michigan
This will probably change week to week. Prior to last week, this was Ohio State's Bob Todd's award. This week, Northwestern's Paul Stevens probably merits the honor (if being named my choice as Coach of the Year is an honor), but NU's non-conference record just can't be ignored. Maloney has a very young Michigan team contending for the regular season crown.
Freshman of the Year: J.B. Shuck, Ohio State
At 5-1 with a 1.50 ERA, Shuck would be a strong choice just as a pitcher, but he knows what to do with the bat, too. The OSU frosh is hitting .344 with 14 RBI. However, this is one exceptionally strong field of newcomers. Indiana's Cameron Satterwhite, Purdue's Ryne White and Kyle Day of Michigan State are right on Shuck's heels. There are another ten names on my list of candidates, as well.
Pitcher of the Year: Tim Gudex, Iowa
I haven't quite decided if I'm going to create two awards--one for starters, one for closers--so for now, it's still a combined honor. Gudex, 3-1, six saves and 0.96 ERA, gets the mid-season title. Illinois' closer Matt Whitmore is in the running, as are OSU's Shuck and Dan DeLucia, Minnesota's Cole DeVries, Iowa's Jeff Maitland, Purdue's Jay Buente and Indiana freshman Joe Vicini.
Player of the Year: Mitch Hilligoss, Purdue
Another good field of candidates, but Hilligoss is doing it all for the Boilermakers. The Purdue shortstop is leading the conference in batting average (.413), slugging percentage (.636), on base percentage (.497), hits (50), runs scored (T-41) and total bases (77). Hilligoss' teamate Eric Wolfe can make a claim for the title, too. Others on my short list today include Ohio State's Ronnie Bourquin, Northwestern's Antonio Mule and Michigan State's Ryan Basham.
Please don't send me hate mail because I overlooked your guy. Remember, it's only midterms. There is plenty of time for changes amongst my selections. Besides, my email address has apparently found it's way into spammers hands and my mailbox is filled with an unusually high volume of garbage. I'll never find your email in the midst of all that, anyway.