Thursday, May 11, 2006

Rain, Rain Go Away (Or At Least Let Us Play)

Stinking spring showers. I thought they were supposed to arrive in April, not May. For those unaware, we in the upper Midwest appear to be stuck beneath a swirling low pressure center that is dumping rain from the Wisconsin/Minnesota border to about Maryland. Basically, the majority of Big Ten baseball fields are getting damp and it isn't going to end anytime soon. And, as we all know, baseball and rain aren't the best of pals.

A quick look at this weekend baseball schedule reveals that our hosts are Indiana, Penn State, Iowa, Ohio State and Northwestern. Only the Hawkeyes seem to be outside the rain zone. Of course, a subtle move west by this baseball nightmare and Iowa City gets wet, too. This protracted precipitation means that the weekend slate of contests could be in danger. (Northwestern is already anticipating weather trouble and has moved some game times around.) I'm guessing right now somebody is playing on Monday, as there are only eight games remaining to determine a regular season champion.

It's bad enough the Big Ten plays a month of road games because it snows up here until, well, June (sarcasm, only sarcasm), but now the rain threatens the next-to-last weekend series of the year. Wonderful. Here's hoping the majority of games get played.

As for the battles on the field, co-leaders Northwestern (16-8/19-28) get a visit from Michigan State (10-14/23-24). The Wildcats are coming off a split of last weekend's meeting with the Gophers and a midweek pasting at the hands of Illinois-Chicago, 23-5. Those results might lead one to believe the 'Cats are ready to take a fall, but they've rebounded so many times this season I just can't write them off.

The Spartans dropped three of four to Ohio State last weekend, but did win their midweek match-up against Western Michigan, 10-6. The Green and White enter the NU series on a two game winning streak.

State College is the where the Big Ten's other front runner, Michigan, finds itself this weekend. Penn State (11-13/18-29) is battling for a spot in the conference tournament, while the Wolverines (16-8/30-17) are looking to gain sole possession of the top spot overall and host the post-season event.

The Nittany Lions enter this meeting having won the final two contests against Purdue last weekend. PSU had no midweek game. Michigan also split their weekend series vs. Illinois, but prevailed in a midweek game versus Eastern Michigan, 11-6.

Ohio State (15-9/31-15), only a game behind Northwestern and Michigan, plays host to Minnesota (11-13/24-23). The Buckeyes took three of four from MSU last week and are 7-2 in their last nine games. The Gophers did split their face-off with NU, but have a 3-6 record in their last nine games.

In the one place not getting rain currently, Iowa (10-14/21-26) hosts Purdue (11-13/25-20). Jack Dahm's squad took three of four from IU last weekend and didn't face a midweek opponent. Purdue enters the Hawkeye series having split their last Big Ten encounter with Penn State. The Boilermakers' midweek affair against Indiana State got washed out in the first wave of this week's rainfall.

Fourth place Illinois (12-12/26-21) travels to Bloomington to take on Indiana (8-16/19-28). The Illini are 5-2 in their last seven games having split with Michigan a week ago. In the other dugout, Tracy Smith's side has won their last two games, including a 13-11 midweek triumph over Valpo. It's interesting to note that the last place Hoosiers have exactly the same overall record as the first place Wildcats, 19-28.

I see that the folks at IU are keeping an eye on the old Doppler radar, as well. Indiana has joined NU in changing the start times for their weekend games.

Oh, I hope the majority of these game get played. I have no idea what the conference would do if rain cost any of the front runners multiple games. It will no doubt be interesting. And soggy.