Thursday, May 31, 2007

NCAA Tournament Time

Alright, it's time to get down to tournament talk. There are the usual suspects chatting up the tourney and I think I can provide enough links to other tournament related information that you should stay busy for a few minutes, anyway.

Here are how the three Big Ten programs previewed their regional. Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State. Plus, here's the Big Ten's press release about the three universities.

Next, here are the links to all the schools in each regional that has a Big Ten representative.

Austin Peay

San Diego
Fresno State
Cal St. Fullerton

Texas A & M
Le Moyne
Ohio State

CSTV's Eric Sorenson previews the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in his Thursday Thoughts. Sorenson's ally, Doug Kroll, passes out love to St. John's. I'm happy to see the Big East land three teams in the field, as well. It's a good sign for everyone in the snowbelt to see as many teams from north of the Mason-Dixon line get in The Dance.

(Mandatory Midwest Disclaimer: While I'm happy for the Big East, I do get annoyed as it seems the east coast bias manages to pervade even college baseball. I don't believe for one stinkin' second the Big East is generally superior to the Big Ten. Yet, year-after-year, the Big East gets far more media attention than the Big Ten. Ridiculous. Had to get that in. Thanks for sitting through my inferiority complex.)

Yet another CSTVer, Glenn Tanner, takes a look at the top eight national seeds and their opposition this first weekend.

Texas college baseball blogger supreme, Joanna, notes the long delays between games of the regionals. It appears the NCAA has set them up like day/night doubleheaders in the Majors. Very odd.

Baseball America's Aaron Fitt discusses how the teams in the field were chosen. Think: strength of schedule.

Along those same lines, Corn Nation landed an interview with Damani Leech, NCAA Director of Football and Baseball. This Q & A took place prior to the announcement of the field, but is well worth the read.

My friends over at the College Baseball Blog look at all the regionals as do our allies over at Southern College The SCS boys go all out. Nice job.

Boyd Nation does his annual review of the selection committee's job and provides a variety of numbers for the entire field of 64.

The gang at Ping! make their predictions, too.

See, more than enough quality tournament coverage to go around. Hope you enjoy this weekend's action.

A Few Stray Links

Here are some of items of note around the Big Ten.

Let's begin with the final official RPI of the regular season. If you don't wish to scroll down the whole list, here are the Big Ten programs in order. Michigan is at #46. Minnesota follows at #49. Penn State is next at #62. Tournament champion Ohio State is at #72. Iowa checks in at #103. Michigan State is #112. Illinois finished at #141. Purdue is #188. Indiana came in at #195. Northwestern finished at #215.

Illinois' Lars Davis was named a second team All-America.

The Michigan State baseball season is reviewed.

Northwestern freshman Kenneth Avila was chosen for the NCAA National Leadership Conference.

A couple of Boilers, Dan Sattler and Chadd Blasko, get a chance at the next level.

The 2007 Big Ten All-Tournament Team. I don't think I provided a link to this before. Sloppy work on my part.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Wolverines, Gophers Are In

The drama didn't last all that long. Less than ten minutes into the NCAA Selection Show, we learned that both Michigan and Minnesota had joined Big Ten tournament champion Ohio State in the field of sixty-four.

Ohio State is the three seed in the College Station Regional. They will open with second seeded Louisiana-Lafayette. The one seed is, obviously, Texas A & M, who open with fourth seeded Le Moyne.

Michigan is the second seed in the Nashville Regional. They open with Memphis, the second seed. The host is Vanderbilt, the one seed and top seed in the entire nation. The Commodores will take on Austin Peay.

Minnesota, a third seed in the San Diego Regional, makes a trip out west to face traditional superpower Cal State Fullerton, the two seed. The one seed is San Diego who opens with a game against Fresno State, the fourth seed.

Congratulations to all three programs on making the NCAA Tournament. I'll state the obvious, I wish you much success. I also anticipate a much better showing than the general public does.

Just some other quick thoughts as I've got got a barbecue to fire up. (Charcoal, not propane, by the way.)

* I'm surprised the Big Ten got three teams in. Happy, but surprised.

* I'm surprised the Big East got three teams in. Six northern schools, including four at-large bids? Who would have thought that?

* I'm surprised the SEC got only five. I expect the complaining to begin in earnest.

* I cannot believe College of Charleston didn't make it. I thought Gonzaga kind of got shafted, as well. Other than that, I thought the committee did a pretty good job.

* Apparently, going two and out in the Big Ten Tournament didn't have much bearing on Michigan. They ended up a two seed. I figured a three was the best they could hope for having lost some steam over the last month. Of course, they did end up the in the regional hosted by national number one, Vanderbilt. One might view that as punishment.

* I'm also a bit surprised Ohio State got a three seed. I wasn't crazy about their non-conference schedule and they weren't terribly high in RPI, either. I know the folks in Columbus and me, for that matter, will take it, though.

* I could be crazy, but I have a good feeling about Minnesota out west. It's based on nothing but my initial reaction.

Perhaps, I'll have more on this later today. Again, I wish all the Big Ten programs the best and hope their supporters can get out to the regional sites.

Tournament Day 5: Ohio State Wins Championship

Remember way back on Tuesday when I suggested "Anybody can win the 2007 Big Ten Conference Tournament. Anybody."? On Sunday, sixth seeded Ohio State proved that claim to be true. The Buckeyes beat Minnesota, 4-2, to win the Big Ten Conference Tournament and claim the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. They are the first sixth seed to ever win the Big Ten Tournament.

OSU won on the strength of the pitching of Cory Luebke and Jake Hale plus a two run, pinch-hit double off the bat of Michael Arp. Luebke, the conference's Pitcher of the Year, worked the first 7.2 innings giving up seven hits, a walk and both Gophers runs. Luebke yielded to Hale who went the rest of the way to earn his fourth victory of the season. It was Hale's second win of the tournament and both he and Luebke were named to the All-Tournament Team. Luebke also was named as the Most Outstanding Player in the 2007 Tournament.

Arp's big hit came in the eighth when he batted for freshman Ryan Dew. With the scored tied at 2-2, Arp came to bat with two outs and two on. Arp hit a shot down the leftfield line to score both runners and give the Bucks the 4-2 margin that would be the final score.

Jacob Howell, who was also named to the All-Tournament Team, and Justin Miller led OSU with two hits a piece. Minnesota's Matt Nohelty and Kyle Baran, both All-Tournament team members, as well, countered with two hits each for the Gophers.

Gary Perinar started and went seven innings for Minnesota, striking out eight, while giving up six hits, three walks and three earned runs.

The Gophers advanced to the championship game by posting a come from behind win versus Penn State, 4-3, in eleven innings Sunday morning. The game resumed in the seventh with PSU up 3-2. Saturday's rain forced the game to be completed early Sunday. A two-out RBI single from Nohelty tied the game in the ninth and Jeremy Chlan's 11th inning RBI double won it for the Gophers.

Nohelty's three hits and two RBI paced the Gophers attack. Bill Johnson worked the final four innings giving up just three hits and was the winning pitcher. Johnson was named to the All-Tournament Team.

Another All-Tournament selection, 2B Matt Cavagnaro had two hits and two RBI for PSU. Garrett Field and Rick Marlin also had two hits a piece for the Nittany Lions.

While conference play has concluded in the Big Ten, three baseball programs still have a big day ahead of them. Later today we learn who Ohio State will play in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament and we will see if Michigan and Minnesota will make the field of 64. Obviously, I'm hopeful that both get in.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Tournament Day 4: Weather Wins

Rain delayed the start of today's first game between Penn State and Minnesota. Once underway, the Nittany Lions and Golden Gophers managed to reach the seventh inning stretch before rain forced the field to be covered again. This time the rain prevailed and the remaining two and a half innings will conclude tomorrow morning beginning at 10:00am. When, and if, play resumes, Penn State is leading Minnesota, 3-2.

Saturday's scheduled second game between Ohio State and the PSU/Minnesota winner will take place Sunday at 12:05pm. That game could be the championship game, if OSU wins. If the Buckeyes fall in Sunday's 12:05pm start, there would be one more game at 3:35pm to determine the Big Ten Tournament champion.

Of course, more rain is in the forecast, so we may end up with no more baseball played at all. In which case, I presume Ohio State will be declared the champion on the basis of its 3-0 record thus far.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Tournament Day Three: PSU Bounces Michigan & Illinois; OSU Beats Minnesota

I admit that's the longest post title ever. However, it was a day worthy of a protracted headline. Our Friday began with Penn State eliminating top seeded Michigan, 6-5, in ten innings. Penn State headed into the ninth inning leading 5-2 behind good outings from Paul Hawkins (5.0 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 2 ER) and Matt O'Grodnik (2.2 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 0 ER) and with closer Drew O'Neil on the hill. O'Neil, PSU's first team All-Big Ten closer, had been nothing short of dominant in recent showings. (Hey, he was first team all-conference for a reason.)

With the Wolverines staring elimination in the face, they mounted a three-run ninth inning comeback that forced extra innings. In the tenth, PSU's Cory Wine cleared the right field wall for his fifth homerun of the season and put the Nittany Lions up for good. It was a tension filled game, as both teams faced elimination.

Wine, who had hit a big two run triple earlier in the game, led PSU with three RBI. Wine, Matt Cavagnaro and Garrett Field each had two hits. O'Neil, who lost the save opportunity, did pick up the win.

Nate Recknagel and Derek VanBuskirk each had three hits a piece for Michigan who must now waiting for Monday to see if their 39 win season will result in a NCAA tournament invitation. (Hopefully, I'll have more on that in a bit.)

Penn State's win moved them into the second game of the day, a contest with Illinois. The Illini led 2-1 after seven innings. In the eighth, PSU put five on the board to secure a 6-2 triumph. Freshman John Karr worked 5.1 innings allowing six hits, two walks and two earned runs. Matt O'Grodnik (4-3) posted the win pitching the last 3.2 innings giving up just one hit.

Rob Yodice's three run double was the highlight of the Nittany Lions five run eighth. Joe Blackburn had two hits, scored twice and had a RBI. Mike Deese had three hits and two RBI.

Illinois' Shawn Roof had a pair of hits and stole his fortieth base of the year. Scott Shaw tossed a very strong 7.0 innings giving up three hits, a walk and three runs only two of which were earned. Shaw also struck out six, but took the loss.

Their second win of the day kept Penn State's season alive and eliminated Illinois from the tournament. The Nittany Lions have become the Kings of Elimination. So far, they've taken Iowa, Michigan and Illinois out of this tournament.

In the last game of the day, Ohio State rallied to beat Minnesota, 10-9, in 11 innings. Jacob Howell, who went 5 for 7, drove home Chris Macke with the game winner in the 11th. Eric Fryer, Justin Miller and Cory Rupert each had two RBI a piece to lead OSU. Rory Meister was the last Buckeye hurler standing and got the win. The veteran righthander worked 2.2 innings and gave up one hit and no runs.

Dan Lyons had three hits and three RBI for the Gophers. Mike Mee, who clearly appears ailing, also had three hits. Nate Hanson had two hits and three RBI.

I have to come clean and admit I bailed on this game early. I had some things to take care of back at the house, so with the Gophers up 9-5, it looked like a good time to sneak out early. Obviously, I made another poor decision.

As for your Saturday schedule, Minnesota, the second seed, will play in tomorrow's 3:35pm elimination game against Penn State, the third seed. Sixth seeded Ohio State moves onto the championship game tomorrow night at 7:05pm. The Buckeyes will await the winner of Minnesota/Penn State. Should OSU win that affair, they would be conference tournament champions. A Buckeye loss Saturday night forces a Sunday re-match for the Big Ten's post-season crown and an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

In what is already a far too long a post, I'm going to pile on. Here are some random things I've chosen to share with you.

* In a story shared on-the-air by the voice of PSU baseball, Justin Weyman, Nittany Lions 2B Matt Cavagnaro didn't much care for a bat, so he hung it from a noose in the hallway behind the dugout.

* It was not a good day for closers.

* Pitchers for tomorrow's game will be decided by coin toss. Maybe the winner of the hot dog eating contest can pitch the next inning? Seriously, this tournament does become an endurance contest for your pitching staff. I wonder if all the remaining games will be like tonight's Minnesota/Ohio State game -- high scoring and, thus, slowly played? Of course if it's slow enough, next year's recruiting class might be eligible before the game concludes.

* I can't seem to recall if the playing surface at Ray Fisher Stadium is going to be changed during this renovation. I've seen a number of bad hops this season including a few more today. If it's not part of the renovation, maybe it should be.

* CSTV is going to broadcast the would-be championship game tomorrow at 7:05pm.

* Anybody else starting to get concerned about the chances of Minnesota and/or Michigan landing an at-large bid? I must admit that I haven't reviewed all of the other conference tournament action, but the more upsets around the country, the more difficult it becomes for Big Ten programs to grab an at-large bid.

It's not that the Gophers and Wolverines aren't deserving, but their conference tournament losses combined with some upsets beyond the Big Ten provide the NCAA tournament committee with ample opportunity to justify overlooking both programs. Yes, yes, I know -- all the projections have both schools in The Dance. Well, projections had Dewey over Truman, Custer over the Native Americans and thunderstorms today.

* Kudos to the Michigan administration for getting the conference tournament t-shirts on sale Wednesday. I called you out when they weren't ready last year, so I applaud your timely efforts this season.

* Thanks to Tom, The Baseball Zealot, for saying nice things about this weblog and me, for that matter. If you follow Illini baseball, I would encourage you to check out Tom's site.

* I also have to thank Brian at MGoBlog for referring his readers here. First, CSTV's Eric Sorenson. Now, MGoBlog. I may just have to retire. There is no where to go but down from here.

I welcome all the MGoBlog readers aboard. If you can get past the decline in quality from Brian's blog to here, you'll be fine.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tournament Day Two: OSU Upsets Michigan; Penn State, Minnesota Win

Sixth seed Ohio State stunned rival, and top seed, Michigan, 4-2, on the second day of the Big Ten Tournament. Once again, the story for the Buckeyes was their starting pitching. OSU's Jake Hale pitched a complete game scattering eleven hits and three walks. In spite of a somewhat elevated hit total, I never felt like Hale was in much trouble. He was usually ahead of the hitters and only had a few rough spots, including a nail-biting ninth.

Jacob Howell and Tony Kennedy had two hits a piece to lead the Buckeyes. Doug Pickens had three, Kevin Cislo and Brad Roblin had two hits each in pacing Michigan's attack.

The win allowed OSU to stay in the winner's bracket and advance to play Minnesota in Friday's 7:05pm start.

The Gophers made their first appearance of the tournament and promptly banged out sixteen hits and ten runs to beat Illinois, 10-3. Dan Lyons and Kevin Carlson led the hit parade with three each. Brian Jost had four RBI while Kyle Baran had two hits, three runs scored and three RBI.

Tom Buske picked up the win. Buske allowed seven hits and a walk in 6.2 innings pitched. Bill Johnson worked the last 2.1 innings allowing just one hit.

Brandon Wikoff and Mike Rohde's two hits a piece were the leaders for the Illini. If I have my tournament bracket filled out correctly, Illinois gets to wait to play until 3:35pm tomorrow. The Illini will play the winner of the Penn State and Michigan game, another elimination game.

Iowa became the first team eliminated from the tournament when Penn State prevailed in today's first game, 5-3. PSU's Craig Clark won his sixth game of the year by going seven full innings and yielding nine hits, three walks and two earned runs. Drew O'Neil came out of the bullpen to pitch the final two stanzas. O'Neil didn't allow a run or hit and fanned two of the six batters he faced.

Matt Cavagnaro led PSU with three hits. Cory Wine led them in RBI with two, both coming on a triple. Kyle Riffel and Ben Geelan both had two hit games to lead Iowa. Travis Sweet hit a laser out of the yard, it was his eighth homer of the season.

Just to recap Friday's schedule, Penn State and Michigan will play an elimination game at 12:05pm. That game's winner will play Illinois at 3:35pm. The second game will also be an elimination game. The final game of the day will see Minnesota and Ohio State play at 7:05pm.

The winner of tomorrow's second game (Illinois vs. Michigan/Penn State winner) will go on to face the loser of Minnesota/Ohio State in Saturday's 3:35pm game. Got all that? What you have right now is Minnesota and Ohio State in the winner's bracket, thus in the driver's seat. Everyone else is fighting for survival.

Thursday was the second spectacular weather day in a row. Tomorrow begins a trend in the opposite direction. Per usual, I've seen varying reports on just how much precipitation we can expect and when it's most likely to fall. At minimum, we run the risk of getting soggy tomorrow. Keep the rain gear handy, folks.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tournament Day One: Blowouts Are The Norm

The Big Ten Tournament opened with Tanner Roark leading the University of Illinois to a 12-3 win over the University of Iowa. Roark tossed a complete game nine hitter. The Illini righthander was aided by five doubleplays. Everytime the Hawkeyes appear to be mounting a comeback, a doubleplay ended their hopes.

Mike Rohde drove in three to lead Illinois. Daniel Webb, Shawn Roof and Nick Stockwell had two RBI a piece. All-Conference OF Travis Sweet led the counter attack with three hits and two RBI for Iowa.

Game two saw Ohio State score three in the first, two in the second and one each in the third and fourth and cruise to a 10-3 over Penn State. Cory Luebke, the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, looked a like a Pitcher of the Year. The OSU lefty gave up three hits, three walks and no runs over seven innings. The Buckeyes seventeen hit attack was led by Jacob Howell, Matt Angle and Tony Kennedy with three hits a piece. J.B. Shuck had three RBI.

Brian Ernst and Matt Cavagnaro each had two hits for Penn State.

Iowa and Penn State will meet at 12:05 pm tomorrow in the first elimination game of the tournament. The second game of the day will see Illinois take on Minnesota at 3:35 pm. The finale is scheduled for 7:05 pm and is match-up of Ohio State versus Michigan.

The weather tomorrow is supposed to be warm and sunny. A near record high is on tap. Although, the scoreboard at The Fish indicated it hit 100 degrees today. That's going to be hard to top.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Long And Winding Tournament Preview

Anybody can win the 2007 Big Ten Conference Tournament. Anybody.

Conversely, all six teams are perfectly capable of going two and barbecue. (Is anybody having a bbq, by the way? Of course, I'm invited, right?)

This is the most wide open conference tournament in years. I think there are two primary reasons for this. 1) The teams in the Big Ten are just plain better baseball teams in 2007. Look at the number of Big Ten programs that beat some of college baseball's big boys this year (Ex: Penn State over UNC, Michigan over Mississippi State, Minnesota over Arkansas). If Big Ten programs can go on the road and beat the sunshine boys, they can all beat each other.

2) Each school's pitching can be erratic. If you've got good starters, your bullpen is probably a question mark. If you've got a tremendous bullpen, your starters get squirrely from time-to-time. In some instances, especially late in the year, entire pitching staffs have gone belly up.

As the pitching as been so difficult to get a handle on, it's hard to guess which team has an edge heading into the tournament. The bottom line will probably be that whomever pitches best this week wins. An insightful thought, I know. But, how much did you pay for this insight? Sometimes you do get what you pay for.

Having said all this, let me provide an array of short concepts that will provide, well, will provide me with an outlet to share these ideas. You can decide if they make an ounce of sense.

The Favorite: Whether you love 'em or hate 'em, Michigan has to be the pre-tournament favorite. They've now won the last three championships the conference plays for : '06 regular season, '06 tournament & '07 regular season. They are at home. (Yes, they've been better on the road this year. I still think the players and coaches would rather have this tournament in Ann Arbor.) They have the highest RPI of anyone in the Big Ten. They have the most dynamic offense in a conference with a number of teams that can swing the bat.

The Hot Team: Penn State. The Nittany Lions have won nine of their last twelve conference games. Three weeks ago, Penn State won the series versus Purdue. Then, PSU won three in Ann Arbor two weeks ago and took three more from a revived Ohio State squad this past weekend. Drew O'Neil is plain nasty out of the 'pen and the Lions don't lose leads very often. An under-appreciated starting rotation keeps PSU in nearly every game.

The Pitching Staff To Watch Out For: Ohio State. Coach Bob Todd inserted Jake Hale into the rotation two weeks ago and the Buckeyes first three starters are now Cory Luebke, Hale and J.B. Shuck. All good. All have pitched in the conference tournament before. Are three starters enough to win it all? Maybe.

Nobody Loves Us: Iowa. If one program is going to throw around the "Us Against The World" speech, it's the Hawkeyes. They just can't get no respect. An unimpressive RPI. A fourth place finish. It seems like Iowa is in the shadows. Although, these Hawks can swing the bats with anyone in the Big Ten. Jason White, Travis Sweet and Dusty Napoleon all finished the year with an OPS above 1.000. That's real good, boys and girls. Their pitching has been just good enough, but losing closer Mike Schurz does hurt their chances in this format.

If You Don't Get To Them Early: In my mind there are three clubs with exceptional bullpens. Minnesota has the double-headed monster of Josh Oslin and Kyle Carr. Penn State's Matt Ogrodnik and O'Neil (there seems like there should be a nickname for a bullpen led by two guys with last names starting with o) aren't far behind. Illinois counters with Omar Kadir and Jake "I got us in the stinkin' tournament" Toohey. I would normally include Iowa, but losing Schurz drops the Hawkeyes bullpen some.

Comeback Kids: Illinois. The Illini needed two wins to get to the little dance (that's the conference tournament). They fall behind Friday, 4-0, after two innings yet win the game. Needing only one win, they get crushed in both games Saturday. Down 7-0 to Michigan State on Sunday, with their entire season on the line, Illinois makes another comeback to win 8-7 and gets in the tournament. Can this continue? Can the Illini faithful take it, if it does? Do the Illinois kids have anything left in the tank?

History Should Teach Us Something: Last year, I liked Minnesota. I opined at the time that history told me to watch out for John Anderson's team. Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, right? Well, recent history, including dropping six of their last twelve (NU and IU took four of six) makes me ponder where the Gophers are right now. Yet, I refuse to ignore history. If Minnesota can beat Arkansas, Mississippi and Pepperdine, they can take out the other five teams in Ann Arbor.

The Official View: Here is the link to the Big Ten's preview of the tournament. (Apparently, non-conference games don't mean much in Chicago.)

Is That Rain?: The weather forecast is typical for May. Wednesday is supposed to be warm (pushing 90, perhaps) and sunny. Trouble may arise come Thursday. I've seen thundershowers called for and I've seen another forecast predicting a second straight sunny, high eighty degree day. Amazingly, both forecasts are courtesy of The Weather Channel -- one online the other on tv. I guess they've got their bases covered regardless of what happens.

Overall, we've got nice on Wednesday, a toss-up on Thursday, water from the sky on Friday and rain with some noise on Saturday. Did I mention the temperatures are going to drop each successive day, as well?

I'll tell you the same thing I said last year, pack everything -- sunscreen and shorts to umbrellas and jackets.

All-Conference Picks: Another official announcement from the home office in Chicago. The Big Ten has names it's Players of the Year and their All-Conference Teams. Congratulations to Cory Luebke and Lars Davis on being named Pitcher and Player of the Year, respectively. (FYI: I can never decide if I want to name an All-BTH team or not. I'm leaning towards an All-Freshman Team, but even that's not definite. If you have an opinion or would like to nominate a freshman -- or two -- drop me an email.)

Let's look at some numbers. The PRPI indicates Boyd's World Pseudo-RPI as of the time I write this. I'm assuming you realize the first two sets of numbers are each school's record in the Big Ten followed by their overall record. You knew that, right? All that is followed by their record against the rest of the tournament field.

Michigan (21-7, 39-14; PRPI - 40)
vs. Minnesota 0-0 (4 games canceled)
vs. Penn State 1-3
vs. Iowa 3-1
vs. Illinois 2-2
vs. Ohio State 4-0

Minnesota (18-9, 38-14; PRPI - 54)
vs. Michigan 0-0
vs. Penn State 2-1 (1 canceled)
vs. Iowa 3-1
vs. Illinois 3-1
vs. Ohio State 2-2

Penn State (20-10, 28-24; PRPI - 71)
vs. Michigan 3-1
vs. Minnesota 1-2 (1 canceled)
vs. Iowa 1-2
vs. Illinois DNP
vs. Ohio State 3-1

Iowa (17-13, 31-21; PRPI - 93)
vs. Michigan 1-3
vs. Minnesota 1-3
vs. Penn State 2-1
vs. Illinois 3-1
vs. Ohio State 1-3

Illinois (16-14, 30-25; PRPI - 140)
vs. Michigan 2-2
vs. Minnesota 1-3
vs. Penn State DNP
vs. Iowa 1-3
vs. Ohio State 1-1 (2 cancellations)

Ohio State (15-15, 33-22; PRPI - 89)
vs. Michigan 0-4
vs. Minnesota 2-2
vs. Penn State 1-3
vs. Iowa 3-1
vs. Illinois 1-1 (2 cancellations)

I did a couple of additional stats, beyond the standard batting average and ERA you can find at the Big Ten's official site, just out of curiosity. I'm not sure it means a thing, but here is how the tournament field stacked up in OPS and WHIP ratio. Their overall conference ranking appears in the parentheses.

Michigan 908 (1)
Iowa 884 (2)
Illinois 848 (3)
Minnesota 840 (4)
Ohio State 798 (6)
Penn State 745 (9)

Walks + Hits/Innings Pitched
Michigan 1.449 (1)
Minnesota 1.461 (2)
Penn State 1.467 (3)
Ohio State 1.503 (4)
Illinois 1.712 (8)
Iowa 1.760 (9)

I thank you wading through this unorganized preview of the Big Ten Tournament. I'll try blogging each evening after the tournament concludes for the day, so stop by each day for a recap. Keep in mind, though, it could be late before the post goes up.

OPS A Day Early

If everything goes according to plan, I'll be in Ann Arbor for the conference tournament tomorrow and will blog about it once I return. (Sorry, no live blogging from The Fish.) That means I may not have time to complete my weekly look at on base plus slugging percentage on its usual day. That being the case, I've opted to provide the list a day early.

This, most likely, will be my final OPS list of the season. The conference tournament numbers may be included into the "official" mix, but the regular season is over from my perspective. I will point out that the minimum number of at bats to qualify is still 100. That's probably a bit low, but I'm happy with it and that's all that matters. Here is how the 1.000 + OPS club looks for 2007:

1) Ryne White, Purdue 1.184
2) Lars Davis, Illinois 1.146
3) Travis Sweet, Iowa 1.098
4) Nate Recknagel, Michigan 1.084
5) Jordan Comadena, Purdue 1.075
6) Derek Van Buskirk, Michigan 1.038
7) Jason White, Iowa 1.033
T8) Dusty Napoleon, Iowa 1.021
T8) Mike Mee, Minnesota 1.021
10) Zach Putnam, Michigan 1.009

Monday, May 21, 2007

Some Monday Links

SEBaseball's Mark Etheridge predicts the tournament field. Yes, Michigan and Minnesota made his cut.

Boyd's World RPI's as of today.

Jason Grodsky of the Daily Illini writes about Illinois' comeback win against MSU Sunday.

Indiana Daily Student's Linnea Coulter recaps the Hoosiers' win against Minnesota.

Michigan's series win at Iowa is the subject for Andy Reid of The Michigan Daily.

Friend of BTH, Tom at The Baseball Zealot, is sort of happy about the Illini making the tournament.

Michigan remains in Baseball America's Top 25.

The All-Weekend Team

It's the final Big Ten Hardball All-Weekend Team for 2007. Brings a tear to your eye, doesn't it? As you reach for a Kleenex, let me proceed with this week's edition.

Catcher - Kyle Day, Michigan State (7/16, 4 R, 9 RBI, 3 2B, HR, 2 BB)
Firstbase - Jake Goebbert, Northwestern (12/16, 6 R, 8 RBI, 3 2B, 3B, BB)
Secondbase - Steve Gerstenberger, Michigan State (10/18, 6 R, 5 RBI, 3 2B, HR, BB)
Shortstop - Brandon Doherty, Michigan State (10/16, 6 R, 6 RBI, 2 2B, 2 HR, BB)
Thirdbase - Jake Owens, Northwestern (12/19, 7 R, 4 RBI, BB, 2 SB)
Outfield - Matt Nohelty, Minnesota (8/16, 5 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, SB)
Outfield - Mike Kalina, Northwestern (7/17, 7 R, 7 RBI)
Outfield - Zach Putnam, Michigan (5/15, 4 R, 7 RBI, 2 HR, BB)
Designated Hitter - Nate Recknagel, Michigan (8/16, 6 R, 6 RBI, 2 2B, HR, 2 BB, SB)

Bench - Nate Hanson, Minnesota (8/17, 5 R, 7 RBI, 2 2B, 2 HR, BB)
Bench - Evan Crawford, Indiana (9/15, 2 R, 6 RBI, 2B, 2 BB)
Bench - Sean Walker, Michigan State (8/17, 4 R, 6 RBI, 2B, 3 HR, BB)
Bench - Mike Rohde, Illinois (5/10, 4 R, 7 RBI, 2B, HR)
Bench - Lars Davis, Illinois (4/11, 6 R, 5 RBI, 2 HR, 3 BB)
Bench - Scott Gaffney, Penn State (6/14, 5 R, 2 RBI, 2B, 3B, 2 HR, BB, SB; 1 APP, 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 Er, 0 BB, 2 K, no decision)

Starter - John Dwan, Michigan State (7.0 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 K's in win)
Starter - Zach Putnam, Michigan (7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 10 K's in no decision)
Starter - Andrew Smith, Northwestern (9.0 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K's in win)
Starter - Dan Schwartz, Northwestern (7.0 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 7 K's in win)
Starter - Cory Luebke, Ohio State (7.0 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K's in no decision)
Starter - Josh Edgin, Ohio State (6.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K's in no decision)
Starter - Paul Hawkins, Penn State (5.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K's in win)
Starter - Seth Whitehill, Penn State (7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K's in no decision)
Relief - Jake Toohey, Illinois (2 APP, 5.2 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K's in win and save)
Relief - Drew O'Neil, Penn State (2 APP, 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K's in two saves)
Relief - Trey Fausnaugh, Ohio State (1 APP, 2.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K's in win)

I'll bypass elaborating on this week's side other than to offer the standard request. If I missed someone, made an error in math, please drop me an email. I'll gladly consider your nominee or change whatever mistake I managed this week.

On that thought, I should thank all those who took the time to write me with their suggestions and corrections during the season. It was greatly appreciated.

I hope you enjoyed the All-Weekend Team feature this season. It was entertaining for me, albeit time consuming. My tentative plan is to bring it back again in 2008.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Buckeyes, Illini Advance

Ohio State and Illinois are the final two teams in the 2007 Big Ten Baseball Tournament. OSU qualified after beating Penn State, 3-2. An eighth inning sac fly by Tony Kennedy elevated the Buckeyes to victory. Trey Fausnaugh posted the win going the last 2.2 innings. Josh Edgin had worked the previous 6.1 giving up only six hits, two earned runs and no walks in a must-win game for the Buckeyes. Eric Fryer's two hits were the most by a Buckeye. Rick Marlin's two hit, one run and RBI were the highlight of PSU day.

Illinois captured the fifth seed in the conference tournament by dropping Michigan State, 8-7. Unbelievably, the Illini came back from a 7-0 deficit before their at bat in the fifth inning. Lars Davis led the charge by hitting a pair of homeruns. Davis drove in three as did Nick Stockwell who also went yard. Jake Toohey, the Illinois closer, came on to pitch the last 4.1 innings. Toohey allowed five hits and three walks, but no runs. Brandon Doherty, Kyle Day and Sean Walker all left the yard for MSU, who couldn't muster a run after the fifth inning.

The wins by Ohio State and Illinois eliminated Michigan State from the Big Ten tournament (.pdf file). The field looks like this. Michigan and Minnesota are the top two seeds and earn a first round bye. Iowa, the fourth seed, will take on Illinois, the fifth seed in game one on Wednesday. Game two will feature the third seed, Penn State, taking on the sixth seed, Ohio State, in a rematch of this weekend's encounter. I'm sure I'll be talking, er, typing more tournament talk in the days ahead.

In other Sunday action, Michigan took the series from Iowa, 7-2. Zach Putnam hit a grandslam to help power the Wolverines to victory. Doug Pickens had two hits, a run scored and a RBI. Andrew Hess returned to the rotation and worked five innings of five hit baseball to post his seventh win. Kevin Hoef had a pair of hits, Caleb Curry and Justin Toole both drove in runs for Iowa.

Indiana slipped past Minnesota, 10-9. Josh Phelgey was today's hero hitting a walkoff single to win it. Freshman shortstop Evan Crawford had a four hit, three RBI performance in the finale of the season for IU. Doug Fleenor's 5.1 innings of hitless relief earned him his second triumph of the season. Minnesota's Nate Hanson almost single-handedly kept the Gophers in it. Hanson had three hits, including two homers, and drove in seven runs. The Hoosiers showed quite a bit of heart this weekend by taking two from the Gophers.

Speaking of heart, Northwestern swept Purdue by winning today's finale, 11-5. Jake Owens had four hits and became the Wildcats single season hit leader with 85. Mike Kalina had three hits and four RBI, Jake Goebbert had three hits and three RBI. Dan Schwartz gave up eight hits, four walks and two earned runs while fanning seven en route to his fourth win. Alex Jaffee, Ryne White, John Cummins and Dan Black all had two hits a piece for Purdue. The NU sweep moved the Wildcats out of the cellar and into ninth place in the standings.

It's hard to believe the regular season is already over. I keep repeating this, but the college baseball season is just way too short. Although, I'm looking forward to the conference tournament and to see how the NCAA field shakes out a week from tomorrow. I thank the fans of Michigan State, Purdue, Northwestern and Indiana for checking in this season. I hope you'll hang around for the tournament, but I figure most of you will rest up and get ready for 2008.

As for those headed to Ann Arbor, I congratulate you on making the tournament and wish you luck this week.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Michigan Wins Big Ten

The University of Michigan captured their second straight regular season Big Ten title by splitting a doubleheader with Iowa and having Indiana drop second place Minnesota in the finale of their twinbill.

Michigan beat the Hawkeyes in game one, 11-5. The Wolverines went yard four times -- Kevin Cislo (1), Nate Recknagel (10), Zach Putnam (7) and Jason Christian (7). Recknagel had three hits, three RBI and scored three times. Cislo and Eric Rose each had two hits, two RBI and scored twice. Iowa's Travis Sweet countered with a perfect 4 for 4 game. The Hawkeyes' CF also scored twice and drove in one. 3B Kevin Hoef collected two hits and two RBI. Michael Powers came out of the Wolverines' bullpen to post his second triumph of 2007.

Game two saw the Hawkeyes prevail, 8-6. Nick Erdman improved to 7-2 by going 6.1 innings and allowing four earned runs. Mike Jacobs recorded the final two out to post the save. Caleb Curry had two hits, scored once and drove in one. Dusty Napoleon scored three times. Jason White scored twice and swiped three bases. Matt Wooldrik drove in two runs. Michigan's Recknagel had three hits, scored once and drove in one, while Putnam had two hits, two RBI and scored twice for the Wolverines.

Even though Michigan lost the second game, they claimed the Big Ten regular season crown as Indiana beat Minnesota in their second game of the day, 10-7. Hoosiers OF Andrew Means had two hits (a double and a triple) and four RBI to lead IU. 1B Michael Nilles had two RBI as did 2B Evan Crawford. SS Keith Haas scored three times. The win went to Chris Squires in relief. Derek McCallum had two hits and two RBI for the Gophers. Dan Lyons scored three times, but the loss eliminated any chance the Gophers had of catching Michigan.

The Minnesota loss hands Michigan not only the regular season championship, but the right to host the Big Ten Conference Tournament. I believe the action will start on Wednesday in Ann Arbor. (Yes, I hope to be there.) More on that as the week progresses.

As for the last two tournament spots, they remain up in the air. Michigan State swept today's doubleheader from Illinois by scores of 7-3 and 16-4. In game one, John Dwan pitched a seven inning complete game to earn his fourth win of the year. The Spartans lefty allowed eight hits, three earned runs and no walks. He also struck out five. MSU catcher Kyle Day had a four RBI game. Day, Sean Walker and Eric Roof all homered for the Spartans. (Eric is Illini SS Shawn Roof's brother.) Illinois played some long ball, too, as Lars Davis and Mike Rohde went yard, but it wasn't enough.

In the nightcap, the Spartans put three on the board in the first inning, three more in the second and had a six run third inning that all but finished the Illini chances for the game. A number of MSU players posted crooked numbers in the boxscore. SS Brandon Doherty was 4 for 4 including his first homer of the season with four runs scored and three RBI. Sean Walker had a 4 for 5 game -- including two homers -- with four RBI and two runs scored. 2B Steve Gerstenberger had three hits (and, yes a homer), three runs and three RBI. Kyle Corcoran gave up seven hits and four earned runs over five innings to get his second win. Illini DH Daniel Webb had two hits and two RBI.

In the last series with a bearing on the post-season, Penn State swept Ohio State Saturday. Game one went to the Nittany Lions, 4-2. Craig Clark allowed only two earned runs over six innings to get the win. Drew O'Neil came in and shut the door in the seventh to post his ninth save. Scott Gaffney and Cory Wine both went yard and Brian Ernst had two hits. All three -- Gaffney, Wine and Ernst -- scored once and drove in one. OSU starter J.B. Shuck lost a pitchers duel with Clark, although he went the full six innings giving up eight hits, four earned runs and no walks while striking out five.

PSU took game two, 3-2. Paul Hawkins improved to 4-0 and combined with Michael Lorenston and O'Neil to hold the Bucks to seven hits, three walks and one earned run. O'Neil claimed his tenth save. Penn State SS Gaffney homered for the second straight game and tripled to pace the offense. Like Shuck in the opener, Jake Hale was the hard luck loser for OSU in the nightcap. Hale pitched all six innings allowing just four hits and three earned runs, but couldn't claim a victory. (I'll get to all of the post-season possibilities in a moment.)

Finally, Northwestern swept their last doubleheader of the year taking Purdue by scores of 9-6 and 11-6. Jake Goebbert and Jake Owens each had three hits for NU in game one. Goebbert scored twice and drove in one, Owens scored and had one RBI. Max Mann had two RBI. Joe Muraski improved to 4-4 and Bo Schultz earned his first save. Purdue 3B Dan Black went 3 for 4 with a homer, four RBI and scored a run.

Owens, Goebbert, Mann, Mike Kalina and Antonio Mule each had two hits to lead NU. Owens, Mule and Kalina all had two RBI, as well. Randy Myers worked 6.2 innings to post his fourth win. Ryne White and Jeff Mojzik each had three hits for Purdue. Mojzik and Spencer Ingaldson both had two RBI.

Back to the post-season possibilities. It all begins and ends with Ohio State. If the Buckeyes win tomorrow, they are in the conference tournament. If they lose, they are out. It's that simple. (I think.) As for Illinois and MSU, well if OSU loses, they are off the hook -- they both get in. Now, if OSU wins, the winner of the MSU at Illinois game advances and the loser goes home.

Again, if I have this right (and that's questionable), Ohio State holds the tiebreakers over both schools. So, if OSU wins and MSU wins, Illinois is done for the year. If the Buckeyes win and Illinois beats the Spartans, then David Grewe's side goes home.

While Michigan has won the regular season crown, there is plenty of drama left, as Ohio State, Illinois and Michigan State play for the last two post-season berths. It should be a great final day of the regular season.

Minnesota Wins

The Golden Gophers beat Indiana, 3-2, in the first game of their doubleheader today. Dan Lyons drove home all three runs for Minnesota. Matt Nohelty had two hits, two walks and scored for the Gophers. Gary Perniar (4-4) got the win, Kyle Carr worked the last three frames to post the save (8). IU's Evan Crawford had a pair of hits in the losing cause.

The Magic Number Is Now Two

Michigan 4 Iowa 3, 11 innings (box)
The Wolverines magic number to win the regular season title is now two. Nate Recknagel scored on an 11th inning error to put Michigan up for good. Recknagel finished with two hits and a pair of RBI. Kevin Cislo had three hits. Adam Abraham came in to pitch four innings of two hit, one walk relief and posted his fourth win. Dusty Napoleon had two hits while Matt Wooldrik drove in two for Iowa.

Minnesota 8 Indiana 6 (box)
The Gophers kept the heat on Michigan by winning their afternoon contest with IU. Cleanup hitter Kyle Baran drove in three runs to pace Minnesota's offense. Baran had two hits and scored once. Matt Nohelty led the hit parade with three while scoring once and driving in another. Tom Buske improved to 4-1 working six innings. Josh Oslin recorded his eleventh save of the year. IU had five players with two hits each and Michael Nilles bashed a pinch hit homerun.

Illinois 6 Michigan State 5 (box)
Illinois moved a game closer to a conference tournament berth by beating the Spartans. Mike Rohde and Kyle Hudson combined to drive in all six Illini runs. Rohde homered and drove in four. Hudson tripled and drove in the other two Illinois tallies. Tanner Roark is now 7-2. Jake Toohey came on to claim his seventh save. Brandon Doherty and Kyle Day each had a pair of hits and two RBI for MSU.

Penn State 3 Ohio State 2, 10 innings (box)
Joe Blackburn's RBI double in the tenth plated Scott Gaffney to win it for Penn State. John Ogrodnik worked three hitless innings of relief to get the win. Seth Whitehill went the first seven allowing just four hits, three walks and two earned runs, but got a no decision. OSU's Cory Luebke also went seven allowing seven hits and a walk, but fanning nine. Luebke also got no decision. Gaffney had three hits on the day and scored twice. PSU remains in the hunt for the Big Ten crown and OSU is still looking for a win to claim a post-season berth.

Northwestern 12 Purdue 3 (box)
The Wildcats cranked out 21 hits to pound the Boilermakers. Aaron Newman and Jake Goebbert led NU with four hits a piece. Goebbert also paced the team with three RBI. Andrew Smith (1-3) pitched a complete game for the Wildcats. Smith gave up three earned runs on nine hits and two walks. Purdue countered with a 3 for 3 game from Alex Jaffee and Ryne White's eighth homer of the season. I believe this loss eliminates Purdue from post-season play.

Today, as it's really early Saturday morning as I type, is doubleheader day. As usual, I encourage one and all to get out to the ballpark near you. The race for the Big Ten regular season title is still wide open.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Tournament Chase

The late Pete Rozelle would be proud. Rozelle, the former NFL commissioner, loved parity. The equality between teams allowed fans in every city to harbor championship dreams. Heading into the last weekend of play in the Big Ten, it appears eight of the ten schools are still eligible for post-season action. It's Rozelle's dream in action.

I believe four teams are in -- Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa and Penn State. That leaves four more programs -- Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan State and Purdue -- vying for the last two Big Ten Tournament spots. Unfortunately, the post-season is not an option for Indiana and Northwestern. I hope to have more on the Hoosiers and Wildcats down the road. For now, let's see if I can understand all the post-season possibilities.

Friend of BTH, Frank Fraas, of WMNI in Columbus, sent along the following information about all the possibilities. I owe Frank a beverage because we know my math skills weren't up to the task. Now, in his defense, Frank does provide the data with one stipulation. There could be an oversight. Well, if you can't count on a blogger to spread inaccurate information, then who in the world can you count on for that? (Oops, forgot about news people. Ok, bloggers and news people can be counted on to spread bad information. As news people don't care about Big Ten baseball, it's back on me.) On to the race.

The top four teams all have a chance to capture the Big Ten's regular season championship. Michigan, of course, holds everyone else's fate in their hands. The Wolverines magic number to clinch a back-to-back regular season title appears to be three. Here are the scenarios for Michigan to claim the crown:

- Michigan wins three (or four) in Iowa City.
- Michigan wins two and Minnesota loses one.
- Michigan can win only one and still claim the title , but Minnesota would have to lose two to Indiana and Penn State would need to lose a single game as well.

The Gophers can host the Big Ten Tournament if:

- Minnesota sweeps IU and Michigan and Iowa split.
- Minnesota wins three and Michigan loses three of four at Iowa.
(Note: Minnesota holds the tiebreaker over Penn State and Iowa.)

Penn State wins by:

- PSU sweeping Ohio State, Iowa takes three from Michigan and Indiana takes three from Minnesota.
(Note: If Iowa were to sweep Michigan, the Hawkeyes would be tied with PSU, but Iowa holds the tiebreaker.)

Iowa wins, if:

- The Hawkeyes sweep Michigan, PSU loses two and Minnesota loses three.

There is a way for a three way tie. Iowa sweeps Michigan, Penn State takes three from OSU and Minnesota and IU split. Iowa, PSU and Minnesota would tie. The Gophers have the best record against the tied teams, thus gains the crown.

See, that was simple, wasn't it? Now, let's see if I can figure out the bottom of the race. Ohio State and Illinois are in the driver's seat(s).

Ohio State gets in, if:

- The Buckeyes win two (or more) over Penn State.
- OSU wins only one and Michigan State wins three over Illinois. OSU and MSU get in as the Bucks hold the tiebreaker over the Illini in this scenario.
- OSU wins one and MSU and Illinois split. OSU's has the tiebreaker edge over MSU on winning percentage.
- OSU gets swept at Penn State, but Illinois takes three from MSU and Purdue loses one.

Illinois gets in, if:

- Illinois wins two (or more) from Michigan State.
- Illinois wins one and Penn State sweeps Ohio State.

Michigan State is in the tourney, if:

- MSU takes three (or more) from Illinois.
- The Spartans win two and Penn State sweeps OSU.

Purdue gets in, if:

- The Boilers sweep Northwestern, Michigan State sweeps Illinois and Penn State sweeps Ohio State. That would make Purdue 15-16. OSU and Illinois would be 14-16. Thus, the Boilers get in.

(If you note any errors, please let me know and I'll revise this list. Thanks to Frank Fraas, the voice of OSU baseball for sending along the information I've provided. Hopefully, I've done a good job of presenting the work.)

If you've never attended a Big Ten game before, this is the weekend to head out an catch some college baseball action. Nearly every venue will have a degree of intrigue this weekend. Michigan is at Iowa with both hoping for a championship. Minnesota is at Indiana trying to beat the Hoosiers and watching the scoreboard for results from Iowa City. (Of course, the Gophers at-large NCAA Tournament hopes may be riding on this series, too.)

Ohio State travels to Penn State with the Buckeyes two wins away from a tournament spot and PSU looking to sneak in the backdoor and grab the conference crown. Michigan State is in Champaign battling Illinois for one of the last two Big Ten Tournament openings. Finally, Purdue and Northwestern collide with the Boilers oh-so-faint hopes of a miracle finish landing them in the tournament field.

Go out and get a look at a terrific race for the Big Ten regular season championship.

Midweek Scores And Ramblings

Western Illinois 9 Iowa 2 (box)

Minnesota 11 North Dakota State 10 (box)

Ohio State 8 North Florida 7 (Tuesday box)
Ohio State 9 North Florida 3 (Wednesday box)

Purdue 7 Valparaisio 2 (box)

Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State and Northwestern all had midweekers washed out. At least it didn't snow, right? (Although, it darn near could have today. Stinkin' weather.) I'm going to let you check the box scores on these.

Perhaps nothing more accurately displays the Big Ten's weakness as a baseball conference as these midweek games do. The lack of pitching depth allows nearly every program in the Big Ten, regardless of school or year, to consistently lose (or look very poor) in these midweek games.

What makes matters worse is that the competition is usually inferior which means these losses pose a triple threat. 1) They are losses. Last I checked, losses were bad. 2) By losing to a program much further down the RPI food chain, the losing Big Ten side watches its RPI and national perception go in the toilet as well. 3) The rest of the Big Ten programs get hurt because of the trickle down effect.

Not to hammer Iowa, as every school in the conference has these kinds of losses each year, but look at the Hawkeyes loss to WIU. Western Illinios has an RPI of 244. For reference, there are only 293 programs. When Iowa, who is having a fine season, falls to a program with an RPI closer to the bottom than the middle, the Hawkeyes' RPI goes south. It also makes the folks around the land pause and go "Hmmmm. Is Iowa good or is it just another bad year for baseball in the Big Ten?"

Now, if the Hawkeyes turn around and thump Michigan this weekend, what do you think is going to happen? People, like the NCAA Tournament Committee, are going to think of this equation: WIU > Iowa + Iowa > Michigan = WIU > Michigan. That's overly simplistic, but we are talking about the selection committee here. They are looking for a reason to include every program south of the Mason-Dixon line in The Dance. This provides them with an excuse to do just that.

If the Hawkeyes were battling for a potential at-large berth, the WIU loss would probably all but eliminate them from that opportunity. Midweek losses to those in the RPI basement are suicide to at-large berths and poisonous to the rest of the Big Ten.

I do wonder with the advent of the universal start date, if the power conferences will have to schedule more of these oh-so-dangerous midweek games? If so, will these schools find their pitching staffs as taxed as those in the Big Ten? I guess we'll have a better idea in about 365 days.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

CSTV Links

I'd like to talk about the conference race, but time doesn't permit that this evening. I hope to get to it tomorrow. Until then, I'll leave you with some links to three items at CSTV worth checking out. (And, no, I'm not getting a dime from the network.)

Both Michigan and Minnesota remain in CSTV's NCAA Tournament projections.

Alas, both Mike Mee (Minnesota) and Lars Davis (Illinois) are no longer garnering votes in CSTV's Player of the Year race.

Eric Sorenson talks with Minnesota Head Coach John Anderson. It's a must read.

Error On The Blogger

I received an email from Jeff Wuerth, the SID at The Ohio State University. Jeff points out that I made two mistakes. First, Buckeyes pitcher Jake Hale did not allow an earned run during his complete game start over on Saturday. On the All-Weekend Team, I indicate Jake yielded one earned run. Not so.

My second kicked ball of inning was saying that Hale " has spent most of the season as the Buckeyes closer ". Apparently, Mr. Hale never started a game this season. That was his role in 2006, but in '07 its been nothing but the bullpen prior to Saturday.

I made the changes to both posts, although I'm leaving my mistake regarding Hale's move from the 'pen in place with a note at the bottom of last Saturday's post referencing my mistake. For those scoring at home, that's two errors on the play. Charge them both to me. (And to think I was an all-glove, no-hit kind of player. Shameful.)

I make a slightly bigger stink about this in the hope that it will accomplish a number of things. First, I hope everyone in Columbus forgives me, particularly Jake Hale. Second, I want you to know when I'm flat wrong. I have no qualms about sharing my mistakes. It probably helps keep my ego in check. Third, I want you to know that you can contact me if you note an error. I've had to correct three or four things over the course of the season all of which came about as a result of reader email.

In all honesty, I never thought the mistakes would be quite so fruitful. Because of my errors, I realize that people actually read this weblog, which has been heartwarming. It has also been rewarding to interact with those of you who take time to read Big Ten Hardball. Of course, it's also added a degree of stress, as there is a bit more pressure in writing when you know others are checking your work. Nonetheless, I appreciate every correction sent my way.

OPS Time

It's the last Wednesday of the regular season. That makes this the next to last installment of our weekly look at on base plus slugging percentage leaders. Which leads me to one conclusion -- the college baseball season is far too short. This season has disappeared quickly, hasn't it?

As for the numbers, we've got a new OPS leader in the Big Ten this week. It's Ryne White of Purdue. White, who continues the lead the conference in batting average as well, paces the field with an OPS of 1.176. Iowa's Travis Sweet checks in at number two with an OPS of 1.120. In third place, we find Lars Davis of Illinois at 1.097. Jason White, Iowa's shortstop, is next at 1.077.

Nate Recknagel of Michigan is fifth at 1.061. Recknagel is followed by Mike Mee of Minnesota. The Gophers' outfielder is at 1.054. In seventh is Justin Toole of Iowa at 1.020. The eighth and final spot this week belongs to Northwestern's Antonio Mule. Mule, a regular member of the list last season, has an OPS of 1.017.

I should point out that there is a 100 at bat minimum to qualify for this list. Why 100? Why not, 100, I say. It's completely arbitrary, like everything else here. It just seemed like a good representative number of AB's for this time of the year.

(My usual caveat: If I've done some poor math or screwed something else up, please drop me a note. My email address is in the right sidebar.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The All-Weekend Team

I could have made this a bit easier and just declared Penn State's offense, Illinois' starters and Michigan State's bullpen the All-Weekend Team and been done with it. However, I chose to stick to the more traditional selection process (whatever in the world that is). Those three programs are going to be well represented nonetheless.

Catcher - Eric Fryer, Ohio State (7/16, 5 R, 6 RBI, 2B, 2 BB)
Firstbase - Ryne White, Purdue (9/16, 7 R, 9 RBI, 3 2B, 2 HR, 2 SB, 2 BB)
Secondbase - Steve Gerstenberger, Michigan State (9/19, 5 R, 3 RBI, 3 2B, 2 SB)
Secondbase - Matt Cavagnaro, Penn State (7/20, 3 R, 5 RBI, 2B, HR)
Shortstop - Scott Gaffney, Penn State (6/17, 3 R, 5 RBI, 2 2B, HR, 2 BB)
Shortstop - Jason Christian, Michigan (4/15, 7 R, 5 RBI, 2 2B, 2 HR, SB)
Thirdbase - Mike Deese, Penn State (7/15, 3 R, 4 RBI, 2B, 3B)
Outfield - Rick Marlin, Penn State (7/18, 4 R, 3 RBI, HR)
Outfield - Brian Ernst, Penn State (8/15, 6 R, 3 RBI, 2B)
Outfield - Travis Sweet, Iowa (4/13, 5 R, 5 RBI, 3 2B, 3 BB, SB)
Designated Hitter - Sean Walker, Michigan State (6/14, 5 R, 7 RBI, HR, 2 BB)

Bench - Cory Wine, Penn State (6/17, 4 R, 3 RBI, 2B, 3B, BB)
Bench - Antonio Mule, Northwestern (6/13, 2 R, 4 RBI, 2 2B, 2 3B, 4 BB)
Bench - Nate Recknagel, Michigan (5/16, 3 R, 5 RBI, 2B, 3B, HR, BB)
Bench - Justin Miller, Ohio State (7/14, 3 R, 4 RBI)

Starter - Jake Hale, Ohio State (7.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K's in CG win.)
Starter - J.B. Shuck, Ohio State (6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 4 K's in win.)
Starter - Zach Putnam, Michigan (6.0 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K's in win.)
Starter - Matt Bischoff, Purdue (7.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 K's in win.)
Starter - Mike Stankiewicz, Illinois (7.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K's in win.)
Starter - Scott Shaw, Illinois (6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K's in win.)
Relief - Jake Toohey, Illinois (2 APP, 2.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K's in two saves.)
Relief - Drew O'Neil, Penn State (2 APP, 5.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K's in win and save.)
Relief - Mike Monterey, Michigan State (2 APP, 2.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K's in two saves.)

Alright, I did take two middle infielders. I just couldn't leave off Penn State's Cavagnaro and Gaffney. The Nittany Lions tablesetters were in the middle of nearly everything this weekend in Ann Arbor. They probably merited a bit of favor as I saw them in person, but nobody claimed this was unbiased.

Purdue's White is moving up the Player of the Year charts. It's time to start the campaign to get Michigan's Christian some All-America honors. (I guess your leaving that to me, huh?)

I haven't seen every closer in the Big Ten this year, but if anyone of them is better than O'Neil of Penn State I'd be shocked. O'Neil was filthy in Ann Arbor. Christian was about the only guy to make solid contact off O'Neil. The rest of a potent Michigan lineup didn't just swing and miss, they missed badly.

Here's where I turn it over to you. If I missed someone or made an error in addition (something I've grown rather good at), please drop me a line and tell me what I did wrong.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Little Monday Post

Yes, I'm still working on the All-Weekend Team. It's a bit like pulling teeth this week. Lots of players with extremely similar stats. (Who deserves it more -- the guy with 5 runs and 3 RBI or the guy with 3 runs and 5 RBI?) Rest assured, I am going to provide the AWT at some point. Tuesday being my first choice.

Until then, might I suggest reading Eric Sorenson's Sunday Summations? Eric was in Minneapolis last weekend as the Gophers hosted Ohio State. E's got lots to say about just about everything -- the city, the ballpark, the players, the ump. Although, I don't think he said anything about the food. What's up with that?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Things Are Getting Tight

As Michigan and Minnesota continue to give ground to the rest of the field, the Big Ten standings tighten. Here's a look at Sunday's scores minus Penn State's first win over Michigan which received its own post earlier. (Scroll down, you'll find it.)

Penn State 15 # 26 Michigan 5 (game two box)
The Nittany Lions continued to pound Michigan pitching. Penn State had 21 hits in the second game of their twinbill. Five PSU players -- Matt Cavagnaro, Cory Wine, Joe Blackburn, Rick Marlin and Scott Kelley -- had three hits a piece. Cavagnaro and Wine both had three RBI, as well. Michael Lorenston (3-1) picked up the win. Lorenston allowed only one hit and one walk in four innings of relief.

Jason Christian led the Michigan response with a homer (6), two runs, two RBI and a stolen base (13). Coach Robbie Wine's side took three of four and are in play for a conference title.

Illinois 7 Indiana 2 (box)
Lars Davis had a pair of hits and scored twice to pace Illinois. Shawn Roof and Ryan Hastings each drove in two runs and Roof stole in 38th base. Brian Long pitched five innings of long relief yielding only a hit and walk to post his first win of the year. IU's Keith Haas had two hits and Jon Fixler had two RBI.

Iowa 10 Purdue 9 (box)
The Hawkeyes posted ten runs in the first four innings only to see the Boilers charge back with nine over the last four frames. Iowa's Jason White had three hits and scored twice. Dusty Napoleon had two hits, scored twice and drove in one. Travis Sweet, T.J. Cataldo and Kevin Hoef each had two RBI. Hawkeye starter Brock Alberts got his second win.

Andy Preston had two hits and two RBI for Purdue. Kyle Lauderdale also had two RBI in the loss.

Michigan State 4 Northwestern 3 (box)
Freshman Chris Roberts had a game winning single in the ninth to win it for MSU. Roberts, the defending conference Player of the Week, had two RBI on the day. Steve Gerstenberger had three hits. E.J. Daws scored twice including the winning run. Mike Monterey (2-2) won tossing the last inning.

Aaron Newman and Antonio Mule each had three hits for NU. Mule also led the Wildcats with two RBI.

Minnesota 5 Ohio State 3 (box)
The Gophers salvaged the split with OSU. Jeremy Chlan had three hits, one run scored and two RBI for Minnesota. Matt Nohelty and Kyle Baran each had two hits and a RBI. Kyle Carr (5-2) came in to pitch the last 3.1 innings and posted the win.

OSU designated hitter Jason Zoeller had two hits, scored once and had a RBI to pace the Buckeyes.

Here are the standings.
1. Michigan 18-6 (36-13)
2. Minnesota 16-7 (35-12)
3. Penn State 17-9 (25-23)
4. Iowa 16-10 (29-17)
T5. Ohio State 14-12 (30-19)
T5. Illinois 14-12 (28-22)
7. Michigan State 13-14 (23-24)
8. Purdue 11-16 (21-27)
9. Indiana 6-21 (17-33)
10. Northwestern 5-23 (14-36)