Saturday, December 27, 2008

Gophers' Fornasiere Is Lauded

Rob Fornasiere, of the University of Minnesota, won the 2008 Assistant Coach of the Year Award. The honor is given annually by the American Baseball Coaches Association and Baseball America. BA's Aaron Fitt submitted this piece highlighting Fornasiere's dedication.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Rogers' Ranks Each State

Kendall Rogers, the big cheese at Rivals/Yahoo! college baseball, is in the process of evaluating each state's college baseball programs. This is admittedly an unscientific endeavor. As such, his rankings aren't exactly going to warm the hearts of the stat geek community -- not lots of numbers and equations to back up his opinions.

And, as they are merely Rogers' two-cents on this issue, they will no doubt generate some level of debate. We all know I don't much trust the perspective of college baseball's media elite, as their vision seems to extend no further west than Austin, Texas and no further north than about Knoxville, Tennessee. However, that doesn't mean the evaluations are void of merit.

Rogers has been watching this game longer than most sitting in front of a computer and knows lots of people in college baseball. I'd hesitate to toss his opinions aside out-of-hand. At minimum, his rankings should provide us with some indication as to the perception each Big Ten program has nation-wide. (Which both you and I realize isn't very good.)

I'm not going to provide links to every single state, just those in the Big Ten footprint. As of December 22, neither Minnesota or Wisconsin were included. I'm presuming that's forthcoming.

Read and discuss at your leisure.

Illinois/Indiana
Michigan/Ohio
Iowa/Missouri/Kansas/Nebraska/Oklahoma
Pennsylvania/Virginia/Maryland/Delaware

More All-America Attention

'Tis the season for pre-season All-America Teams. This one is courtesy of Collegiate Baseball and Louisville Slugger. The Big Ten names remain the same. Indiana's Josh Phegley and Michigan's Chris Fetter have both claimed All-America status. Once again, Phegley, IU's catcher, is a member of the first team and Fetter has grabbed a second team pitching honor.

Monday, December 22, 2008

CB Has Michigan At # 29

Earlier today, Collegiate Baseball released its pre-season poll. One Big Ten side did manage to slide into CB's rankings. Michigan finds itself starting the season at number twenty-nine in the nation.

I'll admit that I'm surprised that Michigan made the Top 30. I thought many would take one look at the talent that left Ann Arbor this summer and dismiss them as just another northern school. Yet, it would appear that several at CB like Rich Maloney's side again in '09.

Two other Big Ten programs found themselves amongst the ever-popular "Others Getting Votes" category. Ohio State and Purdue both caught the attention of the CB pollsters.

At this point, I would be remiss in my self-appointed duties (not to mention bypass a shameless opportunity to appear to be an "insider"), if I didn't offer a word of advice to the poll voters. Take note of Indiana. That's all. Take note of the Hoosiers. The rest is up to you. (And, yes, them.)

Nonetheless, for the Big Ten to have one Top 30 program and two others garnering votes is a small victory in my book. Even if it is only the pre-season poll.

(While I'm sure all of you will click on the link provided above and review the entire poll, as a customer service, I'll let you know that Louisiana State claimed the top spot overall. LSU was followed by North Carolina, Rice, Georgia and Stanford.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Columbus To Host '09 Conference Tourney

I didn't see this one coming. Yesterday, the Big Ten Conference announced it's going to hold the 2009 conference baseball tournament at a neutral site. Huntington Park, the home of the Columbus Clippers, will host next year's conference tournament. I'm pleasantly surprised.

Regular readers of BTH will confirm that I've lobbied for a neutral site conference tournament for about as long as I've run this blog. The reasons for my desire for a neutral site venue are numerous, but let me allow Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany's comments from the press release highlight a few of them.

“Moving the baseball tournament to a neutral site will allow the conference office and the local organizing committee to promote this event throughout the season. In addition, playing at an outstanding facility like Huntington Park will enhance the experience for our student-athletes, coaches and fans. We’re looking forward to the first pitch of the tournament in May.”


I couldn't agree more. I can't believe I just agreed with Jim Delany. I must have spent too much time out plowing snow today. Regardless, having the conference's regular season champion host the tournament was a logistics nightmare for all the programs. Knowing where the tournament will be and not placing such a large burden on the host school's athletic department should be warmly greeted by everyone across the Big Ten.

While this seemed like an obvious move to me, and quite a few others, I was told routinely that such a transition wasn't on the horizon. What changed the thinking around Chicago? Here's my guess.

This move was motivated by the conference's new baby -- the Big Ten Network. As the conference now operates a television network, they need live programming. Let me re-phrase that just a bit. They desperately need programming. The conference baseball tournament could be one of those live events, but the conference simply cannot afford to have a university host the tournament when their ballpark doesn't have lights. No lights = no television. That's not an equation the Big Ten Network embraces.

In addition, I can't imagine the conference would want to broadcast their premier baseball event from a glorified junior high school ball field -- with or without lights. It is kind of quaint to see such simple surroundings for college baseball, but as we heard in the marketing days of old, image is everything. I doubt anyone in the Big Ten office really wants the rest of the nation to see just how limited some of the program's baseball facilities really are. (Yes, most are improving, but not all are up to par quite yet.)

The bottom line appears to be this. In order to maximize their product's (both BTN and baseball) visibility and reputation, the conference office conceded to common sense and moved the baseball tournament to a neutral site. Whatever the rationale, it's still a good, long overdue move and one I whole-heartedly applaud.

Now, before the comments and email starting popping up, let me say that this plan isn't perfect. Many will rightly argue that having the tournament in Columbus is a home game for Ohio State regardless of what field in the city they play upon. I can't disagree.

Would I have preferred -- strictly from a perception standpoint -- the tournament being held in Toledo, Dayton, Indianapolis, Grand Rapids or some other slightly more truly neutral location? Yes. However, I'm thinking the Columbus folks might have made a bigger, better pitch for the event than anyone else. Quite possibly, they made the only pitch for the event.

Let's not toss the baby out with the bathwater here. There's no mention of anything beyond 2009, so I'm going with the notion that another host city can be found in the future. Yes, it's in OSU's backyard next year, but that doesn't mean a neutral site championship isn't a good idea.

I also do have concerns about attendance if Ohio State gets eliminated from the tournament early or if, cover your eyes my Buckeye friends, they don't make the field at all. However, that's the case even if the regular season champion hosts the tournament. If the home team is out, attendance drops dramatically. Columbus is centrally located in the conference's geographic footprint, so I'm hoping that will make travel more appealing to fans across the region, thus minimizing some of that affect.

First, the conference disposed of those seven-inning Saturday doubleheaders I disliked in favor of a single nine inning game. Now, after years of my complaining about it, they've opted for a neutral site conference tournament host. The Big Ten has eliminated two of my biggest pet peeves about the way it runs it's baseball schedule. I wonder what should I campaign for next?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Phegley, Fetter Get NCBWA Nod

Indiana catcher Josh Phegley and Michigan pitcher Chris Fetter have been named National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association's pre-season All-Americans. Phegley grabbed a first team selection and Fetter was tabbed as a member of the second team.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Ebert Talks Big Ten

Patrick Ebert, of PG Crosschecker.com, talks about Indiana's dynamic battery mates -- Josh Phegley and Matt Bashore -- and wonders if the door to the Big Ten title has opened with Michigan losing so many impact players in his most recent column.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Wallace Award Watch List '09

The 2009 Brooks Wallace Award Watch List has been released. The College Baseball Foundation's pre-season list of nominees for their annual Player of the Year Award has been released. This year's crop is littered with names familiar to readers of this space.

Indiana tops the list with two players -- Matt Bashore and Josh Phegley. The Hoosiers' duo is joined by Illinois' Brandon Wikoff, Iowa's Justin Toole, Michigan's Chris Fetter, Minnesota's Matt Nohelty, Northwestern's Jake Goebbert, Ohio State's Justin Miller and Purdue's Dan Black.

I'm pleased to see so many representatives from the Big Ten dotting the initial list. Yet, and you knew there was going to be a "yet" tossed in, I'm immediately struck by the omission of Michigan State's Chris Roberts. That's just a gut reaction, however. There could be others that merit the honor, but as you know, I've been away from BTH and I could be forgetting someone.

Roberts' omission doesn't diminish the fact that there are nine players from the conference on the list. That's a strong showing from a conference routinely ignored.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Early Scheduling Update

Three Big Ten programs have released their 2009 baseball schedule. Indiana, Iowa and Michigan have announced their '09 opponents (the inevitable alterations notwithstanding, of course). Kudos to all three for getting this information out so early. I'll probably be reviewing these in greater depth at some point down the road, so click on the links and get a look at what the Hoosiers, Hawkeyes and Wolverines face in the coming year.

I should also note that the long-awaited Big Ten/Big East baseball challenge has been finalized and will begin play next year. While this will never be as big as the ACC/Big Ten basketball challenge, I love the concept of this baseball tournament.

The reason for my interest is that I believe that the Big East gets the traditional "east coast media bias" even in college baseball. This format provides the Big Ten with the opportunity to display how they stack up against their fellow (mostly) northern foes. (With or without global warming, USF isn't going to be in the snowbelt anytime soon.)

Yet, this series probably could not come at a worse time for the Big Ten, as one would expect the conference to take another step backwards this year. I'm not sure how the Big East stacks up in '09, but I'm not expecting the Big Ten to provide more than one NCAA tournament team next year. (The good news is that I'm often wrong. The other piece of good news is that it's only September. I've got plenty of time to retract my prediction.)

I haven't heard if there will be any television coverage, but it would seem like an ideal situation for the Big Ten Network. Although, that would require the conference to commit money to baseball, which they are generally opposed to.

Here's the tournament schedule:

BIG EAST/BIG TEN CHALLENGE MATCHUPS
February 20-22, 2009

Day 1 - Friday, February 20

Ohio State vs. Notre Dame
Penn State vs. St. John's
Illinois vs. Iowa
Michigan State vs. Connecticut
Michigan vs. South Florida
Northwestern vs. Georgetown
Minnesota vs. Seton Hall
Indiana vs. West Virginia
Purdue vs. Cincinnati

Day 2 - Saturday, February 21
Michigan vs. Cincinnati
Purdue vs. South Florida
Penn State vs. Northwestern
Ohio State vs. Connecticut
Indiana vs. Georgetown
Illinois vs. Notre Dame
Minnesota vs. West Virginia
Michigan State vs. Seton Hall
Iowa vs. St. John's

Day 3 - Sunday, February 22
Michigan vs. St. John's
Ohio State vs. Cincinnati
Minnesota vs. Michigan State
Northwestern vs. Connecticut
Indiana vs. South Florida
Iowa vs. Georgetown
Purdue vs. Notre Dame
Penn State vs. Seton Hall
Illinois vs. West Virginia

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Summer Notes

Here's a brief list of just some this summer news courtesy of each university's website. At some point, I might attempt to do a bit more research on summer league action, but for now I'll use this as a review for both of us.

I'll work in reverse alphabetical order, giving Purdue the the leadoff spot.

Coach Schreiber has two new coaches. Ryan Sowers joins the Boilers staff as pitching coach and ex-Boilers star Chadd Blasko returns in the role of volunteer assistant.

Ohio State hurler Eric Best had a strong summer in Alaska. Best was named as his team's pitcher of the year. Fellow Buckeyes Drew Rucinski and Zach Hurley both grabbed some recognition this summer.

Kenneth Avila, of Northwestern, was named the starting secondbaseman for the Hawaii Summer League All-Star Game. NU's Eric Jokisch blogged for the university's official website from his summer league stint in New England.

Minnesota's Derek McCallum and Nick O'Shea both made the Northwoods League All-Star Game. Kyle Knudson and AJ Pettersen were also having good years in the Northwoods.

The Gophers also added Sam Ryan to their list of recruits eligible in 2009.

Michigan State's AJ Shindler also made the Northwoods League All-Star team. New Spartans' head coach Jake Boss, Jr. named Mark Van Ameyde and Billy Gernon to his staff.

Rich Maloney, of Michigan, claimed his second straight ABCA Division I Mideast regional coach of the year.

Iowa named Chris Maliszewski as their new pitching coach. Maliszewski is an Iowa alum.

A number of Indiana players had strong summers. Evan Crawford, Matt Bashore and Kipp Schutz all played in the high profile Cape Cod League. In addition, Matt Carr was named an All-Star in the Great Lakes League and Joey O'Gara went 5-0 in the GLL. Jerrud Sabourin hit well in San Diego.

IU also announced three late signings. JUCO SS Jake Dunning may move into the starting lineup. Righty Wyatt Hoff and left-hander Matt Igel join a recruiting class that included five signings in November.

Illinois' website chronicles nearly all their players summer league seasons. The university's sports information department also has blog-like posts from several Illini players. Former Illinois catcher Chris Robinson represented Canada in the Summer Olympics.

A September Post

For the first time in years, I actually went an entire month without posting something here. I believe the last time that happened was the autumn of 2005. It wasn't, however, from a lack of material. I just chose to take a break.

After this self-imposed layoff, I'm back today and I'll start by sharing a couple of items out of my email inbox. First, Tom at The Baseball Zealot attended Illinois' first practice of the new school year. He took a few photos, as well.

When you are attending fall practice, it's official -- you've got college baseball fever. That's some diehard dedication. (Not that I'm above that, mind you.) Tom, if I'm partly to blame for your zeal, I apologize.

Patrick Ebert, of Perfect Game, drops me a note about this year's Dairy Queen Classic field. The 2009 DQ Classic will feature Notre Dame, Washington and Hawaii in addition to the host, Minnesota.

Let's be honest. This isn't the strongest field in DQ history. All three programs the Gophers have invited can play, but they lack the marquee appeal of some previous DQ opponents. I'm also not sure how much any of the four programs will be helped, RPI wise.

Thanks to both Tom and Patrick for dropping me a line.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Not Breaking News

As you all know by now, Michigan State named Jake Boss as their new head coach. I'm sure you've tracked down all the pertinent information by this point, as my absence has provided you with plenty of time to research all the stories, so I'll just offer up one blogger's perspective on the hire.

I like the hire for MSU. After a rough (some might say brutal) start to last season, Boss was able to guide Eastern Michigan to the Mid-American Conference Tournament title and the automatic NCAA berth in his first season. His Eagles played rather well in the Ann Arbor Regional, although dispatched after two close games -- one versus Arizona, the second against Kentucky.

Something else Boss brings, that a majority of assistants at a southern/western program can't, is an understanding of the challenges facing college baseball in the north. If the Spartans had opted to pursue a candidate from a warm-weather program, he might quickly become discouraged at the obstacles facing teams in the snowbelt.

After a year at EMU and several seasons working for Rich Maloney at Michigan, Boss should be well aware of the landscape in the Big Ten and throughout the midwest. Thus, he shouldn't be daunted at the pitfalls of coaching baseball in the north.

Glad to see the Spartans get this situation resolved quickly and hope Boss can help the program get to the next level. I also hope EMU can find a quality candidate to fill Boss' shoes.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Grewe Departure Official

Yep, it's finally official. MSU's David Grewe has jumped off the Green and White train and headed south to join LSU. While my initial post on the subject proved to be 100% accurate (not that I doubted the credibility of my source), I don't retract my apology, either. I still feel I made a mistake in the way I framed that first post on the situation.

Hopefully, the Spartans can land a solid replacement in the days to come. With a new financial commitment from the adminstration, a renovated ballpark to open in 2009 and a few solid returning players, one would like to think that the Michigan State gig might be appealing to a number of candidates.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

An Open Apology

In my last post, I reported that Michigan State's David Grewe was signed, sealed and delivered to Louisiana State to become the Tigers' top assistant. The same source that assured me that Grewe was on the way out a few days ago, informs me that a "final" decision is expected tomorrow. As such, I owe you an apology.

While only a blog, I attempt to run this with a degree of journalistic integrity. Not that I'm above passing along a good rumor, but I try to present it as such. In this instance, I failed. I offered up a rumor as fact based on two things: 1) my source was reliable and 2) I was lazy. I should have followed up on the lead. I didn't.

Even if Coach Grewe does indeed leave for Baton Rouge, I should have presented the information as a rumor or avoided it altogether. As I did neither, I apologize first and foremost to Coach Grewe, his staff, the MSU players, their families and the Spartans fanbase. Of course, I owe each of my readers an apology as well.

I believe the majority of you realize that the last thing I would try and do is toss a college baseball program under-the-bus, especially one in the Big Ten. Regardless of whether or not my last post becomes fact or fiction, I made an error and I'm willing to take responsibility for it. My sincere hope is that I'm wrong and Coach Grewe stays on in East Lansing. Let's hope we learn something soon. I have already.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Grewe Leaves MSU

Hot on the heels of Michigan State's stadium expansion news comes word that head coach David Grewe is leaving East Lansing to join Louisiana State's coaching staff. Grewe is slated to become Paul Mainieri's recruiting coordinator and pitching coach. Grewe was part of Mainieri's staff at Notre Dame before both moved on.

The whispers around the program indicate that MSU's administration is looking outside the program for a replacement.

How this can be viewed as anything other than bad for the Spartans' program is beyond me. Grewe had built bridges with former Spartans that felt alienated prior to his arrival and was the central figure behind the program's renovation. While this does give MSU a chance to have the new guy in before fall, one wonders what affect it will have on recruiting commitments.

To have him bolt now -- with the stadium improvements planned and the better recruiting classes on the way -- is a disappointing turn for the Green and White.

Honestly, it doesn't help the Big Ten's reputation much, either. When one of your program's head coaches bolts to become an assistant, even a SEC assistant, it's not a ringing endorsement on the state of your conference.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

MSU To Renovate Stadium

Remember during the conference tournament when I mentioned that we might be hearing something from East Lansing in regards to the baseball program? Well, the announcement has indeed arrived. As I speculated then, Michigan State has received a donation to renovate their on-campus ballpark.

An anonymous donor has not only coughed up four million to fund the 2,500 seat grandstand and new pressbox, but the project is tentatively slated for completion by the start of next season. A fairly lofty objective.

Old College Field will still be lacking lights in '09, but MSU appears to be committed to raising the remaining revenue to complete the entire project (which includes the softball facility, soccer stadium, baseball park and the adjoining plaza.

Friday, June 06, 2008

MLB Draft Day Two

All fifty rounds are finally over. Quite a few familiar faces were selected on day two of the Major League draft. A couple of patterns jumped out at me today, as well.

You have to think the Indians have a scout nearby Ann Arbor, as Zach Putnam, Adam Abraham and Nate Recknagel were all tabbed by the Tribe, as was Doug Pickens a year ago.

While the Twins seem to like Coach Anderson's squad. The Twinkies selected Gophers Kyle Carr, Matt Nohelty and Nate Hanson.

Here's the complete rundown of Big 10ers from day two:

# 329 - Andrew Means (Indiana), Cincinnati
# 359 - Kyle Day (Michigan State), Cincinnati
# 366 - Kyle Carr (Minnesota), Minnesota
# 404 - Scott Shaw (Illinois), New York Mets
# 411 - Adam Abraham (Michigan), Cleveland
# 417 - Caleb Curry (Iowa), San Francisco
# 478 - Andy Loomis (Purdue), Florida
# 546 - Matt Nohelty (Minnesota), Minnesota
# 591 - Nate Recknagel (Michigan), Cleveland
# 846 - Nate Hanson (Minnesota), Minnesota
# 944 - Mike Powers (Michigan), New York Mets
# 963 - Tyler Tufts (Indiana), Texas
# 973 - Mark Sorenson (Michigan State), Detroit
# 1047 - Dan Black (Purdue), San Francisco
# 1063 - Dan DeLucia (Ohio State), Detroit
# 1178 - Eric Decker (Minnesota), Milwaukee
# 1388 - Eric Roof (Michigan State), Detroit
# 1416 - Matt Bischoff (Purdue), New York Mets
# 1450 - Kevin Hoef (Iowa), Boston

One extra selection of note. Former Illini Friday starter, Tanner Roark was taken with the 753rd pick. The righthander went to Texas.

Just as yesterday, if I happened to miss someone, please let me know.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

MLB Draft Day One

Here are the Big Ten players that were drafted on day one of the Major League Baseball Draft.

# 61 - Josh Lindblom (Purdue), Los Angeles Dodgers
# 116 - Kyle Hudson (Illinois), Baltimore
# 120 - Drew O'Neil (Penn State), Chicago White Sox
# 138 - Ryne White (Purdue), Arizona
# 154 - Jason Christian (Michigan), Oakland
# 171 - Zach Putnam (Michigan), Cleveland
# 182 - J.B. Shuck (Ohio State), Houston

If I missed someone, I'm sure one of you will let me know.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Louisville Slugger Freshmen All-America Team

The 2008 Louisville Slugger Freshmen All-America Team has been announced by Collegiate Baseball. Three members of the Big Ten Conference have managed to make the team. Northwestern's Eric Jokisch, Ohio State's Dean Wolosiansky and Illinois' Casey McMurray all garnered recognition.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Ann Arbor Regional: Day Three

Arizona Wins Regional Title

The University of Arizona won the All-Wildcat Regional Final in Ann Arbor. U of A claimed the crown by beating Kentucky, 5-3. The number one seed in the region won all three of the contests they played, one each against the rest of the field -- Eastern Michigan, Michigan and Kentucky.

Tonight, the desert Wildcats got a strong start from lefty Eric Berger who worked 7.1 innings giving up five hits, two walks and the three UK runs. Berger also fanned 11 UK batters. After Berger's evening was completed, UA turned to their (insert your adjective here) bullpen.

Just as they had done in the previous two regional games, the UA bullpen of Ryan Perry, Daniel Schlereth and Jason Stoffel shutdown the opposition. Arizona's bullpen is one of the best I've ever seen on the collegiate level.

Bobby Coyle had a pinch-hit, two-run homer to lead UA's offense. T.J. Steele had a pair of hits and scored twice. Brad Glenn, Bryce Ortega and Dwight Childs drove in the other Arizona runs.

UK answered with a pair of homers. One each from Collin Cowgill and Brian Spear. Spear drove in the other Kentucky tally with a double.

The win now advances UA to the Super Regional, most likely against Miami (FL). Kentucky's season was concluded with the loss.

Earlier in the day, UK eliminated Michigan from regional play with a 12-6 triumph. Kentucky jumped on the Wolverines early posting seven runs in the first inning and two more in the second. Cowgill led the way with three hits, two runs scored and two RBI. Spear had three RBI. Troy Frazier, Chris Wade and Sawyer Carroll all had two RBI each. Frazier and Carroll both homered.

Zach Putnam launched a three-run homer for Michigan. Adam Abraham had a four-hit game. Mike Dufek and Leif Mahler both knocked in two runs.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Regional Photos

Kentucky's All-America outfielder Sawyer Carroll.


Arizona's Preston Guilmet took the mound in game one versus EMU.

Regional Photos


This is Eastern Michigan's Steve Bradshaw.

Ann Arbor Regional: Day Two

Today began with the resumption of last night's rain delayed contest between Michigan and Kentucky. As you may recall, UM led 5-1 when the thunder rolled in. The Wolverines increased last night's lead to 7-1 before a UK mounted a comeback. Kentucky All-America Sawyer Carroll homered to lead a four-run eighth inning to draw UK within two runs. However, Michael Powers allowed no more Wildcats tallies and Michigan won, 7-5.

Although he didn't toss a pitch today, Zach Putnam's five innings of work on Friday got him the win. Powers earned his eighth save. Jason Christian and Leif Mahler both had a pair of RBI. Tyler Howe drove in two for UK.

The win elevated Michigan into the winner's bracket and a seven o'clock date with Arizona. Kentucky fell into the loser's bracket and would face an elimination game against Eastern Michigan.

While Michigan may have won the battle, they lost a solider. Nate Recknagel, the Big Ten's Player of the Year, injured an elbow and is out for the remainder of Michigan's season.

EMU had leads of 1-0 and 3-2, but UK matched every Eagles run with more of their own and prevailed, 4-3. Carroll homered again, had two hits, two runs scored and drove in two to pace Kentucky's offense. Greg Dombrowski posted the win and Andrew Albers recorded the save. Eagles' 1B Steve Bradshaw had a pair of hits and two RBI.

EMU battled hard both days, but could never get themselves over the top and now find their season over. UK, however, avoided elimination and now get to play another elimination game on Sunday afternoon.

The final game on Saturday saw the top two seeds in the Ann Arbor Regional square off. #1 Arizona jumped out to a 3-0 first inning lead over #2 Michigan. The Wildcats plated another run in the third and led 4-0 before Michigan's offense arrived.

The host Wolverines plated single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, but got no closer. Coach Lopez called on his superior bullpen and the Big Three -- Daniel Schlereth, Ryan Perry and Jason Stoffel -- shut the door. Arizona won, 4-3.

Wildcats' starter David Coulon worked the first five innings and improved to 8-3. Stoffel posted his 12th save. C.J. Ziegler and Brad Glenn both had two hits and a RBI for UA.

Michigan's Ryan LaMarre collected three hits, two runs scored and a RBI. Zach Putnam homered and Christian tripled in another. UM's All-America candidate Chris Fetter pitched the full eight innings and struck out seven.

Arizona's triumph pushes them to within one win of a regional championship. UA now awaits the winner of Sunday's Michigan and Kentucky rematch. The winner will advance to play the Wildcats tomorrow night. The loser of tomorrow's two o'clock game is eliminated.

If Arizona wins Sunday night's contest, they go to the Super Regionals. If the UM/UK winner can hold off Arizona Sunday evening, then we will have a Monday night title game.

A few bonus notes:

* The scoreboard went from intermittent in the UK/EMU game to completely out-of-order during the Arizona vs. Michigan game. Technical difficulties are always possible, but it looks bad when you just coughed up all that money to renovate the yard.

* Rumor has it UK's pitching staff is being held together with duct tape. Many are nursing injuries.

* I'm still confused as to why nobody televised these games. I'm left to assume there isn't much interest in this regional in Tucson or Lexington, either.

* I view both Kentucky and Michigan as parallel programs. Both have coaches that have raised dormant programs and have spent money upgrading facilities. Both have jumped into the national spotlight in the last few seasons. The next step, the most difficult one, is becoming consistent national powers.

* Derek VanBuskirk moved to firstbase in Recknagel's absence.

Ann Arbor Regional: Day One

As you know by now, technically, it wasn't a complete first day. I'll get back to that as we progress, but let's start with the opener Eastern Michigan vs. Arizona. It looked a fairly routine afternoon at the old ballpark for the Wildcats scored four in the second inning and tacked on another an frame later. However, the Eagles mounted a fifth inning comeback.

EMU batters scored six times and forced UA starter Preston Guilmet off the mound. Suddenly, the fourth seeded Eagles led, 6-5. Alas, Guilmet's departure yielded unexpected results -- an up-close and personal look at the dynamic Wildcats' bullpen.

A trio of UA relievers, let's just call them fast, faster and fastest for the time being, held EMU in-check long enough to the Wildcats' bats to emerge.

Arizona scored three times in the sixth to pull ahead, 8-6. That forced Eagles' starter Sean Hoffman out of the game. However, EMU reliever Dan Puls came in and tossed two hitless innings, although he allowed a single Wildcats' tally. Puls walked three.

EMU countered the UA rally by plating another run in the top of the seventh to draw the score to 8-7. The Eagles had a runner on third and one out, but EMU couldn't get the tying run across the plate. That opened the door for UA.

C.J. Ziegler's three-run double off the brick monster in left was the highlight of a five-run eighth inning that sealed Arizona's triumph. UA prevailed, 13-7. Back to that three-headed monster of a bullpen.

The win went to reliever Ryan Perry who took over for Guilmet. Perry tossed seeds for 1.2 innings allowing just one hit and striking out five of the six batters he faced. Then came Daniel Schelreth. The Wildcats lefty also worked 1.2 and even allowed one run on three hits, but fanned three more EMU batters. The save went to Jason Stoffel who went 1.1, struck out three of the six Eagles he faced and allowed one hit and one walk.

Combined the trio 4.2 innings scattering five hits, one run, striking out 11 and yielding just one walk. In fact, it was the only walk UA allowed all afternoon.

Eastern Michigan played a tough, pesky game and gave UA all they could handle. Arizona may not have looked spectacular, although that 'pen was dynamite, but they did what they had to do -- win the game and advance to the winner's bracket. It's what championship teams do, especially on the road.

The late game, of course, featured the home-standing Michigan Wolverines against a different set of 'Cats, these from Kentucky. After Kentucky scored a run in the second, Michigan chased UK starter Chris Rusin in the bottom of the same frame by driving in five runs to take the lead. Jason Christian's two-RBI double was the highlight of the uprising.

With UM leading 5-1 in the bottom of the fifth, with two on and two out, the lightning arrived. So did the thunder. And, very soon after, the rain appeared. NCAA officials waited around an hour before calling it a night.

The skies had been threatening on-and-off all day long. Even the Arizona and EMU teams were given the plan for what to do if/when the rain fell upon their contest. Thankfully, that game was completed without any precipitation. However, the two and three seeds didn't fare as well. The two teams will resume play this morning at 11am.

While one can argue who this delay helps the most I know for certain who it hurts the most -- the loser. Because whomever drops the game between UM and UK gets to immediately play in another game. Only the second game will be an elimination game against a well-rested and probably cranky EMU side.

If the continuation game happens to drain either side's bullpen, their second game of the day could be more challenging regardless of which bracket they are in.

Let's hope the weather, which has been very nice so far this morning, cooperates today. Hopefully, I'll have an update late, late tonight on Day Two.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Happy Regional Day

The Ann Arbor Regional begins this afternoon. Eastern Michigan, the fourth seed, and Arizona, the top dog, are the playing in the opener. Kentucky, the three seed, is the opposition for host Michigan, the second seed, in the nightcap.

I don't plan to post anything during play, so I'll leave this thread open so you can discuss not only what's happening in Ann Arbor, but at all the regionals.

I've also found another regional preview, this one courtesy of our old friend Doug Kroll. Doug is on the Road to Omaha with the NCAA. Good to see Doug still covering the game. (My thanks to Doug for linking back here.)

Enjoy day one of the regionals.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Phegley Gets USA Baseball Invite

Indiana's Josh Phegley has been invited to participate in the 2008 USA Baseball National Team Trials. Interestingly, Phegley is listed as both a catcher, the position we here in the Big Ten are used to seeing him play, and at firstbase.

BA Previews Ann Arbor Regional

Aaron Fitt of Baseball America provides a preview of the Ann Arbor Regional.

Four Make CB All-America

Three players from Michigan and one from Indiana have made Collegiate Baseball's All-America Team. Chris Fetter (SP), Zach Putnam (UT) and Nate Recknagel (1B) from Michigan and IU's Josh Phegley (C) all occupy spots on CB's second-team All-America squad.

Rumors And Speculation

I did hear a rumor or two at the Big Ten Conference Tournament and thought I'd share them. The first concerns one of my two million pet peeves -- the neutral site host. For years, I've suggested that the Big 10 Tournament should be held at a neutral site. (Rest assured, I'm not alone on this one.) In the past, I've talked to some people in-the-know and was assured it wasn't on the docket due to expenses. However, I'm pleased to report, the tide might have made a slight turn.

The rumor is a few folks on the inside are starting to ponder a neutral site. Seems the logisitics are a big issue (duh!) and with a number of potential venues in the Big 10 market (Indy, Toledo, Grand Rapids, Columbus, etc....) available, a very modest, completely unofficial discussion has started.

I can't report who is doing the talking. Nor can I tell you who might be listening. Hey, it's a rumor floated to a blogger. You want credibility and names, look elsewhere.

Even if it's true, don't think for a minute that this is a sign of things to come. It's not, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, "a beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning". Just because a few folks at a few schools might be talking about it (finally) doesn't mean we will see it go any further than that.

In the remote possiblity it might become something more official, it would still take years to hammer out all the details. It took over two years just to eliminate the doubleheader Saturdays. If this thing became a reality, my guess is we wouldn't see a neutral site host any earlier than 2012.

The second tip I received said to keep an ear towards East Lansing. Apparently, the Michigan State folks might be making a baseball related announcement within the next month. Again, nothing concrete in terms of subject matter was provided. I'm speculating a further facilities improvement at Kobs Field might be announced. Again, it's nothing more than a rumor. For all I/we know, all could stay quiet on the Eastern (Lansing) Front.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

BA's Top 200

While most of us are focsued on the regionals, lest we forget, it's almost time for the MLB Draft. Baseball America has released their Top 200 draft prospect list. A few Big 10 names appear. Michigan's Zach Putnam (50) and Jason Christian (117) are both in the top 200. So, too, are Josh Linblom of Purdue (71) and Illinois' Kyle Hudson (187).

Monday, May 26, 2008

Award Season

I take a break from NCAA Regional coverage to talk a little award selection. Michigan's Nate Recknagel is the only Big Ten representative among the final fifty candidates for the Golden Spikes Award.

The Golden Spikes Award, presented by USA Baseball, also has a new website. One of the features is that you can vote for your favorite amongst the candidates. I don't believe it's has bearing on anything, but Michigan fans can go stuff the ballot box nonetheless.

One player that got left off the Golden Spikes Award is Indiana's Josh Phegley. Phegley paced the Big Ten in both batting average and RBI. The good news for the Hoosiers' backstop is that he is amongst the semi-finalists for the Johnny Bench Award.

Live Blog: Tournament Selection Show

It's approximately forty-five minutes until the NCAA Baseball Tournament Selection Show on ESPN. As Michigan is hosting a regional, and the only Big Ten representative in the field of sixty-four (yeah, I'm going out on a limb), I'm going to attempt to live blog along with the show.

However, in this time before the show kicks off, I'm going chat a bit about who might be coming to Ann Arbor.

11:48am Much of who comes to Ann Arbor depends on whether or not Michigan gets a #1 or #2 seed. Friend of BTH, CBS College Sports' Eric Sorenson cranked out a selection show preview and suggested that the NCAA implied that Rich Maloney's nine will be a #2 seed.

I guess I'm not surprised. While the southern programs and media are blatantly anti-northern baseball, in fairness, this year just simply has not been as strong a season for snowbelt programs as 2007 was.

You can make a case that Michigan merits a #1 seed, but I wouldn't get my shorts all up in knot if they are a #2 and host.

Noon My fear, though, is that in spite of having more northern voices on the selection committee, Michigan will land a #2 seed and get "punished" by the committee with a brutal bracket. (The old "Oh, you want to host a regional do you?" theory.)

The list of power programs not hosting this week is lengthy. Georgia Tech tops the group and would seem like the most likely #1 seed to travel to Ann Arbor should UM be a #2 seed. However, the list of programs looking at a road trip also includes Arizona, Florida, South Carolina and Texas to name just a few.

12:15pm Fifteen minutes to go. I've flipped stations over to ESPN. No audio on, though. That will have to wait a quarter of an hour.

12:17pm I've had this gut feeling that South Carolina is coming to the Ann Arbor regional. No rationale behind it. Just a feeling. However, that was before I learned that the Yellow Jackets were not hosting and in the top ten in RPI. If Michigan is indeed a second seed, I'd be a tiny bit surprised if Tech wasn't in Ann Arbor this coming weekend. Either would be great, though.

Let me get back to my "punishment" theory. As an example, I could see UM as #2 seed, GA Tech as the #1 and a program like Kentucky, Missouri or San Diego being the #3. I could also see Georgia Southern, Texas-San Antonio or Sam Houston State getting the number four.

When you are in a double elimination format, all brackets are tough. Only 64 programs get in. Yet, I can't see the selection committee watering down an Ann Arbor regional, if they presume UM is a "weak" #2 seed. Which, in light of the Big Ten's performance, would not shock me.

12:25pm Five minutes to go. Better head to the kitchen now.

12:30pm Here we go.

12:35pm Miami is #1 overall. Can't disagree. Carolina #2. ASU is #3. Florida State is #4. #5 CS-Fullerton. #6 Rice. #7 LSU. (All hosts, so far.) #8 is Georgia.

12:38pm It's Arizona, Eastern Michigan and Kentucky visting Ann Arbor.

12:39pm Yes, Michigan is a two-seed. (Yikes, Arkansas gets in. They didn't make their conference tournament field.) Michigan will open with Kentucky. Lots of offensive potential, so expect a pitching duel Friday. The Wildcats of Arizona open with EMU.

I agree with ESPN's Will Kimmey, Miami got a tough regional with Mississippi and Missouri.

12:45pm Here are the official links to Michigan's opposition. Arizona. Kentucky. EMU. It's a tough bracket, but most are.

No Oregon State? The two-time defending champions are left out. Ouch.

12:49pm Still whining about Michigan hosting? Please. I don't care if the Wolverines get bounced out after two, they merit a chance to host. Kimmey defends Ann Arbor hosting. He makes all the obvious points.

12:55pm If I were a Michigan coach, I'd be playing up the fact the nation still does not believe.

12:58pm Graphic points out how many top programs Arizona has beaten this year. That's an impressive resume. Kyle Peterson calls the Wildcats, Arizona-version, "dangerous". Um, yeah.

Well, show's over. My initial thought is that the Ann Arbor regional is tough. Everyone is drooling over Arizona, and rightfully so, but Kentucky is no walk in the park, either. EMU is certainly familiar with the Wolverines, as well.

I've got to move onto other things, but I hope to be back later and share some more thoughts. Carry on while I'm gone.

Update (4:30pm): I haven't gone through all the brackets, but I think it's safe to call the Ann Arbor Regional one of the most difficult. If you use the official RPI from the NCAA, which I admit has not been updated through the conference tournaments, the Ann Arbor regional has three teams in the top 37 -- Arizona (15), Kentucky (30) and Michigan (37).

Boyd's World's pseudo-RPI, which has been updated through today, has the three programs all inside the top 35 -- Arizona (10), Kentucky (33) and Michigan (35).

If you want to use the polls, both Baseball America and the NCBWA think Ann Arbor has three of the top 30 in attendance. BA actually has all three inside the top twenty-five.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

NCAA Regional Comes To Ann Arbor

It's official. Michigan will play host to a NCAA Regional next weekend. The regional begins on Friday and runs through Monday. Monday's game would be played only if necessary. Two games will be played on Friday through Sunday.

Here's the link to ticket information. The teams will be announced tomorrow on ESPN at 12:30pm.

(Hat tip to UM fan and BTH poster kowisja for pointing me to the NCAA link.)

All-Tournament Team

I didn't provide this last night, but here's a look at the all-tournament team. It wasn't a particularly easy year to make choices. In the end, I don't think you can argue any of the selections. Sure, I could make a case for Penn State's Mike Wanamaker (complete game win) and Josh Phegley of Indiana (hit a pair of homers). However, you'd have to remove somebody to get one of these guys onto the team and I'm not sure who I'd vote off the island.

There were a number of people who thought Dan Black's five home run tournament, which is now the tournament record, should have made him MVP. It's not difficult to understand that argument, but the voters liked Michael Powers saving all three Michigan wins. Perfection for the champs is hard to disagree with as well.

While Powers was tremendous in relief and Black bombarded Ray Fisher Stadium, Indiana's Chris Hervey was a hitting machine. Hervey went 12 for 16 (.750) with nine runs scored and seven RBI in five games. Hervey only collected one extra base hit (a double), but also had a couple of sacrifices, got hit by a pitch twice and stole a base. It wasn't good enough for MVP honors this year, but it was a noteworthy performance.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM

P - Chris Fetter, Michigan
P - Zach Putnam, Michigan
P - Michael Powers, Michigan
P - Kevin Manson, Illinois
C - Dan Black, Purdue
1B - Jerrud Sabourin, Indiana
2B - Cory Kovanda, Ohio State
3B - Adam Abraham, Michigan
SS - Tyler Cox, Indiana
OF - Chris Hervey, Indiana
OF - Kevin Cislo, Michigan
OF - John Moore, Purdue
DH - Rob Yodice, Penn State / Michael Earley, Indiana

Most Outstanding Player: Michael Powers, Michigan

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Big 10 Tournament: Day Four

Michigan Pulls Off Conference Double; States Case To Host Regional

While tonight's final game was a 3-2 nailbiter, the conclusion was the one most had expected before the season began. Michigan was the prohibitive favorite in the Big Ten in the pre-season, so the fact the Wolverines managed to pull off the double -- winning the Big 10 regular season and conference tournaments -- comes as no surprise.

Michigan claimed the Big 10's post-season title by winning tonight's one-run game over Purdue. The star's of tonight's win were UM pitchers Tyler Burgoon and Michael Powers. The two combined to pitch 6.1 innings while giving up just four hits and a walk while striking out six. Burgoon posted the win, Powers the save. UM freshman OF Ryan LaMarre hit a solo shot out to nearly dead centerfield.

Alex Jaffee had a pair of hits for Purdue. Jon Moore had a hit, a run scored and a RBI in the loss.

The Boilermakers advanced to tonight's would-be championship tilt by ending Indiana's season, 11-7, in the day's first contest. Dan Black homered three times and drove in five Boiler tallies. Brandon Haveman had a four-hit game for Purdue. Starter Matt Jansen posted the win.

Chris Hervey had three hits and three RBI for IU. Josh Phegley had three hits and Michael Earley homered.

The win also increased the odds of Michigan playing host to a NCAA Regional next weekend. More than a few believe the Wolverines will indeed be at home again next week. My hope is to write more about this tomorrow and provide a few photos, as well.

Tournament Photos


Two extremely large photos adorn the outside of Ray Fisher Stadium this week. This one is of Big Ten Player of the Year Nate Recknagel of Michigan. I'm not quite sure if the Recknagel's have room in the den for this one. The other photo, which I hope to have up in a few days, is of Recknagel's teammate, Zach Putnam.
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Tournament Photos


Dan DeLucia of Ohio State started for the Buckeyes on Wednesday afternoon.
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Tournament Photos


Twilight at The Fish on Thursday night.
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Tournament Photos


Illinois RF/DH Daniel Webb is about to make a contact with a Zach Putnam pitch. This picture is from Thursday night.
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Tournament Photos


Purdue's all-conference firstbaseman Ryne White is getting ready to play some "D".
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Tournament Photos


Another photo from a chilly Thursday in Ann Arbor. Ohio State's J.B. Shuck is getting ready to take a swing at a Matt Bashore offering.
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Tournament Photos

Penn State's Joe Blackburn on Day Two of the Big Ten Tournament.
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Tournament Photos

Here are some of the Purdue players awaiting their turn to take the field on Thursday.
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Friday, May 23, 2008

Big 10 Tournament: Day Three

The first two games on Friday clearly revealed one thing: Indiana can rake. The Hoosiers began the day in an elimination game against Illinois. IU scored early and often en route to a 14-7 triumph over the Illini. Josh Phegley did a significant portion of the damage by cranking out two homers and driving in six. Phegley went 4 for 4 with, appropriately, four runs scored. Chris Hervey continued his hot tournament hitting by going 3 for 4 with two RBI and four runs scored.

Tyler Tufts threw a complete game win. Tufts improved to 6-5. The Illini countered with Dominic Altobelli and Ryan Hastings both collecting three hits, two runs scored and a RBI. The loss eliminated Illinois from the tournament.

The Hoosiers' bats appeared to have done enough with IU leading Penn State, 7-4, in the ninth inning of the second game of the day. Then, PSU's Rob Yodice doubled in a run to cut the lead to 7-5. With two Nittany Lions on base, two outs and down two strikes, Cory Wine crush a double off the right-centerfield wall to tie the game at 7-7. An Indiana error eventually allowed Wine to score the go-ahead run and put PSU up, 8-7.

The four run final frame appeared to give PSU all the momentum they needed for a tremendous come-from-behind victory. However, the IU bats were not quite done for the day. Two singles, a fielder's choice and an infield single loaded the bases for the Hoosiers' Tyler Cox. Cox connected on a game-winning grandslam giving IU a 11-8 win.

The victory kept IU alive for another day and dashed both the come-from-behind effort and the season for Penn State.

Ethan Wilson's 4 for 5, five RBI, two run effort got lost in Cox' walk-off blast. Joe Blackburn had three hits, two runs scored and two RBI for PSU.

The final game of the day was the long-awaited match-up between the top two seeds. #1 Michigan faced #2 Purdue for the first time this season. Unlike the early games, a pitcher was clearly the star of this game. Michigan's Chris Fetter allowed Purdue just four hits, four walks and a single run over seven innings to help lift UM to a 6-1 triumph over the Boilermakers. The first-team All-Big Ten hurler struck out ten Boilers along the way.

Leif Mahler had a couple of RBI to lead the Wolverines. Adam Abraham, Jason Christian and Derek VanBuskirk all had two hits apiece. Jonathan Lilly drove in the lone Purdue tally.

The loss drops Purdue into an elimination game tomorrow afternoon against Indiana. The winner of that game gets Michigan Saturday night. Regardless of whom advances, if Michigan wins Saturday night, they are the tournament champions. If Michigan loses tomorrow night, the Big Ten Tournament will have a championship game on Sunday.

Sidenotes:

* For those in the Ann Arbor area, keep in mind that the Michigan softball team will be hosting the Super Regional tomorrow afternoon starting at noon. (Although, if I read the schedule correctly, which is questionable after yesterday, baseball will not begin Saturday until closer to 3:30pm.)

* Speaking of regionals, as was mentioned in the comments here, it's starting to look like Michigan's chances for hosting are improving. Some believe it's already a done deal. There's also the rumor that Michigan has submitted a bid to host a Super Regional, just in case.

* Fisher Stadium is infested with pro scouts. They are everywhere. Hopefully, there spending some money while in Ann Arbor. We could use the revenue here in Michigan.

* The weather was much better today, but not quite as good as the predictions have been. It's supposed to be even better tomorrow.

* Any thoughts on the all-tournament team yet?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Big 10 Tournament: Day Two

Yesterday was dominated by pitching. Today's first two affairs went in the opposite direction. Bats ruled the afternoon as Indiana beat Ohio State in ten innings, 10-8, and as Purdue stomped on Penn State, 15-6. IU's Chris Hervey went 5 for 5 with two RBI to lead the Hoosiers' charge. Josh Phegley and Jerrud Sabourin also drove in two as IU kept their season alive.

Tony Kennedy had three hits and three RBI to pace the Buckeyes counter-offensive. The loss, however, eliminated Ohio State from the tournament.

In the second game, Purdue plated six in the first inning and never looked back. Dan Black was the star going 4 for 4 with two homers and six RBI. Jonathon Lilly had three hits and three RBI. The win move the Boilers into the winner's bracket.

Rob Yodice's three-run homer was the highlight for PSU. The Nittany Lions will now face Indiana in an elimination game tomorrow at noon.

After the daylight produced all kinds of offensive fireworks, the setting sun saw the bats cool off and the pitchers return to the forefront. Michigan's Zach Putnam and Illinois Scott Shaw dueled in the twilight, however, it was Putnam's Wolverines that prevailed, 5-2. Shaw worked 6.2 tough innings yeilding just six hits. Shaw did surrender six walks and, eventually, four runs.

Putnam went seven innings giving up two runs on five hits and three walks. Michael Powers pitched the final two frames to earn a save. The big hit was Adam Abraham's two-run single in the seventh.

The loss drops Illinois into tomorrow's second game. The Illini will face the winner of the Indiana/Penn State rematch. That middle game Friday will also be an elimination game. Michigan advances into the winner's bracket where they will take on Purdue in Friday's last game of the day.

Update: Yeah, I screwed this up. As is noted in the comments, Illinois and Indiana squared off in Friday's first game, while Penn State awaited the winner in the mid-afternoon affair. Thanks to all for catching my mistake.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Big 10 Tournament: Day One

Pitching was the story of Day One at the Big Ten Baseball Tournament. In the opener, Illinois' Kevin Manson tossed a complete game four-hitter leading the Illini over Ohio State, 3-2. 2B Joe Bonadonna hit his first career home run to break a 2-2 tie.

In the last game of the day, Mike Wanamaker threw a complete game for Penn State in their 6-1 triumph over Indiana. Wes Borden had three hits and Rob Yodice drove in two for the Nittany Lions.

Ohio State and Indiana will now face each other tomorrow at noon in an elimination game. The second game Thursday will feature Purdue vs. Penn State. The triple-header will conclude with Michigan taking on Illinois.

Just a few of sidenotes:

* It was a rather cold, windy afternoon. Nice for November and outstanding weather for January, but barely sneaking above sixty degrees in late May?

* Both St. John's and Notre Dame are out of the Big East Tournament. I wonder if that will eliminate St. John's from hosting a regional and if ND might be out of the field of 64?

* The Big Ten actually had the t-shirts available on the first day of the tournament. I hammer them when they do something wrong, so I have to give them credit when they are doing something right.

* The rumors persist that the Big Ten will indeed only play three game conference series beginning next year. Of course, the conference schools will have to find a way to make up for the lost eight games.

* Don't be surprised if all the other conferences opt to go to the four-game conference sets, complete with Saturday doubleheaders, to avoid having to play more midweek games. As always, the Big Ten is on the cutting edge of college baseball.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Still Penciled In As Hosts

Mark Etheridge at SEBasball.com continues to project Michigan hosting a NCAA Regional. This time his Ann Arbor visitors include California, South Carolina and Eastern Michigan. The Bears and Gamecocks would be fun and to have Ypsilanti's own Eagles take the five minute drive would be interesting especially with ex-Michigan assistant coach Jake Boss at the helm of EMU.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

IU/MSU Photos


Here is one of the best freshman in the country -- Indiana's Jerrud Sabourin. How good is the Hoosiers' firstbaseman? He walked into a very talented lineup and spent much of his initial campaign hitting in the cleanup spot. Sabourin should get some all-conference consideration this year and will deserve all-america attention in 2009.
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IU/MSU Photos


Waiting on deck is Michigan State's Chris Roberts. Roberts got off to a tough start this year, but by mid-season he became one of best hitters in the conference. The MSU sophomore will enter his junior year as a candidate for both all-Big Ten and all-america honors.
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IU/MSU Photos


This is Indiana's Matt Bashore. The Hoosiers' starter pitched a seven inning complete game victory. It wasn't easy, as the Spartans can really swing the bats, but Bashore did show glimpses of why so many are enamored with the Hoosiers' sophomore.

Yes, Bashore, too, will garner All-Big 10 votes this season and should be on nearly everyone's pre-season all-america list next year.
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IU/MSU Photos


I spent my Friday afternoon at the doubleheader between Indiana and Michigan State. I even managed to take a few photos. Now, I must warn you. My writing style may be sub-standard, but my photography skills are even worse. In spite of that, I'll share a few megapixels with you.

Our first entry is one of two all-america caliber catchers. MSU's Kyle Day is behind the plate while IU's Josh Phegley has bat in hand.
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All But Over

Indiana is drilling Michigan State, 14-1, in the ninth inning. Michigan is doing much the same to Northwestern, as the Wolverines are up on the Wildcats, 11-1, in the bottom of the sixth. Ohio State is leading Iowa, 8-1, but it's only the fifth inning at Iowa City.

If these scores hold up, IU and OSU are in the conference tournament and NU is out. The bottom line for the Wildcats is they had to win this afternoon. A loss would eliminate them and hand the last two tournament spots to IU and OSU.

Certainly, an epic Wildcats' comeback remains possible, but if IU and OSU maintain their leads, even a NU win won't garner them a return visit to Ann Arbor next weekend.

The remaining three Big Ten affairs -- Penn State at Minnesota and a doubleheader between Purdue and Illinois -- are late starts. (I have to keep telling myself it's Saturday. My weekend days are based around the Big 10 baseball schedule. If it's the last conference game, it must be Sunday. Yes, I'm apparently one of Pavlov's dogs.) The Nittany Lions and Illini are fighting for positioning. Minnesota is out of the conference tournament chase and Purdue has already clinched the second seed.

I intend to provide more updates as the day progresses.

Update #1: It's official. IU and OSU round out the tournament field. Both won today and NU lost. Even without having the Penn State and Illinois finals to determine the third and fourth seeds, let me be brave and try to pencil in the tournament breakdown. Note: This is totally not official. Repeat: This is not official. It's just my guess.

Wednesday
Gm. 1 - #5 Ohio State vs. #4 seed (Illinois/Penn State) @ Noon
Gm. 2 - #6 Indiana vs. #3 seed (Illinois/Penn State) @ 3:30pm

Thursday
Gm. 3 - Loser of Game #1 vs. Loser of Game #2 @ Noon (loser is eliminated)
Gm. 4 - Highest seeded winner of Games 1/2 vs. #2 Purdue @ 3:30pm
Gm. 5 - Lowest seeded winner of Games 1/2 vs. #1 Michigan @ 7:00pm

Friday
Gm. 6 - Winner Game #3 vs. Lowest seeded, loser Game 4/5 @ Noon (loser is eliminated)
Gm. 7 - Winner Game # 6 vs. Highest seeded loser Game 4/5 @ 3:30pm (loser is eliminated)
Gm. 8 - Winner of Game #4 vs. Winner of Game #5 @ 7:00pm

Saturday
Gm. 9 - Winner of Game #7 vs. Loser of Game #8 @ Noon (loser is eliminated)
Gm. 10 - Winner of Game #8 vs. Winner of Game #9 @ 3:30pm (if Gm #8 winner wins, they are champs.)

Sunday
Gm. 11 - Winner of Game #8 vs. Winner of Game #9 @ Noon (if necessary; winner is champion.)

Hat tip to NCAA-Baseball.com who provided the outline. How come they have this available, but I don't see anything of the kind at the Big Ten's official site? Did I miss it?

Don't forget, you can order your tickets on Monday morning. Michigan season ticket holders can order them now. (Assuming someone is in the ticket office on weekends.) If you are opting for bleachers, it's walk-up sales the day of the game.

Of course, seeing as how 98% of the people in attendance will have credentials or freebies of one kind or another, this annoucement probably doesn't concern the majority of you.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Final Four

We have reached the end of the regular season. As many of us expected several months ago, the race for the last few post-season berths is exceptionally tight. The tournament possibilities abound. Let me give you an example or two from some email I've received.

An Indiana supporter suggests that the eighth place Hoosiers can get into the conference tournament by taking three of four from Michigan State and Michigan takes three from Northwestern. If IU were to sweep MSU, Michigan would only need to take two from NU to see the Hoosiers get in. IU holds the tiebreaker over the Wildcats.

Another BTH reader sends along this thought:
I noticed an interesting phenomenon in the standings: right now, Northwestern is in 6th at 13-15 (.464) ahead of 7th-place Michigan State at 12-14 (.462). But if both teams sweep their series, Michigan State will be at 16-14 (.533), ahead of Northwestern at 17-15 (.531). This means that even though Northwestern is ahead of Michigan State right now, Michigan State is the team that "controls its destiny" in the conference race, and not Northwestern!
That's just plain wacky. If either or both of the scenarios presented is true, there's simply no end of the possibilities. Nor is there anyway to predict what's going to happen.

I'm hoping to take in a game or three over the next several days, so how often I'll be in front of the computer is questionable. Obviously, I'll make some attempt to share what I've seen, but let me continue to encourage you to toss up scoring updates, highlights and comments over the weekend.

Get out to the ballpark near you. They can use your support.

Thursday Update #1: We are off to a crazy start. Indiana beat Michigan State, 9-2. Northwestern has only three hits, but Michigan has committed three errors and the Wildcats lead, 4-2, in the fifth. Iowa is up on Ohio State, 2-1, in the fourth. Minnesota has gotten off to a 2-0 lead over Penn State in the second. Purdue at Illinois is in a rain delay.

Basically, all the lower seeds are up on the higher seeds while the second and third place squads are watching it rain. Perfect. Instead of guessing what all of this means right now, let's wait a few hours and see what plays out.

Thursday Update #2: Michigan has battled back and leads NU, 7-4. It's the seventh inning in Ann Arbor. Ohio State has also come from behind to take a 3-2 lead over Iowa. They are in the seventh inning at Iowa City. Meanwhile, the Gophers have put their foot to the floor and are running over PSU, 8-0, in the fourth.

And it wouldn't be right if we didn't have a rainout, so the Boilermakers and Illini cooperated. Today's game was postponed and they'll try to play doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday. Friday will have a nine-inning affair followed by a seven inning game and the reverse will occur on Saturday. Weather permitting, of course.

Thursday Update #3: Now, that I've been reminded what day it is ...... Michigan 9 Northwestern 4, Iowa 4 Ohio State 3 (10 inn.), Minnesota 11 Penn State 6 (8th). Onto the standings.

Michigan 24-4
Purdue 18-9
Illinois 15-12
Penn State 15-14
Ohio State 13-14
Northwestern 13-16
Michigan State 12-15
Indiana 12-17
Minnesota 9-19
Iowa 9-20

Although, PSU is losing, they have to take some solace in knowing that the three teams immediately below them have already lost today. Indiana's hopes for the post-season are still alive and they have to be thankful for Michigan's comeback tonight keeping NU within reach.

As an aside, we've been discussing the likelihood of Michigan hosting a regional. Here's what the gang over at Ping! had to say about the Wolverines in their latest Top 30 poll, where Michigan checked in at #11 in the land:
If Michigan (38-11) defeats Notre Dame and wins the Big 10 regular season and tournament titles, the Wolverines deserve to be a top eight seed for the NCAAs.
A top eight national seed? That's a pretty strong statement.

Aside #2. The University of Michigan has released information about ticket sales for next week's Big Ten tournament. Hope everyone can make it up to Ann Arbor. I just have to decide if I'm getting the seatback chairs in advance or just opting for the bleachers (which, fyi, are actually the seats closer to the field in the renovated park) on the day of the game.

Oh, Minnesota did beat Penn State, 11-7. I'll update the standings above.

Friday Update #1: Here are the standings based on the early results from Saturday.

1. Michigan 25-4
2. Purdue 19-9
3. Illinois 15-13
4. Penn State 15-15
5. Ohio State 14-14
6. Indiana 14-17
7. Northwestern 13-17
8. Michigan State 12-17
9. Minnesota 9-20
10. Iowa 9-21

Here are the finals thus far:

Michigan 7 Northwestern 1
Indiana 7 Michigan State 6
Indiana 7 Michigan State 3
Penn State 5 Minnesota 3
Purdue 14 Illinois 4
Ohio State 12 Iowa 2

IU's sweep in East Lansing keep the Hoosiers post-season dreams alive. However, I believe MSU's hopes of playing next weekend are finished. I could be wrong, but the best the Spartans can do is win tomorrow giving them a 13-17 mark. Thirteen W's isn't going to be enough.

NU is beating Michigan in the second game of their twinbill, 2-0. It's the sixth inning in Ann Arbor. If the Wildcats hold on, they will be tied for sixth place with the Hoosiers, but I believe IU holds the tiebreaker over NU. If Indiana and Northwestern have the same record at day's end, tomorrow's games will be very interesting as the weather in Michigan tomorrow is supposed to include precipitation.

Penn State is up early on Minnesota, 2-1. They are in the bottom of the first. Purdue's Jon Moore just went yard and the Boilers have jumped all over the Illini. It's 5-0, Boilermakers and they are still batting in the top of the first. The Buckeyes and Hawkeyes are just underway.

Friday Update #2: NU's Eric Jokisch shutout Michigan, 2-0. Iowa takes game two from Ohio State, 7-4. Minnesota topples Penn State, 9-7. However, I can't seem to track down the nightcap between Purdue and Illinois.

I'm going to present the standings next. However, let's be clear on two things. First, I could be wrong. Second, I've been checking boxscores for the last ten minutes and I'm convinced that the programs themselves aren't sure what everyone's record is. (Let's leave it at that.)

I went to the "official" Big Ten website and combined today's results with their W-L record through yesterday. It's the best I can do.

Michigan 25-5
Purdue 20-9
Penn State 16-15
Illinois 15-14
Ohio State 14-15
Indiana 14-17
Northwestern 14-17
Michigan State 12-17
Minnesota 10-20
Iowa 10-21

Michigan, Purdue, Illinois and Penn State are in. The last two tournament spots are still up-for-grabs.

OSU and IU hold their fate in their own hands. If they win, they are in. NU, however, needs help to make the Big 10 Tournament.

Early Saturday Morning Update #1/Late Friday Update #3: Either way, Purdue beat Illinois, 13-8 in game two. I've updated the standings above.

Lunchtime Saturday Update: Proving, once again, that I'm not the sharpest pencil in the box, I had Illinois in third place when PSU has moved ahead of the Illini. My apologies to Nittany Lions fans everywhere. I've revised the standings immediately above.

Good news on the weather front, it's partly sunny here in the mitten. That should allow both the NU/UM and IU/MSU tilts to be played before the rain returns later today. For those contemplating a trip to Ann Arbor this coming week, the early forecast for the Big 10 tourney has sunny conditions with temperatures in the sixties on Wednesday with increasing temperatures and chances for thunderstorms on Thursday and Friday.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Nominating Newbies

I was asked to submit nominations for a freshmen all-america team. Now, I'm going to work on my list, but I don't get to see everyone. So, I've decided to give you a chance to participate. If your school, another Big Ten program or any other DI school has some first year players you feel are worthy of being named to a freshmen all-america team, here's your chance to give them some love.

I need their name, position and stats (at least through May 11). You can submit them in the comments section or by email. My email address is in the sidebar. Alas, we don't have much time. I'll need these names by Friday night.

Now, submitting their names only gets them onto my nomination list. How many on my list will make the initial ballot, I can't say. However, as the old saying goes, you can't win, if you don't play. Nominate early and often. (Duplicates, however, are not necessary.)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Rainy Days And Mondays

Perhaps it's a result of attempting to figure out all the Big Ten tournament possibilities. Maybe it's the ongoing rain. Maybe I've got a bad case of the Mondays. In the end, it doesn't matter, I just need to vent.

PLAYING HOSTS
Most long-time readers here know that I'm in favor of a neutral site for the Big Ten Baseball Tournament. It makes sense on every level, but one. Alas, the "one" is a biggie. Baseball is a non-revenue sport. That means the Big Ten Conference office views baseball like we view a colonoscopy -- a necessary evil.

With that dazzling attitude towards the oldest sport on most campuses, the Big Ten is in no hurry to pretend like it cares about baseball. So when the subject of a neutral site arises, they dismiss it with the usual "if baseball has a neutral site tournament, then golf, tennis, soccer, curling and every other non-revenue sport is going to demand the same thing and we just cannot afford that."

Yeah, right. You can operate a television network, but you can't find enough change in the couch to borrow a quality minor league park for five days? Sorry, I ain't buyin' that line.

However, if the conference is determined to stick their head in the marketing sand and avoid a neutral site for the baseball tournament, is it asking too much to hold it in one of the venues suitable for such an event?

By suitable, I mean, acceptable for everyone involved -- players, parents, coaches, school officials, conference officials, media and fans. Here are a few requirements:

The park should have lights. It rains in the midwest on occasion. Sometimes games get postponed. Having lights helps the games to be played. It also cuts down on 9:00am starts. I love breakfast with batting practice, but the general public doesn't. Did I mention many in the potential ticket buying public have day jobs? Lights should be mandatory to host the tournament.

Ideally, there should be access to batting cages. There should also be clubhouses for the home and road teams. Excessive? In 1970, yes. In 2008, not so much. I wouldn't be a stickler for either of these items, but it is a championship event and we do have access to these at some venues in the conference. Why settle for less?

It should have a decent pressbox. The media shouldn't get soggy covering the tournament. Neither should ADs, SIDs and the various other personnel filling the box. No pressbox, no hosting.

It should have concession stands, running water and plumbing. That means bathrooms, not port-a-poddies. I can't see anything wrong with demanding basic facilities for your patrons. As further evidence, I heard an interview with legendary Louisiana State coach Skip Bertmann. Coach was asked what was one of the first things he did to Alex Box Stadium to increase attendance. He said he added diaper changing facilities.

We want people to like college baseball and come back. Help your audience take care of life's essentials. If you can't meet this requirement, you can't host.

I know, I know. Very few Big 10 parks can host the tournament under these parameters. Honestly, I'm okay with that. Would it give some schools an advantage? I suppose it would, but having a quality park gives that program an advantage regardless. Don't you think the folks who have such facilities are going to show them off to recruits, thus giving them an advantage over the other programs long before the tournament ever takes place?

Besides, there's nothing wrong with acting like the tournament is a championship event of some import. That's because it is. The winner goes onto the NCAA Tournament.

CBS' CLOSES EYE TO BASEBALL COVERAGE
Has anyone else noticed that the baseball coverage on the website formerly known as CSTV has taken a nose-dive since the CBS generals have taken over? Their baseball homepage has been almost static for weeks. The photo of the Stanford player hasn't changed in over a month. They appear to have jettisoned friend of BTH, Doug Kroll, while you have to hunt for Eric Sorenson's latest entries. If Kroll was indeed let go, and I have absolutely zero proof of that (I'm a blogger, I'm expected to engage in speculation), Big E's stay at the eye network is probably in danger, too.

Hey, CBS big-wigs. Original content, especially on college baseball, is difficult to find. Don't you want to be different? How about cool? Keep the bald-headed, rock-and-roll, Omaha-lovin' guy around. In fact, find him a couple of cohorts. I hear this Kroll guy knows something about college baseball and might be available.

VOTING IN THE DARK
Do you ever wonder how in the world anyone votes in a college baseball poll? Seriously, if I had to participate in a weekly poll, I'd be in trouble. If I head down to the ballpark, I don't get to see the games on television. If I stay home or put the games on DVR, it's not like I'm guaranteed to see the top teams in the land each weekend.

I currently receive, courtesy of my cable provider and a growing monthly bill, the aforementioned CBS College Sports plus three Fox College Stations -- Atlantic, Central and West. Between the four of them, I get a minimal amount of live college baseball each weekend. I might get one or two top level games, but the majority of games being broadcast, especially on the Fox networks, are often games not affecting the rankings or repeats from weeks ago.

There's also no one providing a quality highlight package, either. It's not a college football Saturday night where you can at least get a taste of what the elite level programs have done that day. College baseball is almost played in a media blackout, nationally speaking.

I can't see how coaches or the media can come to informed decisions about the ranking the programs each week or voting for All-Americans or the Player of the Year awards. We, and, yes, I'm including myself here, are all voting in the dark.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Michigan Captures Big Ten

Isn't this what nearly every pundit suspected would happen? Michigan captured their third consecutive regular season Big Ten conference title this afternoon by taking two games from Minnesota. Michigan prevailed by scores of 11-5 and 12-8. Mike Dufek was the star of the day. Dufek hit a grandslam and drove in five in the opener and followed that with his third homer of the season and a three RBI effort in the finale.

By winning the Big Ten crown, Michigan now gets to host the conference tournament and earns a first-round bye.

Two games of importance got washed out. Michigan State at Purdue and Illinois at Ohio State were forced to cancel due to rain. Those games not played may yet figure into the make-up of the tournament field. Penn State, however, took another step closer to securing a post-season berth with an 11-8 triumph over Iowa. Ryan Boonie drove in three for PSU.

Indiana and Northwestern went 10 innings before the Hoosiers won, 14-12. Tyler Rogers had a 4 for 5 performance for IU.

After these results, the standings look like this:

Michigan 23-4
Purdue 18-9
Illinois 15-12
Penn State 15-13
Ohio State 13-13
Northwestern 13-15
Michigan State 12-14
Indiana 11-17
Minnesota 8-19
Iowa 8-20

(Note: The following is math related. You should know by now that mathematics and I are cordial, but not good friends. Thus, you should be more dubious than normal of the statements that follow.)

Michigan is the champion and hosts the tournament. Purdue, I believe, is in. I also think the Boilers' magic number to clinch second is one. Even if PSU were to sweep next weekend, Purdue would claim the tiebreaker with just one W because a better winning percentage (courtesy of fewer losses). If PSU sweeps and Illinois takes all four from Purdue, Illinois would also have fewer losses and, thus, a better winning percentage than the Nittany Lions. That would give the Illini second place. Minnesota and Iowa are eliminated. (Didn't see that coming in February.)

As for the rest of the scenarios, well, there are many, but not as many as just a week ago. I may take a stab at figuring this out, but I'm more than willing to accept help with all the post-season possibilities. (Yes, Frank, this means you.)

What of the final weekend? Here is your slate beginning Thursday afternoon:

Indiana @ Michigan State
Ohio State @ Iowa
Northwestern @ Michigan
Penn State @ Minnesota
Purdue @ Illinois

All five series have some bearing on the conference tournament race, so the last weekend should be fun. Congratulations to Michigan on back-to-back-to-back Big Ten titles.

One Last Sunday

Today is the last Sunday of the regular season. Next week's final action concludes on Saturday. It's very difficult to believe the season has reached the final stages. Does any other sport season go by quite as quickly as college baseball?

It's already raining here in Michigan, so I'm a bit concerned about how many contests are going to be played across the Big Ten this afternoon. This radar doesn't inspire confidence, either (as of 1:00pm EST). Looks like a small hurricane circling the heart of conference. It also looks like my prediction that Illinois and OSU is going to be played will end up wrong. (Does that make me an "official" weather forecaster?)

Worse, I can't imagine State College, West Lafayette or Evanston getting much relief today. On the upside, Minneapolis looks to be in the clear.

As usual, I encourage you to update the comments with scores, highlights and opinions as the day progresses. I hope to update this post as the day goes along. Assuming, of course, there's something to update.

Finally, on this Mother's Day, I send out best wishes to all the "Baseball Moms" out there.

Scoreboard Update (as of 1:26pm EST):
Iowa 3 Penn State 1 (5th)
Michigan 1 Minnesota 0 (1st)