Saturday, May 31, 2008
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.
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
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
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
Monday, May 26, 2008
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.
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
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.)
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.
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
Saturday, May 24, 2008
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.
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.
Friday, May 23, 2008
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.
* 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
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
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
Saturday, May 17, 2008
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Gm. 1 - #5 Ohio State vs. #4 seed (Illinois/Penn State) @ Noon
Gm. 2 - #6 Indiana vs. #3 seed (Illinois/Penn State) @ 3:30pm
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
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
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.)
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
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.
Penn State 15-14
Ohio State 13-14
Michigan State 12-15
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.
Penn State 16-15
Ohio State 14-15
Michigan State 12-17
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
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
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
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:
Penn State 15-13
Ohio State 13-13
Michigan State 12-14
(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.
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)
Saturday, May 10, 2008
While at West Lafayette, MSU has taken a 7-0 lead in the third inning over Purdue. A win would, albeit temporarily, put the Spartans into sixth place alone. In the other dugout, another Purdue loss would drop them to only a single game lead over Illinois for second place. Guess where Purdue finishes the year? Yep, Urbana-Champaign.
I'll be back later, as my plans to visit Columbus have been scratched for less entertaining endeavors. Feel free to post your thoughts and scores as the weekend progresses.
Scoreboard Update (3:00pm EST)
Michigan State 10 Purdue 3 5th
Indiana 1 Northwestern 0 4th
Ohio State 3 Illinois 1 2nd
Penn State 2 Iowa 0 2nd
Scoreboard Update (5:50pm EST)
Michigan @ Minnesota - Delay
Michigan State 11 Purdue 3
Purdue 5 Michigan State 2 4th inning
Ohio State 9 Illinois 2
Ohio State 3 Illinois 1 4th inning
Indiana 2 Northwestern 1
Northwestern 6 Indiana 2 4th inning
Penn State 6 Iowa 5
Penn State 0 Iowa 0 1st inning
The standings based on the above results:
Penn State 13-13
Ohio State 12-13
Michigan State 12-13
Once again weather may play a factor. I presume the rain that's expected across much of Big Ten country tomorrow has arrived in Minneapolis and is delaying the start of the Wolverines at Gophers doubleheader. I'm no meteorologist, but I'm guessing precipitation might cost us the games at West Lafayette and Evanston on Sunday. Columbus may be in danger, too, but in my professional opinion, will get in before the raindrops. (Hey, my guess is as good as there's.)
Don't forget that the final weekend of the regular season runs from Thursday through Saturday.
I hope to report back with all the finals later this evening.
Update: This is what happens when you don't check your blog's comments before posting. UM fan Chuck reports that Michigan @ Minnesota is a washout and they will try to play two tomorrow.
Ohio State 14 Illinois 8
Northwestern 10 Indiana 8
Penn State 13 Iowa 9
Purdue 6 Michigan State 2
One of the two Michigan @ Minnesota games has been canceled. The other will be played as part of a doubleheader tomorrow.
Penn State 14-13
Ohio State 13-13
Michigan State 12-14
Friday, May 09, 2008
Ohio State 11-12
Penn State 11-13
Michigan State 11-13
Our other three affairs are evening games. More to come ......
Update #1: Both NU and MSU did hold on to win, so the standings are accurate as of 8:00pm. Wildcats' OF Nate Roberts had three hits, three RBI and scored twice. Jake Goebbert hit his ninth homerun. Erik Jokisch won his seventh game of the year against just two losses. Matt Havey posted his sixth save. IU's Josh Phegley went yard for the 11th time and Jerrud Sabourin collected three hits.
MSU's Mike Monterey pitched a complete game in the Spartans win. Chris Roberts had a three hit, three RBI game.
Iowa is beating Penn State, 4-2, in the fifth. Illinois is spanking Ohio State, 7-1, in the sixth. Michigan is up early on Minnesota, 1-0, in the fourth. Surprisingly, Michigan All-America candidate Zach Putnam is neither pitching or at DH. Chris Fetter gets the Friday night start. He's got five K's through four and Nate Recknagel has homered again.
Update #2: Iowa and PSU are tied at 5-5 in the eighth. Illinois is still up on OSU, 7-2, in the seventh. Michigan has increased their lead to 3-0 over Minnesota. They are in the eighth. Recknagel's homer tied him for the all-time single season mark in school history (19). Fetter is still on the mound. He's fanned eight, maybe nine. I can't recall. Lots of Gophers caught looking either way. If the Wolverines hold on, doesn't the magic number become four?
(Thanks to BTH regular Chuck for informing me that Putnam didn't travel to Minneapolis due to illness.)
Update #3: OSU and Illinois have been suspended in the seventh. They'll play 2.2 games tomorrow. Iowa and PSU are in extra frames. Minnesota has plated two in the bottom of the ninth, but Michigan maintains a 4-2 lead. Fetter fanned ten before leaving after 8.1 innings of work.
Update #4: PSU's Rick Marlin singles in the winning run as the Nittany Lions beat the Hawkeyes, 6-5, in 10 innings. Paul Hawkins is your winner. Michigan held off a ninth inning comeback attempt by Minnesota and won, 4-2. Fetter got the win. I'm presuming Michael Powers will get a save.
This brings us back to the standings:
Penn State 12-13
Ohio State 11-12
Michigan State 11-13
What a race for those last two conference tournament spots. If you can, get out to the ballpark this weekend.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
First, the NCAA has looked for a northern host the last few years. Michigan is probably the only northern program deserving of that honor. Second, you have to have the facility to host a regional. Freshly renovated Ray Fisher Stadium fits that qualification, as well. Third, is ability to draw a crowd. Michigan has drawn fairly well this year. And, while several western programs merit hosting a regional, the honest-to-goodness truth is many of them don't draw particularly well.
If Mr. Mills' prediction were to come true, I think having San Diego and Notre Dame in Ann Arbor would indeed fill the seats. Now, would the Maize and Blue faithful hang around if the home side got bounced? That's another story altogether. But it would be the same story at any site where the host was eliminated.
The final factor working in Michigan's favor to host a regional is that they've been playing very good baseball for weeks. They would need to maintain that pace (basically, taking a minimum of three of four games each of the final two weekends) and might need to hold off Notre Dame in their annual late-May midweek meeting near Grand Rapids to stay in contention for playing host.
Jeremy Mills knows more about college baseball than I ever will, so if he says Ann Arbor's in the running I'm apt to believe. Yet, I'm just skeptical. I just don't see the committee taking a northern program with an RPI in the 30's a chance to host over all those other southern/western programs. Of course, I'm often wrong, too. Regardless, I'd love to see a regional that close to home.
Now, for those looking for a contrary point of view, or digging around for other regional predictions, Mark Etheridge at SEBaseball.com offers up his field of 64. He's got Michigan at Georgia. (Yikes!)
HT: College Baseball Dugout message board.
Monday, May 05, 2008
With the Boilermakers defeat, the standings look like this:
Ohio State 11-12
Penn State 11-13
Michigan State 10-13
Michigan is now three clear with eight to play. The Illini have a rough road in, as they travel to Ohio State before closing the year with a visit from Purdue, but a win tonight gets them within three games of the second-place Boilermakers. Suddenly, a first-round tournament bye looks possible.
Friday, May 02, 2008
As Chuck noted in the comments, Michigan dropped Ohio State, 4-1. Zach Putnam tosses a complete game seven hitter. The All-America candidate allowed one walk and one earned run. Four different Wolverines drove in the runs. J.B. Shuck went 4 for 4 for OSU.
Also note that tomorrow's start time for the twinbill between UM and OSU has been moved up to 1:05 pm.
Michigan State drilled Penn State, 7-3. Steve Gerstenberger and Brandon Doherty both have two RBI for MSU. Chris Roberts went 4 for 5. (I haven't checked, but I think Roberts has been on fire for about three weeks now.) Mike Monterey gave up four hits. four walks and three earned runs over eight innings to get the win. Rick Marlin drove in two of PSU's runs.
Minnesota snuck past Iowa, 7-6. The Gophers plated a run in the top of the ninth to win it. Matt Nohelty had two hits, including a homerun, scored twice and drove in three. Nate Hanson also had a pair of hits with a homer. Jeremy Chlan had three hits. Scott Matyas posted the victory by working 2.2 innings of shutout relief. Iowa's Caleb Curry homered, scored twice had three RBI and stole a base. Kurtis Muller had a three hit game.
Northwestern at Illinois got rained out. Purdue at Indiana was pushed back a day. It's now a Saturday-Sunday-Monday set.
Let's quickly rundown the scores from today.
Michigan 6 Ohio State 1
Ohio State 3 Michigan 2
Michigan's Chris Fetter throws a seven inning complete game four-hitter in game one. Fetter didn't walk a batter and improved to 8-1. SS Jason Christian's two hit, two run, two RBI performance was the offensive highlight.
OSU redshirt freshman Dean Wolosiansky improves to 7-2 by going 6.2 innings. Wolosiansky allowed four hits, three walks and two earned runs. Eric Best recorded the final out to earn his sixth save. Justin Miller drove in two of the three Buckeye tallies.
Purdue 11 Indiana 7
Ben Wolgamot had two hits, two runs and two RBI to lead Purdue. Ryne White, Jon Moore and Drew Madia all drove in two runs for the Boilers. Wolgamot and Dan Black both went yard for Purdue. Matt Bischoff posted the win and Josh Lindblom collected his eleventh save. IU's Andrew Means had three hits and three RBI. Josh Phegley homered and also drove in three for the Hoosiers.
Penn State 2 Michigan State 1
Penn State vs. Michigan State (ppd.)
PSU's Mike Wanamaker gives up five hits and one earned run over six innings and Drew O'Neil comes out of the bullpen to pitch the final inning and post save number eight. Brian Ernst goes 3 for 3 with a RBI. Joe Blackburn gets a couple of hits. Chris Roberts drives in the lone MSU score.
Iowa 10 Minnesota 5
Iowa 6 Minnesota 1
A six-run bottom of the sixth wins the opener for Iowa. Caleb Curry gets three hits, including a homer, two runs, two RBI and steals a base. Justin Toole and Kyle Riffel both had a pair of RBI. Jason Belk gets the win in relief. Matt Nohelty, Jeremy Chlan, Nate Hanson and Jeff DeSmidt all have two hits for the Gophers. DeSmidt drove in two.
In the nightcap, Steve Turnbull tosses a seven inning complete game. Turnbull yields seven hits, two walks and the lone Gopher run. T.J. Cataldo goes 3 for 3 and Curry drove in two more runs for the Hawkeyes. Nohelty and Tom Steidl both had two Gopher hits while Eric Decker had the Minnesota RBI.
Illinois 14 Northwestern 4
It was the Brandon Wikoff Show today. The Illini SS went a perfect 5 for 5 with a homer, four runs scored and six RBI. Ryan Hastings was also pretty good as he went 3 for 4 with two runs scored and four RBI. John Schlichter drove in three. Kyle Hudson had two hits and scored four times. The winner was Kevin Manson. Lee Zerrusen posted his first save by going three innings.
Scores, first. Standings and comments to follow.
Michigan 15 Ohio State 1
Indiana 5 Purdue 4
Indiana 18 Purdue 8
Michigan State 4 Penn State 1
Michigan State 10 Penn State 2
Northwestern 4 Illinois 3
Illinois 11 Northwestern 5
Minnesota 17 Iowa 14
Here are the revised standings (as of 11:00pm EST, Sunday):
Ohio State 11-12
Penn State 11-13
Michigan State 10-13
Don't forget that Purdue @ Indiana and NU @ Illinois are going to conclude their weekend sets tomorrow.
The performance the last two weekends from the Hoosiers -- splitting with first-place Michigan and giving second place Purdue all they can handle -- is more in line with what I expected from them all season long. If you asked me today who I liked in the conference in 2009, without knowing specfics like who opts to turn pro and who stays in college, I might be tempted to tab Indiana. (Yes, they could stand some more pitching, but couldn't everyone?)
MSU taking three of four at State College certainly puts heat on not only the Nittany Lions, but the Buckeyes and Wildcats, as well. Meanwhile, the Spartans find themselves in a scenario basically identical to last year's -- right on the fringe of making the conference tournament heading down the homestretch.
I know you are probably wondering how the schedule plays out the last two weeks. Here it is:
Indiana @ Northwestern
Iowa @ Penn State
Michigan State @ Purdue
Michigan @ Minnesota
Illinois @ Ohio State
May 15-17 (Thursday - Saturday)
Indiana @ Michigan State
Ohio State @ Iowa
Northwestern @ Michigan
Penn State @ Minnesota
Purdue @ Illinois
As the race for conference tournament slots heats up, all of these encounters look more challenging than they did even a month ago.
That's all for now. I may come back later this evening and update the standings and share a few more thoughts.
A late Sunday update:
I've revised the standings and filled in the finals from today. Who knows? I may have even accomplished that correctly.
IU's twinbill sweep of Purdue does put the Wolverines back into the driver's seat for claiming the regular season crown and thus hosting the Big Ten tournament. While I'm sure most are going to concede the title to Rich Maloney's side, I'm (typically) more cautious. I don't assume W's are going to just be handed them by either Minnesota or Northwestern.
Both of tomorrow's games look big to me. NU has a chance to solidify their post-season hopes and get within a game of third-place with a win, while an Illinois victory could put three games between themselves and a would-be fourth place OSU side that plays host to the Illini next week.
The home-standing Hoosiers can get themselves a step closer to vying for a conference tournament slot with a victory while Purdue, who still harbors hopes of a regular season title and playing hosts in the post-season, needs another triumph to keep pace with front-running Michigan.
That's all for tonight. I've got a few more things to share with you, but those notions will have to wait until my next post. Thanks for stopping in.