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.


BaseballBucks33 said...

IU 9 13 1 (11-17)
MSU 2 9 1 (12-15)

Indiana beat the Spartans 9-2 today. SP Eric Arnett gets the W going 8 Ip with 4 K. LF Chris Hervey went 3-5,HR,4 RBI.

MSU Catcher Kyle Day went 1-4,HR,2 RBI.

kowisja said...

Not going to lie, the "Friday Update" had me confused for about 30 seconds. The Wolverine errors the last 3 weeks have been a big Achilles heel. I'm not sure there's been a game with less than 3 errors in it during that time span. Definitely needs to get better by next weekend if not tomorrow.

Chuck said...

Only one error against ND, I believe (the Domers had four, themselves). And possibly no errors in the Minnesota doubleheader, which I watched but do not recall cringing horribly. Minnesota was was a disaster in that respect though, especially their SS.

Hopefully they are past all that now.

Brian said...

kowisja, clearly it is me that's confused. It's the first game of the weekend, thus it MUST be Friday. Four years of typing leads to certain assumptions.

See, I told you. When you type all the time, you fall into bad habits far too easily. That and I'm a moron.

Thanks for pointing that out. I'll make the appropriate changes shortly.

Chuck said...

My son was similarly confused at dinner time when I suggested we all hurry up so we could watch the game. "Is this Friday?" he asked.

Four years of living has caused him to make certain assumptions, too. My daughter asked why this weekend was so weird but I didn't know what to tell her. What is the rationale, anyway?

Brian said...

Chuck, I'm not really sure why everyone in the nation bumped things up a day.

Just thinking out loud, it gives teams an extra day to organize travel plans and rest prior to the conference tournaments.

If I remember, I'll see if I can get a more "official" response from somebody in the know over the next few days.

Alton said...

It's the conference tournaments. If you look at the two conferences that don't have conference tournaments next week (the Big West and the Pac Ten), both of them are playing their normal Friday-Saturday-Sunday series this weekend.

I think that since most conferences start their tournaments on Wednesday, they just want all of the pitchers to be well-rested at the beginning of the tournament. The Thursday-Friday-Saturday series ensures that everybody has 3 days of rest.

Brian said...

Thanks, Alton.

BaseballBucks33 said...

At least Michigan can win with 3 miscues on defense.Ohio State can not score 3 runs some games.

We lost to Iowa tonight trying to walk a guy to set up a double play on a (wild pitch).

I swear if you hang around college baseball you will see everything once.My lord on a wild pitch we lose. My Buckeyes can not do anything right this year. What a long year it has been.

kowisja said...

I worked grounds crews in high school for UHouston and Rice regionals (2001-2004). I kid you not when I say I have seen Baylor lose on a wild pitch in AT LEAST two different years to be eliminated. Both were about 4 feet over the catcher's head.

And oddly enough, pitch outs are one of the hardest pitches to throw. My high school coach made each pitcher end his bullpen sessions with at least 2 pitch outs just so they had some experience throwing them.

Douglas said...

Friday Afternoon Update:

Indiana beat MSU in the first game 7-6. IU already up 6-0 in the nightcap (Top 1)

Zach Putnam is pitching for Michigan today in the first game. Recknagel hit #23 in the first inning to move Michigan in front of Northwestern 2-1 (Bot 2)

Purdue has opened a 6-0 lead on Illinois in game 1 (9 inning) of today's doubleheader. (Top 3)

NittanyBaseball said...

Ohio State crushed Iowa 12-2 in the 1st game. Second game is about to start.

Sadly, CSTV doesn't have anything on the PSU/Minny games, so I'm in the dark about those.

Indiana held on the the 2nd game to sweep the DH, 7-3. A.J. Achter only lasted 1/3 of an inning, giving up 6 ERs.

Michigan won game 1 against the Wildcats 7-1. Recknagle went 2-4 with 2 RBIs, 2 runs scored, and went yard once. Northwestern is up 2-0 in the top of the 6th on the Wolverines in game 2. Only 3 hits a side so far in this game. Eric Jokisch has done a good job controlling the explosive Wolverine offense. Tony Vercelli and Mike Kalina have the RBIs for Northwestern.

Chuck said...

Michigan shut out for the first time all season. Amazing.

My daughter maintains that they will win tomorrow to take the all-time Big Ten wins title (as of today they are tied with Ohio State).

kowisja said...

I hope and half expect your daughter to be right.

BaseballBucks33 said...

Buckeyes lose 7-4 in Game 2 vs. Iowa. Dean W with his 2nd loss in 2 weeks. OSU 14-15 in league. Iowa lead 6-0 in the 2nd and we never recovered.

Any one know the PSU-Minny score from game 2?

Indiana playing some good baseball right now. They are in the Tourny for the 1st time since 2003. Congrats IU

BaseballBucks33 said...

PSU 9 (17-14)
Minn 7 Final Game 2

PSU closer Drew O'Neil had save # 11 on the yr. DH Rob Yodice had 2 HR and 6 RBI in the game.

kowisja said...

If I'm calculating correctly (and I've had quite a bit of port tonight):

OSU, NU, IU win tomorrow, NU is out.

NU, IU win, OSU loses, OSU is out.
OSU, NU wins, IU loses, IU is out.
OSU, IU wins, NU loses, IU is out.

Only IU wins, NU is out.
Only NU wins, IU is out.
Only OSU wins, NU is out.

How did the Illinois/Purdue game end? I only caught the first game on tv.

Brian said...

In scenario number four, where if OSU, IU win, NU loses, NU is the team out, not IU.

If I've got this right, if IU and OSU win, they play on. NU, however, must win and get some help to play next weekend.

NittanyBaseball said...

PSU into 3rd place with the DH sweep. I'd rather play IU/NW than OSU in the 1st round. Actually, I'm hoping OSU doesn't make it at all. I really wouldn't be shocked if they won it all with a low seed just like last year.

kowisja said...

Brian is right. I looked at his reply and I was like duh? The wine is starting to catch up to me.

I think I'd rather take OSU over IU at this point. IU is obviously playing red hot. NU is questionable. They have lost two of the last three series. No telling how they come out in the tournament. OSU, it they pitch Shuck in the first round may be tough. Other than that, if your guys can score runs (which they seem to be able to), I would see OSU as the favorable matchup.

Douglas said...

Indiana is pretty much in as #6 They lead MSU 13-1 in the 8th.

Northwestern is pretty much done. IN addition to IU being in, NU trails Michigan 11-0 in the 5th.

OSU leads Iowa 4-0 in the 4th.

All is left is the seeding of 3, 4 & 5.

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