Friday, February 29, 2008

Scores And A DQ Preview

Lamar 4 Michigan State 2 (box)
On Thursday, the Spartans' Dennis Jones went 3 for 4. Mike Monterey worked six innings, but took the loss.

Kansas State 8 Michigan State 0 (box)
On Friday, MSU secondbaseman Brandon Doherty's two hits led the way. Steve Gerstenberger walked twice in a game the Spartans just couldn't find any offense.

#1 Arizona State 15 #18 Michigan 4 (box)
Another Thursday affair where the Sun Devils showed why they are the top dogs. Jason Kipnis had five RBI for ASU. Kipnis went yard twice. Marcel Champagnie had three hits and three RBI. All-America 3B Brett Wallace also drove in three. Michigan SS Jason Christian had two hits.

Our friends at Gopher Nation and The College Baseball Blog got together to discuss the upcoming Dairy Queen Classic Tournament hosted by Minnesota. Pepperdine, TCU and Tulane comprise the rest of the field.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lots Of Links

A staple here at BTH, a post filled with nothing but other people's work. The good news is that there is steadily more to choose from each season.

The Big Ten's Players of the Week are Northwestern's Mike Kalina and Ohio State's J.B. Shuck.

You can preview Iowa's trip to Nashville.

Michigan tied the New York Mets in an exhibition game on Tuesday afternoon, while the Wolverines' next opponent, #1 Arizona State, might be in a bit of hot water.

Michigan State has a nine game stretch beginning at the Lamar Invitational. A Spartans' baseball preview can be found here.

Time for some DQ. The Minnesota athletic department previews the Dairy Queen Classic.

CSTV's Eric Sorenson rightly implies that I'm a hack (well, all of us internet guys, not just me) and does leave space to mention a couple of Big Ten programs in his Sunday Summations.

It's not directly baseball related, but Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo isn't all that excited about the Big Ten Network right now. (Hat tip to Ian at Bless You Boys for pointing me towards the Detroit News link.)

Happy Valley Hardball does the sabermetric thing and provides hitting stats for the entire Big Ten and the Nittany Lions.

The Buckeye Nine has a Q&A with Ohio State pitcher Dan DeLucia.

Tom at The Baseball Zealot opted for the wrong guest for TBZ Radio's 40th episode. Yes, it's me. I'm blaming all the snow I had to shovel for my rambling performance. Of course, what my excuse it isn't snowing?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New Blogs!

I am happy to report the addition of two new Big Ten specific college baseball blogs. The first is The Buckeye Nine. The new Ohio State baseball blog is run by friend of BTH, Todd Lamb. Todd's worked for some pretty good college baseball programs -- Rice, Clemson and Ohio State. He knows this sport as well as anybody.

The second newbie is Happy Valley Hardball. Larry Farr is running this blog about Penn State baseball. I don't know Mr. Farr, but he's already keeping track of the RPI for the entire conference. It's quality work.

I'm very excited about both these efforts. It's great to have two more college baseball blogs, but it's even better to have two more representing hardball here in the frozen north. Not surprisingly, both The Buckeye Nine and Happy Valley Hardball will be added to the sidebar here. Let me encourage you to visit both.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sunday Recap

Illinois 1 Lamar 0 (box)
Aaron Martin and Ben Reeser combine to pitch the shutout. Martin worked five innings, Reeser four. Martin gave up five hits, Reeser one. Neither yielded a free pass. Brandon Wikoff had two hits and a RBI.

Indiana 7 LSU 6 (box)
The Hoosiers score in the top of the ninth to earn victory number one. Evan Crawford had three hits, two runs scored and a stolen base for IU. Chris Hervey and Jerrud Sabourin each drove in a pair of runs. Kyle Leiendecker got the win pitching three innings of two-hit baseball. The freshman righthander also struck out three Tigers. Doug Fleenor did factor in the decision, but came in early and posted 5.1 innings of seven-hit, two-run relief.

Liberty 3 Iowa 1 (box)
Caleb Curry and Kevin Hoef each had two hits. Curry drove in the lone Hawkeye run.

Michigan 18 Villanova 9 (box)
All-America candidate Zach Putnam and Adam Abraham each had four RBI. Derek VanBuskirk had three RBI. Jason Christian and Leif Mahler both had four runs scored. Jeff DeCarlo worked four innings of relief and posted the win.

Michigan State 11 Connecticut 1 (box)
Kyle Day is the offensive star here with three hits including a grand slam. Day scored three runs and drove four. Steve Gerstenberger had three hits, two RBI and scored once. Freshman SS Jonathon Roof had two hits, two runs scored and three RBI. Chris Cullen went five innings giving up three hits, two walks and one run.

Mississippi 15 Minnesota 4 (box)
Joe Maciej homered and drove in three runs for the Gophers. Ole Miss 1B Cody Overbeck went yard for the third time. Sean Stuyverson had three hits for the Rebels including his first homer.

Cal State Northridge 17 Northwestern 9 (box)
Mike Kalina and Nate Roberts each had three RBI for the Wildcats. Roberts also went yard. Chad Noble also homered for NU.

Ohio State 6 Seton Hall 5 (box)
Justin Miller doubled home the winning run in the eighth. Miller was named the Service Academies Spring Classic MVP. Miller played three different positions, had six hits and four RBI over the weekend. Drew Rucinski got the win, Rory Meister posted the save.

High Point 7 Penn State 4 (box)
Landon Nakata had two hits, two RBI and one run scored to lead PSU. Joe Blackburn also had a pair of hits.

Baylor 2 Purdue 1 (box)
Brandon Haveman and Eric Nielsen each had two hits for Purdue. Haveman drove in the only Boilermakers' tally. Allen Donato pitched seven good innings, but took the loss.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Saturday Scores

Texas State 2 Illinois 1 (box)
TSU pushed across a run in the ninth to beat the Illini. Catcher Aaron Johnson led Illinois' offense with three hits. 3B John Schlichter had the lone RBI. Mike Stankiewicz worked six innings giving up one run on six hits and a walk. He fanned four. Freshman Nick Chmielewski took the loss.

LSU 5 Indiana 4 (box)
Sophomore Tyler Rogers had two hits and two RBI to pace IU. Josh Phegley and Kipp Schutz both had a pair of hits, as well. The Hoosiers helped the Tigers by committing four errors.

Michigan 16 Villanova 6 (box)
3B Adam Abraham and RF Ryan LaMarre each had four RBI. Abraham collected three hits including a triple. LaMarre, Chris Berset (two RBI) and Leif Mahler (two RBI, two runs) each had a pair of hits. DH Zach Putnam's lone hit was a triple and he drove in two and scored twice. Michael Powers earned the win in relief.

Missouri 14 Michigan State 9 (box)
1B Evan Freidland's three hits and two RBI led MSU. Brandon Eckerle had two hits, two runs scored and four RBI. 3B Steve Gerstenberger had two hits and two RBI. Missouri's Jacob Priday had two hits, three runs scored and three RBI. Fellow Tiger Greg Folgia also drove in three.

Mississippi 22 Minnesota 5 (box)
Derek McCallum's two hits and two RBI were the highlight for the Gophers. Jeremy Chlan also had a pair of hits and scored twice for Minnesota. The Rebels offensive explosion was led by 1B Cody Overbeck's three hit (including going yard twice), four run scored, four RBI performance.

Ohio State 1 Memphis 0 (box)
J.B. Shuck pitched six innings of two-hit, no-run baseball to post the win. Shuck fanned nine Tigers en route to his first win. Freshman Alex Wimmers came on and tossed three innings of one-hit baseball to earn the save. Wimmers struck out five. Justin Miller had three hits to lead the Buckeyes. RF Ryan Dew had the Ohio State RBI.

Penn State 4 High Point 2 (Game One box)
Mike Wanamaker started and worked six innings while not allowing a run. Wanamaker, a JUCO transfer, yielded five hits and two walks while striking out five. Drew O'Neil came in and worked a perfect 1.1 innings to earn his first save of 2008. C Joe Blackburn was 3 for 3 and drove in a run. 3B Mike Deese homered.

High Point 14 Penn State 1 (Game Two box)
PSU centerfielder Brian Ernst had two of the team's three hits and drove in the lone run.

The remainder of the Saturday slate is incomplete or unavailable.

2008 BTH Preview: Purdue

Head Coach: Doug Schreiber
2007 record: 22-32 overall; 11-20 in Big Ten
2007 RPI: 187
2008 Projected Big Ten Finish:
Collegiate Baseball - 8th
Rivals - 6th

At The Plate: Ryne White is The Man in West Lafayette. White finished first in the Big Ten in batting average (.452), slugging percentage (.663) and on base percentage (.521) last year. The first team All-Big Ten first baseman also tied for the conference lead in hits (90) and was third in total bases (132). White begins 2008 as an All-America candidate and on nearly every national player of the year watch list.

White is surrounded by a veteran lineup. Returnees include red shirt junior catcher Eric Nielsen (.397 in 58 at bats), red shirt junior second baseman Kyle Reesing (.262/3/13/10 steals), junior shortstop John Cummings (.285/1/24) and sophomore third baseman Dan Black (.306/3/25). Black may be the wildcard here. Most of his freshman production came in conference play. If he can continue that pace, Purdue will have another quality bat in the lineup.

Jordan Comadena (.340/5/20/.620 slugging percentage), junior Alex Jaffee (.308) and junior Jon Moore (.275/1/24) return to form the Boilermakers’ outfield. Comadena, a senior, got shut down with an injury after just 100 at bats last year, but should be one of the better offensive players in the conference this season.

The designated hitter spot may belong to red shirt junior Brandon Haveman. Haveman is a JUCO transfer who sat out last season after making the move to Purdue.

On The Mound: Matt Bischoff and Tony Sedlmeyer had tremendous freshman seasons for Purdue in 2007. Both were named to the Freshman All-America Team. Bischoff earned a second team All-Big Ten selection going 3-2 with a team leading 2.85 ERA. The lefty was named as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Sedlmeyer went 6-4 with a 4.34 ERA and started more games than any freshman in Purdue history (12). Sedlmeyer claimed a third team All-Big Ten nomination.

Joining the sophomore duo in the Boilers’ rotation are Matt Jansen (0-4, 3.31) and Allan Donato (1-3, 5.83). Jansen is another sophomore, Donato is a senior.

Josh Lindblom (3-4, 4.13, 1 save) was moved from the rotation to the closer spot late in 2007 and opens the new year in that capacity. Lindblom has terrific stuff and continues to be considered one of the better pitching prospects in the Big Ten. If Lindblom can put everything together in the bullpen, the Boilers will be hard to beat in the late innings.

The Schedule: The Boilermakers have another challenging schedule in 2008. Three games at Baylor and three more at Kentucky are the highlights before conference action opens. There’s also a midweek game versus Louisville, a CWS team in 2007. In Big Ten play, Northwestern visits West Lafayette to open the season. Penn State, Minnesota and Michigan State will also come to Purdue. On the road, the Boilers visit Iowa, Ohio State, Indiana and Illinois.

Bottom Line: On paper, the Boilermakers would seem almost like a lock for a conference tournament spot. They have two strong starting pitchers (Bischoff and Sedlmeyer), a better than average lineup featuring arguably the best hitter in the conference (White) and a closer (Lindblom) with pro potential. However, Purdue is probably the most enigmatic team in the Big Ten.

In spite of making my predictions look ridiculous in the past, their questions on-the-field this year (like a few of their bats and the pitchers after the big two) and their historic inconsistencies, I can’t help but believe that between White, Comadena, Bischoff, Sedlmeyer and Lindblom, Purdue has enough balance and talent to play in the Big Ten tournament in 2008.

2008 BTH Preview: Penn State

Penn State
Head Coach: Robbie Wine
2007 record: 30-27 overall; 19-11 in Big Ten (lost in conference tournament)
2007 RPI: 66
2008 Projected Big Ten Finish:
Collegiate Baseball - 2nd
Rivals - 3rd

At The Plate: All of Penn State’s outfield returns in 2008. The group is led by Brian Ernst, a third team All-Big Ten selection. The senior hit .313 last year. Also coming back are juniors Rick Marlin (.306) and Scott Kelley. A newcomer should also see playing time with the veterans. Fleet-footed freshman Grant Youngblood may work his way into some CF action.

The infield is led by senior catcher Joe Blackburn. Like Ernst, Blackburn was named to the All-Big Ten third team in 2007. Blackburn led the Nittany Lions in average (.347), doubles (15), triples (5), RBI (35), total bases (101), slugging percentage (.461) and on base percentage (.400). Blackburn is the preseason favorite to claim first team all-conference recognition this year.

Junior Cory Wine holds down first base. Wine tied for the team lead in homers (5) and paced PSU with 29 walks. Mike Deese returns to third base. The senior hit .287 a year ago, his first season with the Nittany Lions after transferring. The middle infield is a battle between three players. Sophomore Lou Picconi, junior Landon Nakata and transfer Wes Borden are vying for the two spots.

Rob Yodice, who is Blackburn’s back-up at catcher, will get the majority of his at bats as the designated hitter.

On The Mound: Seth Whitehill appears to be Penn State’s Friday starter. Whitehill was 5-6 with a 5.65 ERA and claimed a second team All-Big Ten nod a season ago. A pair of JUCO transfers might emerge as the Saturday starters. Righthanders Mike Wanamaker and T.J. Macy are drawing rave reviews thus far. Some believe Wanamaker, in particular, could end the year as one of the best pitchers in the Big Ten.

The Sunday role will probably be sorted out during the non-conference schedule, but sophomore John Karr (1-0, 3.03) and junior Mike Lorenston (3-1, 4.24) both appear to be in the mix for the last weekend start.

Penn State has no question about their closer, however. First team All-Big Ten reliever Drew O’Neil returns for his junior campaign. O’Neil set the PSU record for saves -- 11 -- in his initial season at State College. O’Neil, who is garnering plenty of preseason accolades, was 4-2 with a 1.34 ERA last season. Senior Paul Hawkins (4-0, 3.32) should be O’Neil’s set-up man.

The Schedule: The non-conference game with the most buzz is probably versus Miami (FL). The Nittany Lions will travel to Coral Gables March 11. High Point (3 games), Georgetown, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Troy are amongst those who dot the rest of the non-conference slate. In conference, PSU travels to Ohio State, Purdue, Illinois and Minnesota. At home, the Lions get Michigan, Indiana, Michigan State and Iowa.

Bottom Line: Returning an experienced, productive team in 2008, Penn State should finish close to the top of the Big Ten standings and keep people coming to their new ballpark. However, hopes are a bit higher around State College where fans are whispering about a NCAA Tournament berth.

A non-conference slate void of marquee match-ups might hurt their RPI, so Penn State may have to win early and often to be considered for a NCAA at-large berth. If they get off to an uneven start, the Nittany Lions’ NCAA dreams may come down to winning the Big Ten tournament.

Opening Day Results

We interrupt your regularly scheduled previews for this update. Opening Day has arrived. Yes, friends, it's baseball season once again. Friday saw all ten teams in action. In the end, the Big Ten had a fairly good first day.

However, not to fear fans of Penn State and Purdue, previews of your programs should be available shortly. Until then, enjoy this recap of Opening Day.

Illinois 6 Sam Houston State 4 (box)
The Illini scored six runs on six hits to earn the victory. Kevin Manson's 3.2 innings of scoreless relief earned him the win. SS Brandon Wikoff had two hits, a RBI, scored once and stole a base. CF Kyle Hudson swiped two.

LSU 7 Indiana 1 (box)
Freshman 1B Jerrud Sabourin had two hits and drove in the lone Hoosiers tally. CF Andrew Means also had a pair of hits for IU. LSU's Ryan Schmipf was 4 for 4. The Tigers also had three hits a piece from CF Jared Mitchell and LF Blake Dean.

Iowa 8 Albany 3 (box)
Nick Erdman pitched five innings allowing four hits and no runs to post his first victory. Erdman yeilded only one walk and struck out eight. CF Caleb Curry had three hits, three steals and a RBI for Iowa. 2B Justin Toole doubled, drove in two and scored once. SS Kevin Hoef had a pair of hits, scored once and drove in another.

Michigan 13 Villanova 4 (box)
CF Kevin Cislo had two hits, scored three times, drove in three and stole a base to lead Michigan's attack. 1B Nate Recknagel homered, scored twice and drove in two. DH Zach Putnam had two hits, two RBI, a run scored and stole a base. Freshman RF Ryan LaMarre had a three hit, two RBI, run scored debut. Matt Gerbe earned the win in relief. Gerbe tossed three innings of no hit baseball.

Michigan State 6 Stetson 4 (box)
CF Dennis Jones' tenth inning homer lifted MSU to the win. Jones opened the year with a two hit, three RBI, run scored performance. Justin Potes, Eli Boike and freshman Jonathon Roof each had a pair of hits for the Spartans. Boike also stole two bases. Kurt Wunderlich pitched the final two stanzas and gained the win.

Mississippi 7 Minnesota 1 (box)
Ole Miss LF Logan Power was the star of the game. Power had two hits and four RBI vs. the Gophers. Rebels' DH Michael Guerrero homered and drove in two. Minnesota freshman Mike Kvasnicka had a hit, one of only four Gophers safties, and the lone RBI.

Northwestern 13 Cal State Northridge 7 (box)
OF Mike Kalina had three hits (including a homer and a triple), scored three times and drove in four to pace NU. Chad Noble had three hits while Aaron Newman, Jake Owens, Jake Goebbert and Nate Roberts all had two. One of Goebbert's was a homerun. Joe Muraski posted win number one working six innings allowing five runs.

Ohio State 7 Arkansas State 3 (box -- note it's a .pdf file)
Senior Dan DeLucia's return from Tommy John surgery was the story. DeLucia pitched four innings of five hit baseball allowing a single run in his '08 debut. Dan's brother, Brian, was the offensive hero going 4 for 4, scoring twice and getting two RBI. Amongst DeLucia's four hits was a homer. CF J.B. Shuck had a three hit game, freshman DH Ryan Meade had two hits and Justin Miller had two RBI.

Penn State @ High Point (ppd. Rain)
The Nittany Lions will attempt to begin the season on Saturday with a doubleheader.

Baylor 2 Purdue 1
Baylor's Landis Ware's two-run homer proved to be the game winner. Purdue's Matt Bishcoff had a strong start going 6.2 innings giving up two runs on only three hits. Bischoff also fanned seven Bears and walked three. All-America candidate Ryne White had two of the four Purdue hits. Jonathon Lilly had the lone Boilermaker RBI. (Sorry, I haven't found a boxscore yet.)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

2008 BTH Preview: Ohio State

Ohio State
Head Coach: Bob Todd
2007 record: 38-24 overall; 15-15 in Big Ten (won Big 10 tournament; lost in NCAA Regionals)
2007 RPI: 69
2008 Projected Big Ten Finish:
Collegiate Baseball - 3rd
Rivals - 5th

At The Plate: Ohio State returns a number of quality bats in 2008. The group is led by junior Justin Miller. Miller, who hit over .400 in conference play, was a third team All-Big Ten selection. Although, he spent most of his time at firstbase last year, Miller (.346/1/51) could start out this year as the Buckeyes‘ catcher. However, don’t be surprised if Miller also gets at bats as the designated hitter, at third base or back at first depending on how the rest of the infield shakes out.

At times last season, Coach Todd started three freshmen in the infield – Cory Kovanda, Cory Rupert and Brian DeLucia. This year, Kovanda (.289) appears the be the starter at second, as DeLucia (.302) does at third. Rupert (.257) could start as well, but is being challenged by freshman Tyler Engle. In addition to Engle, two other Buckeye freshmen are vying for starting roles.

Ryan Meade may hit his way into playing time at first base although his bat may lead him to start at DH. First year catcher Dan Burkhardt is trying to land a starting job. Even if Burkhardt doesn’t open the season as the starter, look for him to see playing time.

A former infielder, Tony Kennedy, opens the new year in the outfield. Kennedy, mostly a third baseman last season, hit .322 en route to garnering a second team All-Big Ten nomination. Also returning to the outfield is J.B. Shuck. Shuck, a former Big Ten Freshman of the Year, hit .342 with 37 RBI. Shuck will roam the OF on the days he doesn’t pitch. Also vying for an outfield spot are junior Michael Arp (.233) and sophomore Ryan Dew (.269).

On The Mound: The Buckeyes run to a conference tournament berth and their subsequent Big Ten Tournament championship began when junior Jake Hale (4-3, 4.25, 10 saves) was returned to the starting rotation. Hale, who began 2007 as the closer, earned an All-Big Ten Tournament Team berth as a starter. He would appear to be OSU’s Friday starter.

Shuck (4-4, 4.88), a junior, will probably grab a Saturday spot. The wild card in Ohio State’s rotation and, perhaps, their season is senior Dan DeLucia. DeLucia, a first team All-Big Ten pick in 2006, was injured and missed most of last year with Tommy John surgery. Originally, it was thought DeLucia might not be ready until later in the season, but it now looks like he could go sooner than later. If he returns to form, Ohio State could have a formidable rotation.

A number of young Buckeye hurlers are looking for that final weekend start. Josh Berrera (4-1, 4.41), Eric Best (3-1, 4.06) and red shirt freshman Dean Wolosiansky are all in the hunt to become the fourth starter. Veteran Rory Meister (4-7, 5.00, 3 saves) will be given the first chance to re-capture the closer’s job.

The Schedule: Before the conference schedule kicks in the Buckeyes will get a look at two ranked opponents, Arkansas and Texas A&M. Another non-conference highlight game is an April visit from Louisville, a CWS team in 2007. All three should help Ohio State’s RPI. Penn State, Minnesota, Purdue and Illinois all travel to Columbus in Big Ten play. The Buckeyes visit Michigan State, Northwestern, Michigan and Iowa.

Bottom Line: Ohio State’s 2007 regular season was a bit of a disappointment. However, their post-season run that garnered them another Big Ten Tournament championship and landed the Buckeyes in the NCAA field made up for the shortcomings of the regular season. This year should yield a better regular season record, but will it be enough to return to the NCAA Tournament? As we learned in ‘07, don’t count the Buckeyes out.

Monday, February 18, 2008

2008 BTH Preview: Northwestern

Head Coach: Paul Stevens
2007 record: 18-36; 9-23 in Big Ten
2007 RPI: 215
2008 Projected Big Ten Finish:
Collegiate Baseball - 9th
Rivals - 10th

At The Plate: 2B Jake Owens is coming off a record-setting 2007. Last year, Owens posted career highs in batting average (.385), hits (85), doubles (12), RBI (39), total bases (102), slugging percentage (.462), on base percentage (.432) and stolen bases (18). His 85 hits set the school record. His stats were good enough to yield a second team All-Big Ten selection. Owens has also started 142 consecutive games at second.

1B Jake Goebbert quietly had one of the better freshman campaigns in the Big Ten. Goebbert started all 54 games and posted a .335 average. He was twice voted as Big Ten Player of the week and paced NU in doubles with 14. If Goebbert makes normal progress, he might be amongst the better hitters in the conference by season’s end.

Filling out the Wildcats infield are sophomore catcher Chad Noble (.250, 3 HR, 16 RBI), junior shortstop Tommy Finn (.287) and sophomore 3B Kenneth Avila (.233). Avila will be challenged at the hot corner by freshman Chris Lashmet.

The NU outfield will have senior Mike Kalina (.304/1/34) in left, senior Aaron Newman (.300, 13 steals) in center and either senior Max Mann (.275/4/28) or freshman Nate Roberts in right. The designated hitter role is still up in the air. Junior Tony Vercelli could take the at bats as could either Mann or Roberts, if they aren’t in the field.

On The Mound: The first three in Northwestern‘s rotation are all lefties. Sophomore Joe Muraski (4-4, 6.25), freshman Eric Jokisch and sophomore David Jensen (1-4, 7.71). Unfortunately, NU will be without sophomore Cole Livermore (2-9, 6.45) this year due to an injury. Livermore would have been in the weekend mix, as well.

At this point, it’s unclear who will land the start on Sundays. Although, we do know that Bo Schultz (0-2, 8.82) will be the Wildcats closer.

The Schedule: Plenty of three game roadies for the Wildcats. They include series at Cal State Northridge, South Florida, CWS-participant Louisville, and UIC (in mid-March no less. Dress in layers, boys and girls.) NU will also head to Bradenton, Florida for six games before opening Big Ten play. In conference, Northwestern will visit Purdue, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan. At home, NU gets Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State and Indiana.

Overall: The optimist in me believes that Northwestern could have some of their sophomores mature and get immediate impact from their freshman class and find themselves vying for a Big Ten Tournament position. The pessimist in me believes it’s asking too much for that kind of improvement from so many youthful performers and that NU will miss the post-season in 2008. In light of missing three of their four starters from a year ago, the latter notion seems much more realistic, as well.

Look for Northwestern to finish outside the top six, but watch for Owens and Goebbert to continue to hit and for improvement from the underclassmen.

2008 BTH Preview: Minnesota

Head Coach: John Anderson
2007 record: 41-18; 18-9 in Big Ten (lost in NCAA Regionals)
2007 RPI: 50
2008 Projected Big Ten Finish:
Collegiate Baseball - 4th
Rivals - 2nd

At The Plate: Minnesota’s lineup is paced by juniors Nate Hanson and Matt Nohelty. Both were named first team All-Big Ten in their sophomore seasons. Hanson, a third baseman, hit .338 with ten homers and fifty-one RBI. Hanson also slugged at a .533 clip and scored 50 runs. Nohelty, the Gophers’ CF, hit .367, scored 48 runs and stole 24 bases. Nohelty’s career Big Ten average is .393.

Joining Hanson in the Gophers infield are senior 2B Jeremy Chlan (.241) and sophomore SS Derek McCallum (.340 with 34 RBI). Firstbase remains a battle between Joe Maciej, Tom Steidl and freshman Nick O‘Shea. Expect to see both Jeff Desmidt and Kyle Knudson get time at catcher.

The right field job appears to be between freshman Michael Kvasnicka and junior Jon Hummel. Kvasnicka, Minnesota’s Gatorade High School Player of the Year, is the favorite. He’s also the son of former Golden Gopher, Jay Kvasnicka. The leftfield slot is a battle between Jeff Engel and Eric Decker. Engel, a senior, sat out last year after transferring from Iowa. Sophomore Decker played football this fall and was sixth in the Big Ten in receptions and seventh in yards. A walk-on, Brooks Albrecht, might also push his way into the OF.

The designated hitter will probably come down to O’Shea, Kvasnicka or Hummel, whichever isn’t in the field will still get to swing the bat.

On The Mound: The Gophers return a number of experienced arms to their rotation. Dustin Braebender (5-1, 4.40) and Tom Buske (5-2, 3.43) will vie for the Friday role. Braebender, a senior, is coming off a spectacular NCAA Regional performance where he beat USD’s All-America Brian Matusz. Buske, a junior, was Minnesota’s number one pitcher from about mid-April on last year. Regardless of which one grabs the Friday honor this season, the Gophers will have two veteran arms atop the rotation.

The other two weekend starts appear to belong to juniors Kyle Carr and Tyler Oakes (3-2, 5.16). Carr (5-2, 3.95, 8 saves) was a third team All-Big Ten relief pitcher in 2007, but moves into the rotation this season. Sophomore Allen Bechstein (2-0, 4.25) did get some starts last year and could wind up in the rotation.

While veterans have the lead in the rotation, youth will be served in the Gophers’ bullpen. A pair of freshman -- Scott Matyas and Seth Rosin -- appear to be the leading candidates to secure the closer’s spot. Coach Anderson also has JUCO transfer Chauncey Handran in the late inning mix.

The Schedule: The highlights of the non-conference slate are three games at Mississippi, the DQ Classic field -- TCU, Tulane and Pepperdine and three more road affairs at Pacific. California, Northern Iowa and New Mexico also visit the Metrodome. In the Big Ten, the Gophers host IU, Illinois, Michigan and Penn State. The road features Ohio State, Northwestern, Purdue and Iowa.

Overall: Led by Hanson, Nohelty and a veteran rotation, Minnesota should have no problem making the Big Ten Tournament field. Whether or not the Gophers can make a repeat performance in the NCAA Tournament will depend on how well they tread through a rough pre-Big Ten slate. With a number of fresh faces looking to play a significant role, how quickly they can adjust to DI ball may hold the key to another berth in the field of sixty-four.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

2008 BTH Preview: Michigan State

Michigan State
Head Coach: David Grewe
2007 record: 25-26 overall; 15-16 in Big Ten
2007 RPI: 113
2008 Projected Big Ten Finish:
Collegiate Baseball - 7th
Rivals - 8th

At The Plate: Almost the entire everyday lineup returns for Michigan State. The most potent bat amongst the returnees is Steve Gerstenberger, a second team All-Big Ten selection in 2007. The senior hit .368 (the eighth best mark in the conference) and had 100 total bases. Gerstenberger is getting some preseason all-conference nominations heading into the new campaign.

Incumbent 1B Evan Friedland (.312/0/28), SS Brandon Doherty (.310/2/26) and 3B Justin Potes (.275/0/16) join Gerstenberger in the infield. This group could be usurped by Jonathon Roof, a hotshot freshman shortstop out of Paducah, Kentucky, and A.J. Shindler, a JUCO transfer. Both could find themselves in the starting lineup forcing a re-shuffling of the group.

The catching duties belong to Kyle Day. Day hit .295 with three homers and twenty-six RBI in 2007. Day also stole 14 bases and has to be the best running catcher in the Big Ten. In spite of not having the kind of season he would have liked in ‘07, Day is still considered a pro prospect. A rebound year in 2008 would not be unexpected.

Sophomore outfielder Chris Roberts appears ready to have a breakout season and garnered some all-conference consideration, as well. In his first year, Roberts hit .331 with two homers and twenty-seven RBI while spending quite a bit of time in the heart of MSU’s order. The other two outfield roles should be occupied by sophomore Eli Boike (.270/2/20) and senior Dennis Jones (.322/1/36/15 SB).

Here again, a freshman may push for a starting role. Don’t be surprised if freshman Tyler Newsome (Palos Heights, IL) pushes is way into a starting outfield spot before too long. Depending on how many changes are made in the infield, both Day and Potes could see time in the outfield, too.

On The Mound: The entire Spartans pitching staff is one giant position battle. Rumors out of East Lansing indicate that Mike Monterey, their closer in 2007, will be given every opportunity to join the starting rotation this season. One would suspect that sophomore Kyle Corcoran (2-1, 6.87 in 36.2 IP) will also be given a shot at a weekend start, as would junior Mark Sorenson (1-2, 7.59 in 10.2 IP). The thought here is that sophomore Scott Heitshusen and freshmen A.J. Achter, Kurt Wunderlich and Newsome might be vying for those prized Big Ten starts, as well.

If Monterey (2-2, 5.33, 8 saves) moves to the rotation, that means a battle for the closer’s role would be underway. The guess is that, perhaps, junior Anthony Dunn or freshman Seth Williams might get the call.

Now, remember that everything above is based on an educated guess or wild speculation. There’s little difference in this case.

The Schedule: Stetson. Missouri. LSU. Western Carolina. Rice. These are just some of Michigan State’s non-conference opponents in what some have ranked as the toughest schedule in the Big Ten. In conference action, the Spartans host Illinois, Ohio State, Iowa and Indiana plus the Saturday doubleheader of their weekend series with Michigan. On the road, the Green and White visit Northwestern, Penn State, Purdue and Michigan (on the Friday and Sunday portion of that series).

Bottom Line: While Michigan State has a number of familiar faces returning in 2008, it could be a transition season for Coach Grewe’s side. After finishing outside the conference tournament a year ago, Baseball America’s best recruiting class in the Big Ten appears ready to push their way into the Spartans lineup and play a large role on the pitching staff, as well.

It’s hard to place the Spartans in the conference tournament field in ’08 with so many questions about pitching. However, MSU only finished outside the top six by a game last year. If the frosh class can contribute immediately, MSU could be the surprise in the Big Ten.

Golden Spikes Watchlist Announced

Three Big Ten players have made the 2008 Golden Spikes Award Watchlist. Michigan's Zach Putnam, Penn State's Drew O'Neil and Purdue's Josh Lindblom are amongst the seventy-five players named to the initial list.

The Golden Spikes Award goes to the top amateur player in the country and is presented by USA Baseball.

2008 BTH Preview: Michigan

Head Coach: Rich Maloney
2007 record: 42-19; 21-7 in Big Ten (lost in NCAA Super Regionals)
2007 RPI: 35
2008 Projected Big Ten Finish:
Collegiate Baseball - 1st
Rivals - 1st

At The Plate: The Wolverines return five hitters that earned all-conference nods in 2007. DH Zach Putnam (.330/8 HR/59 RBI/.518 slugging %) and Kevin Cislo (.364/40 runs/23 RBI), who moves from second base to centerfield, were both first team All-Big Ten. The second team All-Big Ten performers were 1B Nate Recknagel (.352/12/61/.612 slugging %) and SS Jason Christian (.328/7/44/.520 slugging %) 3B Adam Abraham (.320/5/45) grabbed a third team selection.

Outfielder Derek VanBuskirk didn’t manage a regular season all-conference selection, but did garner an All-Big Ten Tournament Team selection and is Michigan’s leading returning hitter with a .328 average. He also enters 2008 on the Wallace Award watch list along with Putnam. The third outfield spot is a battle between Alan Oaks, whose homerun off of Vanderbilt’s David Price propelled Michigan to the Super-Regionals, and freshman Ryan LaMarre. Sophomore Oaks would appear to be front-runner. LaMarre is a natural centerfielder who some believe was the best high school player in Michigan last season. Both might even get into the lineup at the same time throughout the season.

Leif Mahler returns to the lineup after missing 2007 with an injury. Mahler, formerly a shortstop, will take over at second base. The senior hit .325 in 2006. Behind the plate, Chris Berset will get the first chance to hold down the job. In his freshman campaign, Berset hit .301 with two homers and eighteen RBI in a part-time role. It’s also possible that Recknagel will spend time at catcher.

On The Mound: In addition to being a first-team All-Big Ten pick at DH, Putnam grabbed the same honor as a pitcher. (He’s the first player in Big Ten history to be a first team all-conference selection at two positions in the same season.) The Wolverines Friday starter, Putnam (8-5, 3.87) is the preseason conference player of the year.

On Saturdays, the Wolverines will most likely trot out Mike Wilson (7-1, 3.52), a first team All-Big Ten selection, and Chris Fetter (6-3, 4.71), a third team All-Big Ten pick last year. The fourth spot remains up for grabs. The battle for starting on Sunday is between Eric Katzman (3-2. 5.92) and Matt Gerbe.

The bullpen is a bit of a question for Michigan. Abraham (5-1, 2.97, 2 saves) will probably open the season as the closer, but dependable Mike Powers (3-3, 4.76, 4 saves) and veteran Ben Jensen (2-1, 4.39, 5 saves), both of whom have occupied that role before, are in the mix.

The Schedule: I’m not sure I’d classify it as daunting, but Michigan’s path is not an easy one. Two against Arizona State, a team many, myself included, believe is the top squad in the land. There’s also contests against East Carolina (1) and Coastal Carolina (2). On the Big Ten portion of the slate, Michigan opens the renovated Ray Fisher Stadium against Iowa. Also appearing in Ann Arbor are Ohio State, Northwestern and Michigan State (2 games). The road includes trips to Penn State, Indiana, Michigan State (2 games) and Minnesota.

Overall: Michigan enters the 2008 season with a veteran, talented team coming off a super-regional appearance, ranked in the preseason polls, the prohibitive favorite in the Big Ten, opening a renovated ballpark and with more than just whispers of Omaha in the air. It’s probably the most anticipated and hyped season in Michigan baseball history.

While this is the atmosphere Coach Maloney probably dreamed of when he first arrived in Ann Arbor, this new environment comes with a new burden -- expectation. How the Wolverines handle this pressure will be the question throughout the season.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

2008 BTH Preview: Iowa

Head Coach: Jack Dahm
2007 record: 32-22 overall; 18-12 in Big Ten (lost in conference tournament)
2007 RPI: 102
2008 Projected Big Ten Finish:
Collegiate Baseball - 5th
Rivals - 4th

At The Plate: The Hawkeyes offense focuses around CF Caleb Curry and 2B Justin Toole. Curry was a second team All-Big Ten performer last year when he hit .354 (12th best in the Big Ten) with a .482 slugging percentage and .441 on base percentage. Curry, who is moving to center from a corner OF slot, also drove in 41runs and stole 11 bases for Iowa. Toole, a third team All-Big Ten player, hit .367 (good for ninth in the conference) with a .490 slugging percentage and a .451 OBP.

The player most are looking to have a breakout season is SS Kevin Hoef. Last year, Hoef hit .295 with a .365 slugging mark and a ..408 OBP. Hoef, who played third base last year, also finished amongst the Big Ten leaders in hit by pitch (14; good for 2nd) and sacrifice flies (tied for first with seven). However, it was Hoef’s productive summer in the Cape Cod League that has elevated expectations for 2008. He hit .317 for Bourne which was the fifth best mark on the Cape and was named an all-star.

Another player looming large in Iowa’s plans is transfer Matt Mossey. Mossey will take over at third base with Hoef’s move to short. Mossey comes from North Dakota State where he paced the team in at bats, triples, walks and assists while NDSU’s shortstop.

The Hawkeyes have the luxury of two dependable catchers -- Ben Geelan and Tyson Blaser. Geelan will start and Blaser, who was in the top ten prospects in Central Illinois Collegiate Summer League, will get at bats at designated hitter.

Wes Freie will get the start at first with T.J. Cataldo seeing some time there as well. On either side of Curry in the outfield will be senior outfielder Kyle Riffel (.337 in 83 at bats) and sophomore Justin Brauer, who only saw action in 14 games in 2007.

On The Mound: Iowa’s weekend rotation consists of senior righthander Brock Alberts (2-1, 3.47), Nick Erdman (7-3, 5.15) junior Steve Turnbull (2-4, 5.26) and Mike Jacobs (3-0, 4.91). Erdman, a junior righthander, earned a second team All-Big Ten nod in 2007. Jacobs, a sophomore lefthander, is making the transition from reliever to starter.

The closer role appears to be in the hands of Mossey, who also pitched at NDSU. Jason Belk, Kyle Heim and Patrick Schatz are battling to be the set-up man. The Hawkeyes also have prized freshman Zach Kenyon who is probably destined for bullpen work in his first year.

The Schedule: The marquee match-ups of the pre-Big Ten slate include a game at Vanderbilt, three at Missouri State and three more against Rutgers. Not that the pair versus Stetson are a cakewalk, either. Iowa also get Nebraska in Iowa City once conference play begins. In Big Ten action, the Hawkeyes open with a trip to Michigan and visit Indiana, Michigan State and Penn State. At home, the first conference guest in is Purdue followed by Northwestern , Minnesota and Ohio State.

Bottom Line: Iowa has all the elements necessary to return to the Big Ten Tournament in 2008 -- a balanced lineup, albeit lacking in some power and a pitching staff with some experience and expected to improve. Coach Dahm also brings in a recruiting class amongst the best in the Big Ten. That combination should assure the Hawkeyes of another post-season appearance.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ping! Interviews IU's Means

Ping! has posted an interview with Indiana University centerfielder Andrew Means.

CSTV Previews The Big Ten

Eric Sorenson got the job of previewing the Big Ten race for CSTV. His submission can be found here. Fellow CSTVer Doug Kroll provides us with a post on Michigan's upcoming season. Finally, Wolverines' P/DH Zach Putnam is ninth in CSTV's preseason Player of the Year voting.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

2008 BTH Preview: Indiana

Head Coach
: Tracy Smith
2007 record: 19-35 overall; 8-23 in Big Ten
2007 RPI: 195
2008 Projected Big Ten Finish:
Collegiate Baseball - 10th
Rivals - 9th

At The Plate: The Hoosiers’ bats are led by OF Andrew Means. A second team All-Big Ten selection in 2007, Means hit .369 which was the seventh best mark in the conference. The IU centerfielder was also third in the Big Ten in steals with 27 and led the Hoosiers with a .467 slugging percentage. Means is not the only offensive threat in Bloomington, however.

Evan Crawford had a very nice freshman campaign hitting .333 while driving in thirty runs. He also stole 18 bases. Crawford will be moving from second base to shortstop this season. Another freshman who made an impact was catcher Josh Phegley. Phegley, a former Mr. Baseball in Indiana, hit .232 a year ago and had 16 RBI. Where Phegley impressed was behind the dish where he cut down 35.4% of base stealers and made only two errors in 46 games (42 starts). Phegley was so highly regarded he wound up playing summer ball in the Cape Cod League where he also received high marks in limited action.

Another strong defensive player is starting third baseman Tyler Cox. Cox, who hit .240 in ‘07, led Big Ten 3B in assists last year with 121. He made only two miscues in his final 38 games of 2007. Across the diamond, the Hoosiers got a boost at first base when Jerrud Sabourin transferred in from Arizona. The lefthanded hitting Sabourin is a San Diego area product who will be a freshman at IU. Sabourin hit .390 as a senior at Torrey Pines High School and pitched, as well. He should get the nod at first base.

Another transfer should fill in at second base. Michael Earley arrives from Cincinnati where he hit .320 with five homers last year. Noted for his bat, Earley has also impressed with his glove thus far.

Redshirt freshman Kipp Schutz was off to a strong start last year before getting injured. He returns and should claim one of the outfield jobs next to Means. Sophomore Brian Lambert looks to be holding down the remaining corner slot.

On The Mound: Junior Tyler Tufts (3-9, 4.21) looks to begin the year as the Hoosiers‘ number one starter. He will be pressed by super sophomore Matt Bashore (4-7, 4.33). Bashore probably has the best stuff on the staff. In his initial campaign, he paced the Hoosiers staff with 50 strikeouts.

The three and four spots are a bit less clear. Freshman Kyle Leiendecker is in the mix to make the second start on Saturday. Leiendecker was drafted by Cleveland in the 25th round a year ago. Sophomore Eric Arnett (2-2, 2 sv, 6.11) is also in the running to be IU’s final weekend starter. Veterans Doug Fleenor and Chris McCombs are capable of claiming the final two weekend spots, as well.

Joe Vicini is also an important cog in the Hoosiers success. Vicini (2-1, 2 sv, 4.88) pitches long relief, short relief and even started a game a year ago. Sophomore Chris Squires (2-1, 4.50) holds down the closer’s job.

The Schedule: This year’s slate is a bit brutal. The opening series is a three game set at LSU. The Hoosiers get to play Fresno State, ranked #18 by Baseball America, three times. In conference play, the Hoosiers travel to Minnesota, Penn State, Northwestern and close the year at Michigan State. At home, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Purdue all come calling.

Bottom Line: The easy thing to do is dismiss Indiana based on history, but this is an intriguing team. They’ve got a better than average nucleus -- Means, Phegley, Crawford, Tufts, Bashore -- to build upon, a couple of potential impact transfers on the right side of the diamond (Sabourin and Earley) plus a couple of freshmen that could surprise. The downside is, of course, that IU is wildly young. That tends to yield wildly unpredictable results. Even with that factored in, I think this Hoosiers squad should be better than last year’s. Maybe quite a bit better.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

2008 BTH Preview: Illinois

Head Coach
: Dan Hartleb
2007 record: 31-27 overall; 16-14 in Big Ten (lost in conference tournament)
2007 RPI: 145
Projected 2008 Big Ten Finish:
Collegiate Baseball - 6th - 7th

At The Plate: Coach Hartleb returns a number of veteran faces on offense. Ryan Hastings is coming off a year where he had career highs in batting average (.330), runs (38), homeruns (6) and slugging percentage (.487). Hastings will be in the lineup, but where is the question. The senior could see time at second base, first base, outfield or designated hitter in 2008. One reason Hastings could move from his more familiar second base slot is the emergence of Joe Bonadonna. Bonadonna hit .318 (with a .427 on base percentage) in just 85 at bats last year, but had a terrific summer where he set a Northwoods League record for stolen bases (45) and won a gold glove for his play at Duluth.

The other half of the Illini’s keystone combination is Brandon Wikoff. The sophomore will be making the move from third base to shortstop this year. In his first year with Illinois, Wikoff hit .286 with a .358 OBP. Like Bonadonna, Wikoff had a good summer in the Northwoods League. He was considered one of the top 25 pro prospects in the NWL and one scout suggested he might be the most exciting player in that league.

The rest of Illinois infield is up for grabs. Trying to fill the considerable shoes of Big Ten Player of the year Lars Davis behind the plate are Michael Giller and Aaron Johnson. Both are also vying for the first base job along with Hastings. Thirdbase is a battle between Dominic Altobelli and transfer John Schlichter.

Centerfielder Kyle Hudson continues his two-sport Illini career. In addition to being a receiver for Illinois’ Rose Bowl squad, Hudson hit .351 with a .428 on base percentage and stole sixteen bases in ‘07 for the diamond Illini. DH/OF Daniel Webb was a third team All-Big Ten selection last year. Webb hit .332 with a .416 slugging percentage. Also figuring into the outfield mix will be Nick Stockwell and freshman Casey McMurray. Expectations are high for McMurray, who may open the year as the starting leftfielder. That would leave Stockwell and Webb most likely seeing time in right. Expect Craig Lutes to fill in when Hudson is called off to pigskin responsibilities or needs a break.

On The Mound: Illinois lost ace Tanner Roark just before January closed due to grades. One would presume that pushes either Mike Stankiewicz (4-6, 7.25) or Scott Shaw (5-4, 6.42) into the Friday starter’s role. The other should be the first starter on Saturday. I would give an edge to Aaron Martin (3-3, 8.41), who is coming off a solid Coastal Plains League summer session, for the other Saturday start. The fourth starter position is up for grabs. Ben Reeser, perhaps? Billy Barrett? Or, maybe, freshman Nick Chmielewski? The highly touted Chmielewski was a high school standout who appeared destined for the bullpen, perhaps, even the closer spot. The unexpected pre-season shuffle might give the first year player more innings than originally anticipated.

The Schedule: The non-conference portion of the ‘08 schedule provides solid competition. A game with nationally ranked Baylor and three at Texas Tech are the marquee match-ups before the Big Ten season opens. The Illini get Michigan, Penn State, Purdue at Northwestern in Champaign, while traveling to Michigan State (to open the year), Indiana, Minnesota and Ohio State.

Bottom Line: The Illini lose four regulars, their Friday starter and closer from a team that qualified for the conference tournament on the final day of the season a year ago. Without them, it’s difficult to enter this campaign with too lofty an expectation. The good thing for Illinois is that outside of Michigan, the remainder of the conference appears to be very close. The hunch here is the Illini finish in the middle of the pack in 2008. However, if McMurray and Chmielewski explode onto the Big Ten scene, all bets are off.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

BTN Broadcast Schedule And Other Things

Here is an array of news items from around the conference. Hopefully, you'll find something in the group interesting.

The Big Ten Network has released their baseball broadcast schedule for the upcoming season. They won't begin until conference play does, but BTN will make the rounds. If I read the schedule correctly, only a home game at Purdue keeps the network from hitting every program at home once.

It also looks to me like the network gave some consideration to avoiding the cold(er) weather early in the season. Can't say I blame them on that account. Now, if I can only get my cable provider to pick-up BTN before then.

The Big Ten Network's Kara Lentz chats with Michigan head coach Rich Maloney.

Both Ohio State and Michigan have Meet and Greets on the horizon.

The Bucks have also announced their 2008 broadcast schedule with WMNI radio in Columbus. You can also catch games on the internet.

Here are your Buckeye captains for '08.

Ron Kittle will be the keynote speaker at Saturday's University of Illinois Hot Stove Banquet.

Michigan State's First Pitch Dinner is slated for February 19. Drayton McLane, Jr., owner of the Houston Astros, will be awarded as the MSU Baseball Alumnus Of The Year.

Joe Giradi spoke at Northwestern's First Pitch Dinner in January.

Indiana has begun their annual Newcomer Profiles. So far, IU has featured Michael Earley, Tyler Rogers, Anthony Agnew, Jeff Caldwell, Matt Carr and Anthony Cera.

Iowa has issued a 2008 season preview. It gives all my quality information away, but go ahead and read it anyway. Serves me right for not cranking my previews out sooner.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Yes, The Previews Are Coming

Amongst other things, I am in the process of working on previews for all ten programs. I hope to begin posting them this weekend. They are going to be released in alphabetical order. My desire is to have them all up by February 22 -- Opening Day.