Thursday, April 30, 2009

NCAA Adds A Week To Schedule

In a story reported by Kendall Rogers of Yahoo! Sports, the college baseball schedule will expand from its current thirteen weeks to fourteen weeks beginning next year. In a measure passed this afternoon, this additional week will come at the start of the season. However, the NCAA did vote to continue to play the same fifty-six game schedule.

When Eric Sorenson mentioned this possibility Saturday, I began trying to think of a way this could been seen as a positive move for northern programs. A few days later and I've yet to come up with a single one.

By putting this extra week at the start of the season, it all but forces the northern schools to head south or west a week earlier. (I presume the NCAA big-wigs that voted on this proposal realize it's kind of cold up here for baseball in mid-February, global warming notwithstanding.) I guess, technically, northern baseball programs could stay at home the first week of the season. Of course, choosing to bypass that first "official" week of play would allow their warm-weather foes a week of game action before their arrival.

In addition, if the snowbelt programs did opt to skip the first week of play, it wouldn't alleviate any of their condensed scheduling issues. Northern programs would still have the same 13 weeks to play the identical 56 games -- exactly the same format as this year.

Regardless of whether northern programs play an extra week of February road dates or choose the less likely option of sitting out the first week, which honestly doesn't seem like a viable plan, by passing this new proposal the NCAA has managed to trample all over the spirit of the Universal Start Date. That's before the economic downside.

If northern programs want to start at the same time as the programs south of the Mason-Dixon Line (again, the spirit behind the USD motion), they will now have to pay for an additional week of travel expenses. Brilliant. When the economy stinks and northern programs are struggling let's make them shell out more money.

Can I also mention that college baseball operates in a virtual media blackout until the weekend after the Final Four? Even in the south, the self-proclaimed college baseball hotbed, the sport doesn't get much attention until "One Shining Moment" is over. So why vote to add another week to the beginning of the schedule when the average college sports fan isn't paying the least bit of attention before April? It's marketing genius, I tell you.

I'm left with only one conclusion. This measure was passed simply to appease a few coaches at big-time programs who were forced to play the same kind of compacted schedule, albeit filled with far more home dates, as northern programs have for years. Outside of their comfort-zone, these coaches lobbied (and I'm being extremely polite in word choice) to alleviate some of their midweek scheduling concerns.

Need some proof? Here's a quote from Kendall Rogers' story:
“We wanted to add the week on the front end of the schedule because that’s what our programs are familiar with from the earlier days,” NCAA Division I Vice President David Berst said.
Ah, yes. The good ol' days. When the warm-weather programs got fat, sassy and piled on the home dates. Way back in 2007. Or was it 2008? It was just so long ago, I struggle to recall.

Mr. Berst's comment is ripe with the rhetoric of coaches who cried foul when faced with the newly condensed schedule that the USD wrought. As soon as these coaches had to play back-to-back midweek games and midweek road games, no less, they began to publicly yearn for the old way.

I am open to contrary opinions on the matter, as I'm so defensive that I probably cannot separate the forest from the trees. Let's, however, ask ourselves "Who does this concept really help?" While it could take away three of four midweek affairs from northern programs, thus giving the teams more time to rest, the loss of home games (which many of these midweek dates provide) and the cost of spending an additional week in the south or west would appear to offset any gain.

Conversely, warm-weather power programs can scratch off some midweek non-conference road games and get to replace them with nice, toasty-warm, early season home dates. As it is now, a program like North Carolina has already played over thirty home games. Ohio State hasn't even played fifteen. That's with a more balanced plan in place. I don't see how this new, less northern-friendly measure will help make it any more equitable.

The NCAA seems determined to not only handcuff baseball, in general, but suffocate its existence in the north. Is it any wonder why programs like Northern Iowa are folding? If measures like today's continue to pass, we can expect to see more just like them.

Correction: I originally stated UMass baseball was also closing up shop. Apparently, they've been given a reprieve. I stand corrected and am happy to hear they live to fight another day. My apologies to all, especially the Minutemen and their fans. However, feel free to insert any other programs that have vanished (Colorado, Iowa State, Wisconsin, etc...) in the place next to Northern Iowa.

Cast Your Vote

Astute observers will take note that I've included a poll at the top of the sidebar. I'm considering this a trial run. If you have any problems with it, let me know. I'm particularly interested in knowing if since its addition, the blog is loading more slowly in your browser. (I don't know about you, but if a site doesn't load somewhat quickly, I move on.)

To the subject matter of this initial foray, I'm wondering who you think will capture the regular season title in the Big Ten. I've given you the four front-runners and the remainder of the field. The poll will close Sunday night at 11:59pm. Although, I'll concede that if you wait until Sunday night to vote, you'll probably have a better idea who is the favorite.

Regardless of when you vote, I do encourage you to participate. If all goes well, expect more polls in the future.

Illini's Wikoff On Wallace List

Brandon Wikoff of the University of Illinois has made the initial watch list (.pdf) for the 2009 Brooks Wallace Award. Wikoff was the only Big Ten player on the list.

The Wallace Award has a new criteria this season. Since its creation in 2004, it was given to the National Player of the Year. However, this season, the Wallace Award will be presented to the top shortstop in college baseball.

This is probably a good time to refer you to the Illinois Baseball Report where Tom recently interviewed Wikoff.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Buckeyes Win, Spartans Split

(25) Ohio State's Michael Stephens and Dan Burkhart drove in three runs a piece as the Buckeyes triumphed over Akron, 7-3.

Michigan State split a twinbill with Eastern Michigan. The Spartans took the opener, 6-5. The Eagles won the nightcap, 6-1.

Wisconsin-Milwaukee dropped Northwestern, 7-2, while Indiana steamrolled Western Illinois 17-2. IU freshman DH Alex Dickerson drove in five runs. CF Brian Lambert was a perfect 5-for-5.

Iowa was losing to Creighton, 7-2, in the bottom of the fifth. A very tough Indiana State squad is ahead of Illinois, 7-6, in the seventh inning. The Sycamores are not easily dismissed this season.

Penn State was up on LaSalle, 8-0, in the sixth inning. Minnesota's game against South Dakota State was canceled due to impending weather.

Update: Indiana State allowed Illinois to climb back into the lead late, but the Sycamores came back to win, 11-10. Penn State beat LaSalle, 9-3. Creighton dusted off Iowa, 12-3.

Tweeting Big Ten Baseball

Perhaps you've heard of the phenomenon known as Twitter. Me? As of this evening, I have somehow managed to stay Twitter-free. Although, I've been known to mention it sarcastically from time-to-time.

However, as I know many of you are regular users of this rapidly growing social network and, as part of my objective here is to share information about Big Ten baseball, I've decide to include a new section in my sidebar for Big Ten baseball-related Twitter feeds.

I should make special note of two of the links. Valerie Todryk Krebs is the Big Ten's Assistant Director of Communications in charge of baseball, women's basketball and volleyball. Those that read the Big Ten's weekly baseball press release (that's all of you, right?) might recognize her name from that communication.

The second Twitter link of note is one to Wisconsin baseball. While the Badgers remain without a varsity baseball program someone in Badgerland obvious isn't pleased by this fact. For that reason alone they deserve a link.

If you know of some other Twitter links I should include (remember they must be Big Ten baseball-related at this stage) or want to convince me why I should jump on the Twitter train, drop me an old-school email.

Gophers Fall Again In Midweek

I'm sure you recall my disappointment (and subsequent ranting) when Illinois and Ohio State lost ugly midweek games. Well, last night it was Minnesota's turn to pull off a terrible loss. The Gophers fell to St. Thomas, 6-3.

How does a team battling for a conference crown, Big Ten tournament position and a possible at-large NCAA Tournament berth lose a game to a non-Division I program? Just like with the Buckeyes and Illini, if the Gophers don't win the tournament title and find themselves on the NCAA bubble, how can they defend this kind of loss?

From a technical standpoint, I would suggest this loss (like the rest of Minnesota's midweek defeats) has revealed a lack of pitching depth beyond their weekend starters. Not an unusual situation for many teams, especially here in the north.

Thankfully, the Gophers RPI is elevated to a point where this loss won't drop them into the danger zone instantly. Their strong non-conference wins outweigh their midweek blunders. Yet, they can't afford too many more L's, in-conference or out.

There were other midweek mishaps to report, as well. (Aren't there always?) Miami (OH) beat Indiana, 9-6 and Northern Iowa stomped Iowa, 9-3. On the positive side of the ledger, we have Illinois downing Southern Illinois, 5-1 and Purdue thumping Ball State, 14-6.

Four Big 10 Hurlers On Watchlist

The College Baseball Foundation has released its initial watchlist (note: .pdf file) for their Pitcher of the Year honor. Four Big Ten pitchers have been included -- Michigan's Chris Fetter, Indiana's Eric Arnett and the Ohio State duo of Alex Wimmers and Jake Hale.

While I suspect everyone on the list is vying for second place behind San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg, it's still good to see four Big Ten players getting nominated for post-season recognition. Hopefully, this means all four are in the running for All-America status.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Big 10 OPS

In seasons past, I posted a weekly OPS update. I've yet to do that this year, but today's seems like as good a time as any to get a peek at the conference leaders in on-base percentage plus slugging percentage.

1. Dan Black, Purdue 1.190
2. Josh Phegley, Indiana 1.173
3. Derek McCallum, Minnesota 1.164
4. Alex Dickerson, Indiana 1.095
5. Dan Burkhart, Ohio State 1.092
6. Ryan LaMarre, Michigan 1.083
7. Willie Argo, Illinois 1.053
8. Matt Streng, Ohio State 1.023
9. Mike Dufek, Michigan 1.009
10. Michael Stephens, Ohio State 1.002

The All-Weekend Team

Welcome to this Spartans-heavy edition of the All-Weekend Team. En route to sweeping Iowa over the weekend, the Michigan State offense put double digits on the scoreboard each game. That led to some impressive stat lines and, in turn, to what I suspect is a record number of MSU names on the AWT.

C: Eric Roof, Michigan State - The Spartans receiver went 8-for-13 (.615), scored five runs and drove in a conference leading ten runs over the weekend. Roof homered twice, doubled, walked and hit a sac fly.

1B: Jeff Holm, Michigan State - Holm makes his second appearance based on a six-for-fourteen (.429) set at Iowa. Holm scored six runs and drove in six more. Holm homered, hit a sacrifice fly and stole a pair of bases. I'm also going to point out that Holm plays wicked good defense at first.

2B: Chris Roberts, Michigan State - A .438 average (7-for-16) lands Roberts on the AWT. Roberts doubled, tripled, walked, got hit-by-a-pitch, scored five runs and had six RBI in the sweep over Iowa. Those six RBI all came in one game and tied a school record.

SS: AJ Pettersen, Minnesota; Jonathan Roof, Michigan State; Brandon Wikoff, Illinois - Why have I combined all three of these players together? Well, truth be told, it wasn't a great weekend for hitting by shortstops. All three had roughly the same stats (ex: one may have had more RBI, the other more steals or walks), but all three played error-free baseball in their teams respective sweeps. Thus, all three get a single nod.

Cheesy? Lame? Gutless? Perhaps, but you expected nothing less from me, right?

3B: A.J. Shindler, Michigan State - Hit .500 (six-for-twelve) versus the Hawkeyes. Shindler doubled twice, walked three times, stole a base, drove in a run and scored eight times.

3B: Justin Miller, Ohio State - The ever-dependable Buckeye captain went 6-for-13 in three games. He scored three times and drove in nine OSU runs.

3B: Dominic Altobelli, Illinois - Dom hit .600 (6-for-10) at Penn State. He doubled, tripled, hit a sac fly, walked three times, scored five runs and had three RBI.

OF: Willie Argo, Illinois - The Illini freshman tore up Nittany Lions' pitching. Argo went 8-for-12 (.667) with a double, triple, walk, three homers, six runs scored and eight RBI.

OF: Sean Flanagan, Iowa - Yes, a Hawkeye did have a good weekend vs. MSU. The freshman went six-for-eleven (.545) with three runs scored and drove in two. Flanagan homered, doubled twice and walked three times.

OF: Eli Boike, Michigan State - Boike had a typical leadoff hitter weekend. He collected five hits, three walks, got hit-by-a-pitch, stole a base and scored seven times. Boike also drove in four runs as the Spartans might still be scoring runs at Iowa.

BN: Trevor Stevens, Northwestern - The Wildcats secondbaseman hit .500 (7-for-14) against OSU. He doubled, walked, stole a base and scored five NU runs.

BN: Dan Burkhart, Ohio State - Apparently, the NU staff decided to let someone other than Burkhart beat them. (Which, by the way, Miller appears to have done.) Burkhart walked six times in three games. While he collected just four hits in nine at-bats (.444), they were three doubles and a homerun. Burkhart had one RBI and scored four times.

BN: Josh Phegley, Indiana - It was deuces wild for the IU All-American. Phegley homered twice, walked twice, scored two runs and had two RBI. He also hit .545 (six-for-eleven) in three games.

BN: Mike McQuillan, Iowa - I know. The Hawks lose all three and land two faces on the AWT. The frosh infielder (have you noted how often "freshman" and "Iowa" go together?) hit a mere .538 (7-for-13) with three runs scored and three RBI. He also tripled and got plunked by a pitch.

SP: Chris Fetter, Michigan - Yet another complete game victory for the All-American candidate. Fetter yields two runs on eight hits and a single walk. The senior righthander also fans 12.

SP: Tom Buske, Minnesota - The Gophers' righthander goes 8.2 innings allowing just one run on eight hits. Buske didn't surrender a free pass and struck out seven Boilers in posting his sixth win.

SP: Seth Rosin, Minnesota - Allowed one run on on four hits over five innings. The Gophers' starter didn't walk anyone and struck out eight in those five innings. Rosin's now 4-2.

CL: Scott Matyas, Minnesota - Recorded two saves in two appearances. The Gophers' closer worked 1.1 innings of relief not allowing a run, hit or walk. He struck out one.

CL: Chris Squires, Indiana - Another reliever that had two saves in two outings. Squires threw four innings of shutout baseball at Michigan. The IU righty allowed three hits and two walks while striking out four.

BP: Luke Rasmussen, Minnesota - Two appearances totaling 2.1 innings of work. Rasmussen allowed two hits and a walkd, but not runs and won his third game of the season.

BP: Jake Hale, Ohio State - The Buckeyes' closer worked three innings in two appearances vs. NU. He didn't give up a run, hit or walk. He struck out four.

BP: Bryan Roberts, Illinois - Roberts earned victory number four by giving up two runs on five hits and two walks over seven innings. The Illini freshman struck out six Lions.

Do I really need to review the disclaimer? Well, for the sake of newbies, we'll go over the drill again. There's a good chance I've botched some or all the stats above. (Yes, in addition to being a poor writer, my math is terrible, too. Rest easy. I did not attend a Big Ten institution.)

There's an equally good chance I've overlooked a perfectly good candidate. (Let's be honest, after a while, all the boxscores start looking the same.) If you'd like to point out either my poor math skills or a player I've omitted, my email address is in the sidebar.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

College Baseball Blog Chat

Join us in tonight's chat hosted by the College Baseball Blog's Brian Foley.

Three Sweeps & A 'Cats Win

Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan State all had series sweeps this weekend. Illinois took three straight on the road at Penn State. The Gophers broomed Purdue out of the Metrodome. The Spartans went 3-0 at Iowa.

Northwestern avoided the sweep by downing Ohio State today and Indiana stayed amongst the conference leaders by taking two of three at Michigan.

If I have this correct, the standings look like this:

Ohio State 11-4
Illinois 11-4
Minnesota 10-4
Indiana 10-4
Michigan State 8-7
Michigan 6-9
Purdue 5-9
Penn State 5-10
Northwestern 3-10
Iowa 3-11

I'll state the obvious. This is a close race. You need look no further than the loss column where the top four sides have the same number.

A reminder: Barring the unexpected, I'll be at the College Baseball Blog's weekly chat at 9pm this evening. You are welcome to join us and ask your college baseball questions.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Gophers, Bucks Rally; Fetter K's 12

Ohio State scored two in the bottom of the ninth to upend Northwestern, 5-4. Justin Miller had two hits and two RBI. Dan Burkhart also drove in a pair for OSU. Drew Rucinski won his seventh game of the year in relief. Alex Wimmers started and stuck out 10, but did allow all four Wildcat tallies. Tommy Finn and Trevor Stevens had two hits a piece for NU.

Minnesota scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat Purdue, 4-3. Justin Gominsky's sac fly capped the rally for the Gophers. Matt Bischoff was terrific for the Boilers, but took the loss. Luke Rasmussen won the game by pitching two innings of shutout relief.

Chris Fetter fanned twelve Indiana batters in leading Michigan past the Hoosiers, 6-2. Fetter tossed a complete game victory yielding eight hits and just one walk. Ryan LaMarre drove in two of the Wolverines' runs. IU's Jerrud Sabourin, Josh Phegley and Evan Crawford each had two hits.

Illinois prevailed over Penn State, 7-3. Illini frosh OF Wille Argo had three hits, including a homer, three runs scored and three RBI. Aaron Johnson also went yard and had two hits. Phil Haig posted the win. Sophomore DH Ben Heath drove in two of the three Nittany Lions runs.

Michigan State outslugged Iowa, 15-10. Jeff Holm led the Spartans attack with a 4-for-5 game. Holm homered, drove in four and scored four. Eric Roof had three hits, three RBI and two runs scored. Roof also homered. Nolan Moody earned the win. Kody McManis had three hits and four RBI for Iowa. Hawkeyes' CF Kurtis Muller had three hits, two runs and two RBI.

Previewing Conference Play

A quick set of links to get you ready for conference play this weekend.

Illinois @ Penn State
Here's the Illini's press release. There's promotions-a-plenty for Nittany Lions' fans.

Indiana @ Michigan
The Hoosiers' perspective on the trip to A2. Note Alan Oaks moves into the Saturday role on Michigan's press release.

The bloggers get their say on the weekend series, as well. Varsity Blue provides their usual insight and highlights all the Maize and Blue promos. VB then quizzes Behind The Plate about the series. In return, BTP does the Q&A thing with formerly anonymous.

Michigan State @ Iowa
The Hawkeyes SID previews the three-game set. Of coures, the Spartans do provide the Green and White angle on the road trip.

Games 2 & 3 are on the Big Ten Network.

Purdue @ Minnesota
Game notes courtesy of the Boilers' SID. The Gophers are hosting at the dome this weekend.

The Daily Gopher is blogging about Derek McCallum and the weekend visit from Purdue.

Game 1 is on the Big Ten Network.

Northwestern @ Ohio State
The 'Cats view on the stay in C-bus. Alas, the link to the OSU preview appears to have gone south.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Revenge Of The 200's

It's either late or very early depending upon your point of view. As such, I'm not going to provide much detail on Wednesday's results. However, a couple of the games are so awful that I'm compelled to say something.

(23) Ohio State gets absolutely drilled by Ball State, 20-8. A horrible loss. You simply cannot give up twenty runs, at home, to an opponent with a RPI around 219, when your strength of schedule isn't all that good and hope to host a regional.

Keeping pace in the ugly department, Illinois lost to St. Louis, 11-10. Again, when you are seeking a potential at-large bid, you don't lose a game to an opponent with a RPI over 200. It's the kind of loss that destroys at-large possibilities.

I don't want to be too extreme here. It's been a wild and wacky college baseball season and there's is plenty of opportunity for both programs to overcome Wednesday's defeats. Yet, there's simply no denying the impact of losing games to teams with RPI's above 200. Just playing these teams hurts your strength of schedule. Losing to them damages both your credibility and RPI.

If OSU loses out on hosting a regional or the Illini fail to claim an at-large berth, we can look back at Wednesday night's games and get an idea where things may have gone south.

In other scores, Purdue crushed Butler, 18-4. Indiana State beat Indiana, 7-4. Michigan split a doubleheader with Notre Dame. UM wins the opener, 3-2. The Irish take the finale, 4-3. Both were seven-inning affairs. (Yes, I still don't like seven inning games. See, I'm cranky when I'm up past my bedtime.)

Central Michigan beat Michigan State, 7-6. Minnesota dropped North Dakota State, 8-1. Iowa got past Northern Iowa, 5-4. Northwestern put a hurt on Illinois State, 13-3.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Iowa Rolls, IU Falls

Due to the weather, only two Big Ten teams got to play today. Iowa pounded Western Illinois, 20-7. Justin Toole had a four-for-four game with five RBI. The Hawks' SS scored three runs. Wes Freie had three RBI, two hits and two runs scored.

A ninth inning bomb off the bat of Louisville's Chris Dominguez lifted the Cardinals to a 10-8 win over Indiana. Jerrud Sabourin, Josh Phegley and Tyler Rogers all drove in two runs to pace IU.

Bowling Green State at Ohio State, Illinois Tech at Northwestern and Valparaiso versus Purdue were all canceled. Notre Dame and Michigan were scheduled to meet in Ann Arbor today and South Bend on Wednesday. As today's game was washed out, the two teams will play a doubleheader in Irish-country tomorrow.

Vote For Nohelty

Minnesota's Matt Nohelty is one of ten players on the ballot for the Lowe's Senior Class Award. While the public's combined vote will only total one-third of the overall vote, let me encourage you to head over to the site and cast your vote for Mr. Nohelty.

The Gophers' DH has been a fine player throughout his career at The U and is currently sitting in fourth place. I'm confident that if all the readers here would vote at least once, we could have an influence on the award. We all know the Big Ten, and northern programs, in general, get snubbed by the national media. This is an opportunity, small as it might be, to get a Big Ten guy some love.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Post-Season Awards Shortlist

I was recently asked about the candidates for Big Ten Pitcher of the Year. That inquiry got me thinking about who else might be on my shortlist for other conference awards. Instead of keeping my thoughts on the subject to myself, I've decided to present them to you, as well. What's the point of having a blog if you can't share your ridiculous assertions with the world?

Pitcher Of The Year
It's a three-man chase with a few others vying to get into the mix. Indiana's Eric Arnett, Michigan's Chris Fetter and Ohio State's Alex Wimmers are the trio at the top.

Arnett wasn't really on anyone's radar in February, but has emerged as one of the top pitchers in the conference. IU's righthander is leading the Big Ten in ERA (1.94), innings pitched (69.2) and wins (8). He's second in opponents batting average against at .202 and fourth in strikeouts with 69.

In contrast to Arnett, Michigan's Fetter opened the season on nearly everyone's All-America list. He's done nothing to disappoint. The senior righthander is second in the Big Ten in ERA (2.07) and innings pitched (65.1). The All-Big Ten pitcher is third in the conference in K's (70) and eighth in both opponents batting average against (.235) and wins (6).

The Buckeyes' Wimmers is pacing the conference in strikeouts (79) and is second in wins (7). Wimmers is third in opponents batting average against (.203), fourth in innings pitched (64) and eighth in ERA (2.95).

OSU closer Jake Hale and Minnesota starter Tom Buske lead the group that are right behind the front-runners. Hale is leading the Big Ten in saves and appearances while Buske is amongst the top ten in five categories including having the best batting average against in the conference at .196. Another Gopher, Chauncy Handran, and Illinois' Aaron Martin are just a step behind.

Player Of The Year
This race is even more wide-open. My list of candidates begins with Minnesota's Derek McCallum, Indiana's Alex Dickerson, Purdue's Dan Black and IU's Josh Phegley.

McCallum's Player of the Week (both nationally and in-conference) performance lifted him to the top of the Big Ten batting race. However, McCallum's numbers go far beyond that. The Gophers secondbaseman is also first in RBI (52), second in slugging percentage (.709), hits (57) and total bases (100). He's third in triples (3) and fourth in homers (10).

Dickerson's strong freshman campaign has him atop the Big Ten in total bases (102). The lefthanded hitting DH is second in hits with 57. Dickerson's third in batting average (.390) and homers (11). He's also seventh in RBI (41).

Black, the Boilermakers' all-conference 3B, is pacing the Big Ten in slugging percentage (.718), on-base percentage (.538), homers (12) and walks (46). Black's eighth in both RBI (39) and total bases (88).

Phegley, everyone's preseason choice for Player of the Year, got off to a slow start, but his numbers have really been climbing. The IU catcher is in the top ten in RBI (3rd at 44), on-base percentage (3rd at .480), runs (4th at 38), total bases (5th at 88), slugging percentage (6th at .652), homeruns (6th at 9), batting average (7th at .378) and hits (9th at 51).

The names of Michigan's Ryan LaMarre, Minnesota's Michael Kvasnicka, Ohio State's Dan Burkhart and Zach Hurley as well as Illinois' Brandon Wikoff litter Big Ten stat sheets. Any or all of them could having a strong close and get into the top half of my shortlist.

Freshman Of The Year
IU's Dickerson is the front-runner, but he's not going unopposed. Minnesota shortstop A.J. Pettersen has become Dickerson's primary challenger for first-year honors. Pettersen finds himself leading in the Big Ten in runs scored with 42 and is second in both batting average (.402) and on-base percentage (.481). The redshirt frosh is also third in triples (3) and seventh in hits (53).

Illinois' Josh Parr is leading the next wave of fresh faces. In addition to providing offense at the bottom of the Illini lineup, Parr is playing Gold Glove caliber defense at second.

Coach Of The Year
Bob Todd's Ohio State team is sitting atop the conference and that's sort of the objective, isn't it? Yet, Minnesota's John Anderson has his team with a top 30 RPI after the worst season of his Gopher career. Illinois' Dan Hartleb engineered a series victory at (then #1) LSU and has his squad in the hunt for a conference crown. They would be the three leading candidates for postseason hardware.

The darkhorse candidate is Michigan State's Jake Boss, Jr. The Spartans' first-year skipper has MSU in contention for a conference tournament spot with team most people had penciled in closer to the bottom of the standings.

If I have omitted your choice(s) in any category, don't worry. The good news is that there's plenty of time before season's end for someone to force their way onto one of my short lists. The better news is that I don't actually get to vote for any of these awards. That remains in the hands of Big Ten coaches.

All-Weekend Team

After spending the weekend scoring runs against each other in bunches, this edition of the All-Weekend Team features plenty of Illini and Gophers hitters. Not surprisingly, when the two best pitching teams in the conference don't perform well, it was a bit more difficult to find stars from the mound. Although, there were a couple of notable exceptions.

Here's this week's squad:

C: Aaron Johnson, Illinois - Another strong weekend for the Canadian backstop. Five-for-twelve with a pair of homers, three walks and a stolen base. Johnson scored three runs and drove in six against the then-ranked Gophers.

1B: Matt Dittman, Illinois - Three runs scored, three RBI, three stolen bases and a triple. Dittman went five-for-eleven (.455) in three games.

2B: Derek McCallum, Minnesota - McCallum moved into the Big Ten batting average lead with an 8-for-14 weekend vs. Illini. The Gophers middle infielder hit two doubles, three homeruns, walked and got hit-by-a-pitch. McCallum scored four times and drove in eight runs.

SS: A.J. Pettersen, Minnesota - A .462 average (6-for-13) against Illinois. The first year infielder doubled, homered, walked twice and went yard twice. Pettersen had three RBI and scored seven runs.

3B: Dominic Altobelli, Illinois - The senior hit .500 (6-for-12) over the weekend. The damage he inflicted included a double, a homer, a sac fly, a walk, an HBP and two stolen bases. Altobelli had seven RBI and scored seven runs.

OF: Casey McMurray, Illinois - The sophomore went seven-for-fifteen (.467) against the Gophers. McMurray touched home five times and drove in four in three games.

OF: Michael Kvasnicka, Minnesota - Five-for-thirteen (.385) vs. the Illini. The sophomore went yard twice and had a pair of sac flies tossed in. He scored three runs and drove in five.

OF: Evan Crawford, Indiana - The Hoosiers outfielder hit .500 (5-for-10) over the weekend. Crawford hit three doubles, stole three bases, walked twice, got hit-by-a-pitch, scored three times and drove in five vs. Penn State. Hey, wait. How did a Hoosier sneak in here?

OF: Joe Bonadonna, Illinois - A mere .538 weekend average (7-for-13). Bonadonna had two doubles, a walk, a stolen base, a RBI and scored six times.

BN: Justin Toole, Iowa - An abbreviated two-game weekend set for the Hawkeyes' shortstop. However, Toole did go 5-for-9 (.555) with a double, two runs scored, two steals and two RBI.

BN: Ryan Durant, Iowa - In his two games, the junior outfielder went 4-for-6 with a double, run scored, sacrifice fly, three walks and three RBI.

BN: Dan Burkhart, Ohio State - The sophomore had four hits in thirteen at-bats (.308) with a double, sac fly and homerun. Burkhart had two runs scored and six RBI.

BN: Michael Stephens, Ohio State - The average won't get you excited (.250), but the junior scored five runs and drove in five more in three games. Stephens tripled twice and walked.

BN: Mike Dufek, Michigan - Another slugger with a less-than-impressive .250 weekend batting average, but the junior 1B scored three times and drove in six vs. MSU. Dufek homered, had a sac fly, got plunked by a pitch and walked.

BN: Justin Gominsky, Minnesota - Hit .500 (7-for-14) with two runs scored, two RBI, two doubles and four stolen bases.

SP: Alex Wimmers, Ohio State - Seven innings of shutout baseball. Wimmers gave up only three hits and three walks while striking out seven. Wimmers is now 7-1 and vying for Pitcher of the Year honors.

SP: Matt Bischoff, Purdue - Went the distance against Wimmers and the Bucks, but couldn't get any run support. The righty gave up just one run on five hits over his nine innings of work. Bischoff fanned six.

SP: Jarred Hippen, Iowa - One run allowed over seven innings vs. NU. Hippen was touched for four hits and three walks, but countered with four K's. The win improved Hippen's record to 2-2.

RP: Jake Hale, Ohio State - Three appearances, three saves. What more can you expect? Worked 5.1 innings giving up four hits, two walks and no runs. He also K'd seven and grabbed the Big Ten's Pitcher of the Week honors.

BP: Matt Bashore, Indiana - The IU sophomore gave up two runs on six hits and a walk in earning his third victory. Bashore struck out five.

As you know, this is a subjective effort. It's also completed by me, which increases the odds of error. If you'd like to make a case for someone not included or correct my math, might I ask that you contact me via email? My address remains in the sidebar.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Only One Game Today

Rain washed out today's contest between Iowa and Northwestern. The Hawkeyes and Wildcats split the two games played.

Michigan avoided the sweep at the hands of Michigan State. The Wolverines prevailed Sunday, 9-2.

Construction Zone

Yes, you are in the right place. I've felt like the blog needed a new coat of paint, so I've been tinkering with some new templates today.

Is this the final look? Perhaps. Perhaps, not. If you show up and the blog looks entirely different, then you'll know I'm not quite satisfied with its current design.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Friday And Saturday

Okay, fine. I admit it. I'm a bad blogger. Usually, it's because of poor writing. Now, it's because I didn't post my traditional weekend link preview and have let two game days (not even counting my midweek absence) slip past without issuing a word. Look, what do you expect for free?

However, I haven't abandoned you completely. Let's rundown what's happened in conference action the last two days.

Ohio State 1 Purdue 0
Northwestern 4 Iowa 3
Michigan State 8 Michigan 7
Illinois 15 Minnesota 10
Penn State 9 Indiana 7

Ohio State 7 Purdue 4
Ohio State 11 Purdue 10
Iowa 10 Northwestern 1
Michigan State 3 Michigan 1
Illinois 10 Minnesota 7
Minnesota 12 Illinois 8
Indiana 15 Penn State 1
Indiana 3 Penn State 2

What in the world happened to all the quality Illinois and Minnesota pitching? The Gophers, in dropping two of three to the Illini, yielded 33 runs. After surrendering an average of 11 runs a game, Minnesota should be thrilled they took even a single contest. However, Illinois was not much better. The vaunted Illini staff got touched for 29 runs over the weekend. More often than not, you aren't going to win any games giving up nearly 10 runs an outing. Yet, the Illini won two. Go figure.

The Buckeyes weekend started with a shutout courtesy of Alex Wimmers and Jake Hale. OSU's staff then gave up fourteen runs in two games today, but OSU still managed to sweep out the home-standing Boilers. OSU sits atop the conference and might sneak up the polls. One wonders if the Illini's performance might get them some more votes? The Gophers? Well, I don't think they will have a number next to their name come Monday afternoon. Although, I'll contend they should even after getting beat up by the Orange and Blue.

Michigan State is a game away from giving the broom to Michigan. Regardless, the Spartans have won the series and keep themselves in the conference tournament chase. Both teams are at 5-6 in Big Ten play with tomorrow's finale back in East Lansing.

After dropping the opener to Penn State, Indiana took both ends of today's twinbill and are still pursuing the dream of their first Big Ten title in 60 years. One wonders where IU might be if this team had played their early non-conference schedule like they've played the last few weeks. The Nittany Lions might have seen their at-large tournament berth chances disappear today. We will see what the RPI looks like in the morning.

Iowa and NU play the rubber match of their weekend set tomorrow. The winner will get to hold onto their hopes of a conference tournament slot for another weekend. The loser will have a much more difficult road to travel.

Can I promise a post tomorrow? Nope. I'm hoping to get one in, but that will depend on how my day goes. However, I can offer you an option of sorts. I am, once again, scheduled to participate in the College Baseball Blog's weekend review chat. It runs from 9pm-11pm EST. Last week, I had some technically difficulty, but did manage to converse with a few Big Ten fans out there. (My thanks to those that participated.)

If you have some questions about the Big Ten, CBB's Brian Foley will probably send them my way. Although, feel free to bring your non-Big Ten baseball inquiries, as well. Brian and his staff will field questions about the entire college baseball landscape.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

All-Weekend Team

Life has managed to keep me from completing this edition of the All-Weekend Team before now. However, I'm now able to submit this week's entry for your review. Let's take a look at some of the better performances from the past weekend.

C: Dan Burkhart, Ohio State - Three-for-nine (.333) might not knock your socks off, but Burkhart did manage to homer, walk twice, score twice and drive in four in the three game sweep of MSU.

1B: Matt Dittman, Illinois - The Big Ten's Player of the Week hit .545 (6-for-11) versus Michigan. Dittman doubled, homered, walked twice, scored four times and drove in four more.

1B: Nick O'Shea, Minnesota - The Gophers' firstbaseman had only four hits (.333). However, they were two doubles and two homers. The redshirt freshman scored two runs and had five RBI in three games.

2B: Eric Charles, Purdue - Arguably the hottest hitter in the conference. Charles now leads the Big Ten in batting average after a 4-for-11 (.363) weekend. Charles walked three times, stole two bases and got hit-by-a-pitch. He scored four runs and drove in four.

SS: Tyler Engle, Ohio State - Engle makes an appearance after a .444 (4-for-9) set against MSU. He tripled, walked twice and scored four runs for the Bucks.

3B: Dan Black, Purdue - The conference leader in on-base and slugging percentage hit .500 (6-for-12) against Penn State. Black walked three times, homered twice, scored three times and had three RBI.

3B: Chris Lashmet, Northwestern - The sophomore hit .636 (7-for-11) versus Minnesota. Lashmet had three doubles and scored four times against the Gophers.

OF: Alex Jaffee, Purdue - Another Boiler that hit .500 (6-for-12) over the weekend. Jaffee stole a base, walked, drove in two runs and scored four runs.

OF: Zach Hurley, Ohio State - The Buckeyes' leadoff man went 5-for-10 (.500) with four runs scored and four RBI. Hurley walked four times, stole a base and homered.

OF: Ryan LaMarre, Michigan - LaMarre returns to the AWT with a four-for-six (.667) series against Illinois pitching. LaMarre walked four times, got hit-by-a-pitch and homered. The sophomore also scored five runs and had three RBI.

OF: Rick Marlin, Penn State - A .417 (5-for-12) weekend at Michigan lands Marlin on the AWT. Marlin walked, hit three doubles, scored twice and had five RBI.

BN: Josh Phegley, Indiana - Your All-America catcher went 4-for-11 (.363) at Iowa. Phegley homered, walked three times, drove in two runs and scored four more.

BN: Kipp Schutz, Indiana - A 5-for-12 (.417) run this weekend gets Schutz on the AWT. Schutz doubled twice, walked, scored twice and drove in four versus the Hawkeyes.

BN: Kyle Knudson, Minnesota - The Gophers' catcher scored two runs, drove in two more while collecting five hits in twelve at-bats (.417) vs. Northwestern.

BN: Brandon Haveman, Purdue - Haveman hit .307 (4-for-13) against PSU. The senior OF homered, doubled, stole a base, walked twice, had two RBI and scored four runs. He sold some popcorn and programs between innings, too.

BN: Nick Overmyer, Purdue - Five-for-thirteen (.385) for the Boilermakers' shortstop. He scored three runs and drove in three more.

BN: Joe Bonadonna, Illinois - The Illini leadoff hitter went 4-for-12 (.333) with a run scored and six RBI.

SP: Alex Wimmers, Ohio State - A complete game win (get used to hearing that) against MSU. Wimmers went nine innings giving up one run on just two hits and two walks. He fanned 11 Spartans along the way.

SP: Eric Arnett, Indiana - A complete game victory versus Iowa. Arnett yielded just one run on two hits and two walks. The IU righty also struck out 11 in his outing.

SP: Chris Fetter, Michigan - A complete game win versus Illinois. Fetter goes the distance allowing two runs on six hits and two walks. Fetter struck out a career high 13.

RP: Scott Matyas, Minnesota - 2.2 innings pitched in two appearances. 0 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 4 strikeouts and two saves.

BP: Tom Buske, Minnesota - Buske went eight innings allowing one run on three hits and a walk. He struck out six en route to his fifth win of the season.

BP: Matt Bischoff, Purdue - A complete game win. Four runs on ten hits and a walk. Bischoff K'd 11 Nittany Lions.

BP: Matt Morgan, Purdue - A complete game victory. Morgan gave up three runs, two earned, on six hits and five walks. He struck out five.

BP: Blake Monar, Indiana - A complete game victory. Two runs on ten hits and two walks. The frosh fanned nine.

BP: Matt Bashore, Indiana - 8.1 innings of six-hit baseball. Bashore did allow four runs, but only two were earned. He struck out 10.

It was certainly a busy weekend for Big Ten starters, a subject I hope to address at greater length within the next day or two. It did, however, make it easy to assemble a pitching staff for the AWT.

Of course, by now, you know the drill. The math is always questionable. I could have easily overlooked someone, as well. If you've got issues with my selections or my ability to add, subtract, multiply or divide, drop me an email and I'll review your case and make any appropriate changes. (Presuming I feel there are appropriate changes necessary.)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Sunday Rundown

(28) Ohio State 6 Michigan State 1
Eric Best, Drew Rucinski and Jake Hale combine to hold MSU to four hits. Zach Hurley's two hits and two RBI lead OSU. Ryan Dew and Cory Rupert also had two-hit games for the Buckeyes.

Illinois 11 Michigan 5
Willie Argo has four hits and three RBI to pace the Illini attack. Brandon Wikoff, Aaron Johnson and Matt Dittman each have three hits a piece. Bryan Roberts improves to 3-0 and Aaron Martin notches his second save. UM's Mike Dufek hits his 10th homer and drives in four.

Indiana 8 Iowa 4
The Hoosiers' Matt Bashore fans ten en route to his second win of the year. Chris Squires throws four pitches to record his second save of 2009. Kipp Schutz has two hits and two RBI. Alex Dickerson goes 2-for-2 with three walks. Vince Gonzalez and Chris Hervey both have two-hit games.

Minnesota 6 Northwestern 4
Redshirt freshman 1B Nick O'Shea belts his fourth homer and drives in three to lead the Gophers. Matt Nohelty and Kyle Knudson both have a pair of hits. Austin Lubinsky gets win number one in relief. Scott Matyas posts save number five. Chris Lashmet and Jake Goebbert both have three-hit games for NU.

Purdue 9 Penn State 3
Boilermaker starter Matt Morgan tosses a complete game. Morgan is now 3-2. Eric Charles had two hits and three RBI. Alex Jaffee had three hits. Eric Nielsen had two hits and two RBI. Ryan Boonie's two hits led PSU.

Minnesota and Indiana sit atop the Big Ten at 6-2. Ohio State and Illinois follow at 6-3. Purdue is at 5-3. Michigan and Penn State are 4-5. Michigan State is 3-6. Iowa is 2-7. Northwestern is 1-7.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Saturday Afternoon Recap

All day games today. Here's a recap of each:

Minnesota 5 Northwestern 1
Tom Buske pitches 8.0 innings giving up one run on three hits and a walk. Buske fanned six Wildcats. Cullen Sexton struck out two of the three batters he faced in the ninth. Kyle Knudson had two hits and two RBI. Justin Gominsky, A.J. Pettersen and Nick O'Shea all had two hit games for the Gophers.

(28) Ohio State 5 Michigan State 3
Buckeyes' OF Zach Hurley had two hits, a run, a stolen base, a walk and a RBI. Dean Wolosiansky improved to 7-1 by going 6.1 innings. Jake Hale posted his seventh save of the year. MSU's Seth Williams had a three-hit game.

Illinois 10 Michigan 8
Joe Bonadonna's three hits and four RBI paced the Illini. Dominic Altobelli and Matt Dittman each had two RBI a piece. Reliever Lee Zerrusen posted his second win of 2009 and Will Strack recorded his first save. UM's Ryan LaMarre had two hits, two runs scored and three RBI.

Penn State 11 Purdue 9
A four-run eighth inning gets PSU the come-from-behind win. Rick Marlin had three hits, two runs scored and four RBI. Cory Wine (two homers), Jordan Steranka and Ryan Boonie all had three hits for the Nittany Lions. Paul Cianciolo improved to 3-0 and Ryan Ignas earned his third save. Dan Black homered twice for Purdue and David Blount had three RBI.

Indiana 5 Iowa 1
IU's Eric Arnett tossed a complete game two-hitter. The Hoosiers' righthander walked two and struck out a career high 11. Josh Phegley had a homer amongst his two hits. Evan Crawford drove in two. Ryan Durant had one of the two Hawkeyes' hits and the lone RBI.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Ticket Day

On Saturday, tickets to the 2009 College World Series go on sale. For specific information, go to CWS The 1,000 reserved seat tickets will go on sale beginning at 10am (Central Time) Saturday morning and I don't think they are going to last long. There are also general admission seating tickets going on sale. (Read all the fine print, boys and girls.)

I should also point out that tickets to the Big Ten Conference Baseball Tournament are also now on sale. These tickets are available through the Greater Columbus Sports Commission. Currently, just an all-tournament pass is available. Single game tickets will be made available at a later date. (Note: Tickets to the Ohio High School Championship are offered on the same page. Please don't get confused.)

Friday Night Update

As I watch the final few innings of the Big Ten Network's coverage of Illinois at Michigan, let's get caught up on the rest of the scores around the conference.

(28) Ohio State 6 Michigan State 1
Alex Wimmers tosses a two-hit complete game. Dan Burkhart had two hits and three RBI.

Minnesota 4 Northwestern 3, 7th inning
Nick O'Shea's two-run homer in the seventh tied the score and Justin Gominsky has put the Gophers ahead. Chad Noble's 3-for-3 for NU.

Michigan 4 Illinois 2, 8th inning
Freshman Coley Crank's sac fly has put the Wolverines on top. Chris Fetter has fanned 11 through eight. This game is on BTN right now.

Indiana 3 Iowa 2
IU's Kipp Schutz has three hits and two RBI. Wes Freie has both Hawkeye RBI without a hit.

Purdue 5 Penn State 4, 8th inning
Boilers' SS Nick Overmyer is 4-for-4 with three RBI.

Update 9:40pm:
Michigan 4 Illinois 2
Fetter K's 13, a career high.

Minnesota 5 Northwestern 4, 8th inning

Indiana 6 Iowa 2, 9th inning
Jerrud Sabourin has a pair of RBI.

Purdue 6 Penn State 4, 9th inning

Update 10:45pm:
The remaining three games are now all final.

Minnesota 5 Northwestern 4
Chauncy Handran improves to 6-1 and Scott Matyas picks up save number four.

Indiana 6 Iowa 2
Freshman Blake Monar tosses a complete game.

Purdue 6 Penn State 4
Matt Bischoff goes the distance for Purdue.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Weekend Prep

It's time to get ready for another weekend of conference play. Here are some links to get you prepared. As always, I encourage you to head out to the ballpark near you.

Illinois at Michigan
Illini midweek: W, 11-9 vs. Bradley
Wolverines midweek: Ppd. vs. Akron; L, 10-3 vs. Central Michigan

The Illini perspective on the trip to Ann Arbor.
Michigan offers up their weekly release.
The bloggers take aim at the big weekend, as well. The Illinois Baseball Report talks with Varsity Blue and VB asks Tom at the IBR some questions, too.
Eric Sorenson gives some love to the Illini in his Thursday Thoughts.

Indiana at Iowa
Hoosiers midweek: L, 15-1 @ Louisville; W, 9-5 vs. Valapairso
Hawkeyes midweek: L, 5-4 vs. Kansas; L, 9-3 vs. Kansas

The Hoosiers' weekend notes.
Iowa's SID previews the homestand against IU.
The Saturday and Sunday games of this series are slated for coverage by the Big Ten Network.
The blogging preview comes courtesy of Behind The Plate.
Baseball America's Aaron Fitt was asked some questions about IU hurlers Eric Arnett and Matt Bashore.

Michigan State at (28) Ohio State
Spartans midweek: L, 5-4 @ Western Michigan
Buckeyes midweek: W, 12-0 vs. Morehead State

A Spartans look at trip south.
The Buckeyes take on the three-game set.

Northwestern at Minnesota
Wildcats midweek: W, 16-0 vs. Elmhurst; W, 6-5 vs. Northern Illinois
Gophers midweek: W, 7-3 @ Missouri; L, 20-5 @ Missouri

The weekend series from a Wildcats' perspective.
Nothing from the Gophers SID as of yet.

Purdue at Penn State
Boilers midweek: L, 17-8 vs. Ball State; L, 12-11 vs. Illinois State
Nittany Lions midweek: Ppd. vs. Pitt; W, 12-11 vs. Bucknell

Views from a West Lafayette angle.
Alas, nothing from PSU as of yet.

Other Links:
Guessing the field of 64 is in full bloom. First, the College Baseball Blog offers up their regional predictions. So, too, does SE Baseball and Rivals. Boyd Nation's tournament watch has two Big Ten teams in.

If I'm reading Mr. Nation's RPI Needs Report correctly, it would appear that if you are a fan of anyone other than Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State or Illinois, you program is out of the running for an at-large tournament berth. If this is accurate, and I have no reason to doubt that it is, the only way for the other six teams to make the NCAA Tournament is to win the Big Ten Conference Tournament.

For the second straight week, I've been asked to participate in the College Baseball Blog's weekend wrap-up chat this Sunday night. The CBB gang will be taking your questions about the entire college baseball landscape from 9pm - 11pm EST.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

MSU's Moody Claims Awards

As a result of his no-hitter, Michigan State's Nolan Moody has garnered more than his fair share of weekly honors.

The College Baseball Blog named the MSU senior the National Pitcher of the Week.

Moody was amongst those named by the College Baseball Foundation as a member of their National All-Star Lineup.

MSU's starter was also named to the Louisville Slugger's National Player of the Week list. (Scroll under the poll.)

Of course, Moody was selected as the Big Ten's Pitcher of the Week.

Not a bad haul for a guy who spent his previous three seasons in East Lansing as a reliever.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

This Week's Schedule

The Big Ten has some interesting midweek games. Here's a brief rundown of what's in store over the next couple of days.

Indiana: @ Louisville, Valpo
Illinois: Bradley
Iowa: Two versus Kansas
Michigan: Akron (canceled), Central Michigan
Michigan State: @ Western Michigan
Minnesota: Two @ Missouri
Northwestern: Elmhurst, Northern Illinois
Ohio State: Morehead State
Penn State: Pittsburgh (canceled), Bucknell
Purdue: Ball State, Illinois State

Certainly, there are some opportunities to improve both RPI rankings and national perception (IU @ Louisville, Iowa @ KU and Minnesota's two @ Mizzou) over the next few days. When conference action returns this weekend, we've got:

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

Monday, April 06, 2009

All-Weekend Team

Yes, it's finally here. The All-Weekend Team has arrived. This week's dilemma? Outside of a trio of truly outstanding pitching performances, I struggled to complete a pitching staff. In the end, I opted to go without a starting reliever. (Much like the Detroit Tigers, come to think of it.)

Let's be honest, when you've got a starter tossing a no-hitter and another going ten innings to get the win, we don't need no stinkin' relievers. I'm confident, however, that one (or more) of you will call me out and point out a reliever worthy of a first-team selection. You may even like me to add another starter. Per usual, I'm all ears. Not as usual, I've got a cold and hear even less than normal. Thus, your suggestions, accurate as they may be, may go unheeded.

C: Kyle Knudson, Minnesota
- A .455 (6-for-11) average with six RBI merits Knudson an All-Weekend Team nomination. Knudson scored a run and doubled twice.

C: Josh Phegley, Indiana - Two bombs and a double amongst his four hits (.308). The All-American walked three times and scored five runs.

1B: Jerrud Sabourin, Indiana - A five-for-twelve (.417) weekend versus the Illini. Sabourin hit three doubles, walked twice and scored three times.

2B: Eric Charles, Purdue - Seven hits in fifteen at-bats (.467) for the Boilers' secondbaseman. Charles scored three runs and drove in two more.

2B: Derek McCallum, Minnesota - The Gophers' 2B hit .357 (5-for-14) against OSU. He doubled three times, scored four times and drove in five.

SS: A.J. Pettersen, Minnesota - Another AWT nod for the redshirt freshman. Pettersen hit .545 (6-for-11) with three walks, a double, triple, five RBI and six runs scored.

3B: Dan Black, Purdue - Black hit .500 (4-for-8) with six walks. Purdue's thirdbaseman hit a pair of doubles, a homer, scored three runs and drove in five.

OF: Ryan Durant, Iowa - The junior hit .429 (6-for-14) in three games. Durant scored three runs, drove in three, tripled and stole a base.

OF: Brandon Haveman, Purdue - An eight-for-twelve (.667) weekend lands Haveman on the AWT. He scored four times, had a RBI, walked twice and doubled three times.

OF: Ryan LaMarre, Michigan - The sophomore hit .583 (7-for-12) versus PSU. LaMarre had two doubles, three walks, three homers, scored four runs and drove in nine runs.

DH: Alex Dickerson, Indiana - Two more homers including a game winner for the IU freshman. Dickerson went 6-for-11 (.545) with two runs scored, two walks, got hit by a pitch and had five RBI.

BN: Brandon Wikoff, Illinois - Just a .583 (7-for-12) performance for the steady Illini shortstop. Wikoff scored twice, drove in a run and stole a base.

BN: Justin Toole, Iowa - Six hits in fourteen at-bats (.529) with two walks, two doubles, two steals, two RBI and five runs scored.

BN: Jordan Steranka, Penn State - Becoming a regular AWT member. Steranka had four RBI, three runs scored, a walk, a homer and a seven-for-fifteen (.467) weekend vs. Michigan.

BN: Louie Picconi, Penn State - A .500 average (4-for-8) in only two games. The PSU middle infielder had a double, got hit by a pitch, scored three times and drove in six.

BN: A.J. Shindler, Michigan State - Five-for-eight (.625) against NU. The Spartans' thirdbaseman hit three doubles, drew a walk, scored a run and had six RBI.

SP: Nolan Moody, Michigan State - A no-hitter versus NU. The senior righthander allowed just two walks over nine innings. He struck out five and improved to 4-3 on the season.

SP: Chauncy Handran, Minnesota - Seven innings of two-run baseball against OSU. Handran relinquished seven hits and three walks while striking out four.

SP: Eric Arnett, Indiana - A ten inning complete game victory. The IU righthander surrendered just one run on seven hits and two walks. Arnett fanned six and is now 6-1.

BP: Chris Fetter, Michigan - 11 K's in eight innings. The senior gave up four runs, but only two were earned. PSU collected seven hits and two walks versus the All-American.

BP: Paul Cianciolo, Penn State - Five innings of five-hit ball versus Michigan. Cianciolo gave up one run and didn't allow a free pass en route to his second win of the year.

Standings, Scores, Polls And Other Things

As I was Internet-free for a large part of the weekend, there is much to catch-up on. First, here are the standings:

     Team                   W   L   T   Pct       W   L   T   Pct
Illinois............ 4 2 0 .667 18 7 0 .720
Minnesota........... 3 2 0 .600 16 9 0 .640
Purdue.............. 3 2 0 .600 13 12 0 .520
Indiana............. 3 2 0 .600 12 16 0 .429
Ohio State.......... 3 3 0 .500 22 7 0 .759
Michigan............ 3 3 0 .500 18 10 0 .643
Penn State.......... 3 3 0 .500 17 12 0 .586
Michigan State...... 3 3 0 .500 11 17 0 .393
Iowa................ 2 4 0 .333 11 15 0 .423
Northwestern........ 1 4 0 .200 5 20 0 .200

By now, I'm presuming you are all caught up on the scores. However, for those that may have been without Internet access, here's what transpired since Friday:

Indiana 14 Illinois 4
Indiana 2 Illinois 1 (10 innings)
Illinois 5 Indiana 4

Iowa 15 Purdue 7
Purdue 5 Iowa 3
Purdue 10 Iowa 9

PSU 6 Michigan 4
Michigan 9 PSU 5
PSU 16 Michigan 5

MSU 2 Northwestern 0
MSU 9 Northwestern 4
MSU 6 Northwestern 5

Minnesota 7 (28) Ohio State 5
(28) Ohio State 3 Minnesota 2
Minnesota 16 (28) Ohio State 3

Now, courtesy of Boyd's World, let's take a quick look at some other numbers of note. There are the ever-popular pseudo-RPI figures. Minnesota has the best mark in the Big Ten at number twenty. They are followed by Ohio State (24) and Penn State (75). The next wave begins with Illinois (89) then continues with Indiana (132) and Michigan (153). The last four programs all top 200. Purdue is in at 206, Michigan State at 212, Iowa at 215 and Northwestern's at 250.

Continuing with ISR numbers, Ohio State is at 29 while Minnesota is one back at 30. Penn State (90) and Illinois (94) really take a tumble versus their RPI figures. Michigan is next at 122, then Indiana at 153. Purdue moves up to 172 in ISR. Iowa (208), Michigan State (209) and Northwestern (245) round out the conference.

On to the polls where Baseball America inexplicably dumps Minnesota out of their Top 25. (Sorry, John and Aaron, I haven't listened to your podcast for explanation as of yet.) The Gophers take two-of-three from Ohio State, a team inside of everyone's top 30 in RPI, yet fall out of the BA poll. I don't get it.

To rub salt in the wound, the BA guys rank Hawai'i and TCU, programs that Minnesota has dispatched earlier in the year.

These same Gophers have climbed into Collegiate Baseball's top 30. CB was loving OSU and Illinois, but their series defeats have jettisoned them from the rankings.

Proving the coaches are as in-the-dark as everyone else when it comes to rankings, we have the USA Today poll. Ohio State fell out of the rankings after losing two at Minny. Yet, the Gophers, who I must repeat are in nearly everyone's top 25 in RPI, aren't getting as many poll votes as the Buckeyes. Minnesota received nine votes to OSU's 32. I'm happy the Bucks are getting votes, but how can anyone justify giving them more votes than the Gophers? (I should point out that Illinois did receive four votes from the coaches.)

Ping! has the Gophers ranked 29th in the land. No word yet from the NCBWA poll.

That's enough to review for now. I'll be back with a look at the midweek action.

Where Are The Posts?

I've been having ISP problems for about 36 hours. It's working now, but it's rather late and my ability to think and type is more limited than usual. Technically problems aside, and presuming I'm not removing snow from my neighborhood all day, I'll try and get back to cranking out some material later on this morning.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Scores In The AM

Only three contests on Friday night, but they all had some interesting results. These recaps will be shorter than normal, as I'm pressed for time this morning. However, let's catch-up on the games from yesterday.

In Minneapolis, the Gophers dropped (24) Ohio State, 7-5. Chauncy Handran improved to 5-1 by going seven innings against the Buckeyes. A.J. Pettersen was a perfect 3-for-3 with two runs scored, two RBI and a tremendous defensive play that one SID labeled as "ridiculous". Zach Hurley and Ryan Dew led the visitors' counter-attack. Hurley had three hits and two RBI, Dew collected two hits, two RBI and scored three times.

Indiana notched a 14-4 triumph over Illinois. IU's Josh Phegley was the story in Champaign. Phegley went 3-for-4 with a pair of homers, two runs scored, two walks and five RBI. Freshman Blake Monar was the winner. Dominic Altobelli and Brandon Wikoff both had 4-for-5 performances for the Illini.

In the first game of the day, Iowa beat Purdue, 15-7. Hawkeyes' SS Justin Toole had four hits, three runs scored, two RBI and two steals. Frosh Chet Zeise had two hits, two runs scored and four RBI. Ryan Durant had three hits, two runs scored and two RBI. You scored 15, you have plenty of players with crooked numbers. Nick Brown gets the win. Eric Nielsen and Eric Charles both had two RBI for the Boilers.

Just as an aside, I think both of the games postponed in advance, PSU at Michigan and NU at MSU, could have been played. It stopped raining in my portion of the mitten before lunch and outside of a stray sprinkle and some very blustery conditions, both probably could have gotten in.

I will admit that we start today with a blue sky and sunshine, which will certainly be more pleasant than yesterday's environment, but it was far from unplayable on Friday. Both the series in the state of Michigan and the Indiana at Illinois series will be doubleheaders Saturday.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Gearing Up For The Weekend

Let's be honest. It wasn't a very good midweek performance from the conference. (The results are below.) Oh, there were some better outings, but, in general, it was disappointing. As such, I'm pleased to have conference play resume.

Not every school has submitted a weekend preview yet, but I've included the ones we have and tossed in some additional links to reading material for your enjoyment.

Illinois @ Indiana
Illini midweek: W vs. SIU-Edwardsville (7-6), ppd. vs. Illinois State
Hoosiers midweek: W vs. Chicago State (11-4), W vs. Cincinnati (16-4)

The Illini issue their weekend press release.
Indiana's SID counters.
A couple of bloggers offer their take. The Illini Baseball Report interviews IU's Behind The Plate. The favor is returned as BTP does a Q&A with the IBR.

Penn State @ Michigan
Nittany Lions midweek: W vs. Bucknell (6-5), L vs. Kent State (4-3)
Wolverines midweek: L vs. BGSU (8-3), W vs. Oakland (14-13)

UM's Baseball Central offers up a a preview.
No PSU thoughts as of yet.
Varsity Blue previews the PSU set from a Wolverine perspective.
Note: The Friday game has been postponed. The sides will play two games on Saturday.
The Big Ten Network, which was scheduled to broadcast the Friday, will instead televise nothing.

Northwestern @ Michigan State
Wildcats midweek: No games scheduled.
Spartans midweek: Ppd vs. Notre Dame, W vs. Central Michigan (20-3)

The Wildcats' SID previews the trip to East Lansing. (Should be fun on Final Four weekend.)
The Spartans open a new the new McLane Stadium vs. NU this weekend.
Note: The Friday contest has been washed away before a drop of precipitation has fallen. Like the series in Ann Arbor, there will be a Saturday twinbill.

(24) Ohio State @ Minnesota
Buckeyes midweek: W vs. Xavier (9-7), L vs. Marshall (14-3)
Gophers midweek: L vs. Northern Iowa (9-7)

A preview of the Buckeyes three games in the dome.
The Gophers' preview the big series.

Iowa @ Purdue
Hawkeyes midweek: W vs. Upper Iowa (11-8), L vs. Illinois State (9-6)
Boilermakers midweek: Ppd vs. Louisville, L vs. IPFW (22-19)

Neither SID has offered up a preview yet. When we get one, I'll add it to the list.

The understatement of this post is that the OSU/Minnesota series is big. Really big. Two nationally ranked opponents (only NCBWA ranking included here) both vying for a conference title and a possible at-large tournament berth. No pressure, though.

Illinois and Indiana is nearly as compelling. The Illini look to increase their one game lead atop the Big Ten and IU, a preseason favorite, is looking to prove that all the hype was true. The battle will be won between the Hoosiers pitchers and the Illini hitters.

Penn State is actually the higher ranked RPI squad in Ann Arbor this weekend. A series win for Michigan will help them climb the RPI ladder. If PSU can take the three-game set, the Nittany Lions might find themselves on the fringe at-large tourney consideration. (Albeit, a conversation on the first weekend in April.)

Purdue, Iowa, Michigan State and Northwestern are still harboring conference tournament dreams and need W's quickly. The story in East Lansing, beyond the Spartans' Final Four appearance in Detroit, is the opening of their renovated yard.

Other items meriting a look:

College Baseball 360's combined poll.

The College Baseball Blog's Colin Weber predicts the NCAA Tournament Field.

Kendall Rogers does the same at Rivals.

OSU's Dan Burkhart joins IU's Josh Phegley in Rivals' Power Poll at catcher.

Boyd's World's Pseudo-RPI numbers.

Finally, once the games have concluded on Sunday night, the College Baseball Blog will be hosting a live online chat to discuss the action. It's all begins at 9:00pm EST. I've been invited and have been asked to pass the invite along to you.