After weeks of waiting, Big 10 Baseball is finally back! The first Big 10 pitch of the year came on Friday when Michigan State squared off with Nebraska, and since then 27 BIg 10 ballgames have gotten our season underway. Each of the Big 10’s 13 baseball clubs were in action during this initial weekend, and now that it’s behind us, it’s time to recap both the contenders and pretenders up north.
Contenders: Michigan and Indiana
First up are the contenders of the week, or, team I buy into as postseason threats as the season goes on. Living up to the standard of the preseason rankings this week are two teams who were both predicted to finish 1st and 2nd in the Big 10 respectively, Michigan and Indiana.
Michigan leaves the weekend as the only ranked Big 10 Club in both the D1 Baseball and Baseball America polls. The Wolverines came to Texas to participate in the Round Rock Classic, and left with a solid 3-1 series victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes. One of the biggest factors in this four game stretch had to be Michigan’s patience behind the plate. In just 4 games, the Wolverines got on base due to walks 21 times, averaging over 5 a game. The starting pitching was also impressive for the blue and gold, particularly during a 7-0 shutout on Saturday night. Instrumental in that one was starter Jacon Denner, who threw 5 innings, only allowing 2 hits compared to his 7 strikeouts. Michigan next travels to Greenville, South Carolina to take on Purdue, continuing their stretch of neutral site ball games. In one of the relatively weaker conferences in college baseball, the Wolverines would be more than happy to stay the pace they’ve set following weekend #1.
However, the biggest statement made by a Big 10 team this weekend has to have come from Indiana, who ended their weekend on a three game winning streak. Playing at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota, the Hoosiers went on a tear after dropping their first contest to Rutgers. The pitching was a highlight for Indiana, as they held their opponents to under an average of two runs a game. One particular player stood out this weekend, and his performance will be highlighted in due time, but for now, just know to buy in to this ball club. The 8 run explosion to put down Minnesota in the last game of the weekend could be a sign of things to come for the Hoosier 9.
With every contender comes a pretender, and this week, that comes from the Maryland Terrapins. The first three games of the weekend were brutal for the Terps, as they allowed 18 runs through only 27 innings. Maryland managed to bounce back in the final game of their 4 game series vs Michigan State in a 3-2 victory, but that was a small positive mark on a disappointing weekend for the projected #3 team in the Big 10. A true testament to their ability should come next week when they take on Rutgers, but for now, I have no choice but to put them as my pretender for the week.
Players of the Week
This weekend was defined by two players that elevated their teams above and beyond. On the mound, Indiana pitcher Tommy Sommer led the Hoosiers to a 5-2 victory in a game less close than the score lets on. In 8 innings, Sommer only gave up 2 hits, while striking out 10 batters. The dominating performance was highlighted in every potential aspect as Sommer also kept his walks down, only allowing 2 in the 24 batters he faced. Opposing hitters only averaged a measly .083 clip against him, painting him as a threat in the Big 10 arms race.
At the plate, Big 10 hitters were led by Penn State catcher Josh Spiegel. Spiegel had an impressive 15 at bats, in which he notched an even more impressive 8 hits and 3 home runs. Alongside Slugging with a percentage over 1, Spiegel leads the Big 10 with his 6 RBIs. Speigel will be tested heavily next week however, when he and his teammates take on Indiana in another 4 game stretch.
Lastly, we close things off with Power Rankings. Based on standings, potential, and team performance here are the Southern Slams Baseball Big 10 Power Rankings for the week of 3/7:
- Indiana (3-1)
- Michigan (3-1)
- Ohio State (3-1)
- Michigan State (3-1)
- Penn State (2-2)
- Northwestern (2-2)
- Nebraska (3-1)
- Iowa (1-3)
- Rutgers (2-2)
- Illinois (1-3)
- Maryland (1-3)
- Minnesota (1-3)
- Purdue (1-3)
Thanks for reading! Remember to keep tuned in to Southern Slams Baseball for all the Big 10 baseball news, updates and analysis you need. And as always: Stay Safe, Stay Well, and Be Kind to One Another.