Big Ten Baseball 2010 Preview

February 4, 2010
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Ohio State Looks To Continue 2009 Success

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2009 Regular Season Champion:  Ohio State

2009 Tournament Champion:  Indiana beat Minnesota 13-2 in the title game.

For the second time in three years three Big Ten teams made it to the NCAA Tournament in 2009.  Indiana’s bid was just the second in program history, Ohio State for its 19th overall and sixth trip in the last nine years while Minnesota made it for a Big Ten record 29th time.

2010 Big Ten Baseball Preview

Illinois

2009 Record:  (34-20, 16-8)

Mascot:  Fighting Illini

Head Coach:  Dan Hartleb

Location:  Champaign, IL

Willie Argo (Illinois photo)

Vitals:  .316 BA, 42 HR, .394 OBP, .970 Fld%…5.32 ERA, 2 CG, 11 SV, 297 K, 201 BB, .298 opp BA

Thunder Sticks:  Illinois returns seven of its top nine hitters from a 2009 team that came-up just short of an NCAA Regional bid.  Senior catcher Aaron Johnson (.333, 10 HR, 52 RBIs) and sophomore OF Willie Argo (.355, 12 HR, 47 RBIs, 1.072 OPS) provide the biggest pop among the returnees who combined for 34 of the team’s 42 home runs last year.  Junior Pete Cappetta’s .382 average also ranked sixth among Big 10 batters in ’09

Big SplashArgo homered in his first three collegiate at-bats in a March 7 loss at LSU last year.  The Illini shocked the eventual national champions by winning the other two series games in Baton Rouge.

Solid Arms:  Sophomores Bryan Roberts (5-4, 6.72 ERA) and Will Strack (6-1, 3.84 ERA) are Illinois’ top returning starters from a year ago.  Strack made 9 starts and picked-up a pair of saves as well with six relief outings.  Three other pitchers who combined for six saves and six wins return as well.

South Carolina Swing:  While Illinois doesn’t play the likes of LSU this year they start their spring trip on March 5 in Greenville, SC vs. 2009 Super Regional team East Carolina.  The Illini also plays two games vs. Big South Conference preseason favorite Coastal Carolina in Conway, SC

Indiana

2009 Record:  (32-27, 16-7)

Mascot:  Hoosiers

Head Coach:  Tracy Smith

Location:  Bloomington, IN

Vitals:  .321 BA, 62 HR, .402 OBP, .960 Fld%…5.15 ERA, 7 CG, 10 SV, 439 K, 216 BB, .284 opp. BA

Arnett-less:  The Hoosiers lose staff ace Eric Arnett (12-2, 2.50 ERA) who tied the IU record for wins and set a new program mark with 109 Ks, which ranked second in the Big 10.  He was named co-Big 10 Pitcher of the Year with Ohio State’s Alex Wimmers.  Arnett, who also pitched six of the staff’s seven complete games last year,  is the first Indiana pitcher to earn conference pitcher of the year honors and to be named All-American.  He was a first round pick by Milwaukee in last year’s MLB Draft.

Hoosier HolesArnett is among eight Hoosier players who signed professional contracts after their 2009 Big Ten

Alex Dickerson (IU photo)

Tournament Championship seson.  Leading hitter Kipp Schutz (.392) and slugging catcher Josh Phegley (.344, 17 HR, 66 RBIs) are the top offensive losses.

Young SluggerFreshman All-American outfielder Alex Dickerson (.370, 14 HR, 57 RBIs, 1.044 OPS) heads a list of four returning starters who hit .314 or better last season.

On The Mound:  Senior reliever Chris Squires (2-2, 3.93 ERA, 8 SV) and weekend starter Blake Monar (5-3, 4.64 ERA) are the top returning IU pitchers.  Freshman Casey Smith and redshirt sophomore Matt Ernest are two newcomers to the Hoosier staff in 2010.  Smith is head coach Tracy Smith’s son, while Ernest has played wide receiver for the IU football team for the last two seasons.  He had seven catches for 69 yards and a TD in 2009.

Iowa

2009 Record:  (16-36, 4-19)

Mascot:  Hawkeyes

Head Coach:  Jack Dahm

Location:  Iowa City, IA

Vitals:  .293 BA, 40 HR, .380 OBP, .951 Fld%…6.25 ERA, 0 CG, 7 SV, 330 K, 230 BB, .312 opp. BA

Line-Up Losses: The Hawkeyes return six of their top nine batters from a year ago, but they lose both Justin Toole (.346, 15 SB) and Wes Freie (.289, 9 HR, 44 RBIs).

Key ReturnsAll-Big Ten outfielder Ryan Durant (.370) is back to lead the offense.  He’s joined by Mike McQuillan (.363), team stolen base leader Kurtis Muller (19) and Sean Flanagan (.310), who played in 27 games and started just 18, but still managed 6 home runs.  Flanagan had a .696 slg % in Big Ten games.

Young Arms:  No Iowa pitcher made more than nine starts last year, but the three who each started nine games all return.  Sophomores Phil Schreiber (2-2, 4.57 ERA), Jarred Hippen (3-4, 4.87 ERA) and Nick Brown (2-4, 6.35 ERA) combined to win seven of Iowa’s 13 wins in 2009.

Big 12 Bound:  Iowa plays eight straight games vs. a pair of Big 12 teams that made the NCAA Tournament in early March.  The Hawkeyes start a four-game series at Kansas on March 5, and then head to Austin, TX to start another four-game set vs. 2009 College World Series runner-up Texas.  Each series includes a day two doubleheader.  They host another Big 12 team, Nebraska, on April 27.

Michigan

2009 Record:  (30-25, 9-15)

Mascot:  Wolverines

Head Coach:  Rich Maloney

Location:  Ann Arbor, MI

Vitals:  .294 BA, 55 HR, .387 OBP, .968 Fld%…4.82 ERA, 3 CG, 12 SV, 421 K, 205 BB, .293 BB

Out Of The Blue:  Michigan has been one of the most successful teams from the north over the last seven years, but

Ryan LaMarre (Daily Michigan photo)

2009 broke that recent trend.  After winning three straight Big Ten titles from 2006-2008 Michigan didn’t even qualify for the league’s postseason tournament last year.

Dominant Duo:  Preseason All-American OF Ryan LaMarre (.344, 12 HR, 62 RBIs) and 2009 All-Big Ten first baseman Mike Dufek (.304, 17 HR, 59 RBIs, 19 doubles) head the list of seven returning Wolverines who started at least 30 games last year.  Dufek was also 1-1 on the mound with a 2.70 ERA and three saves.

Plethora Of Pitching:  The Wolverines return 11 of their 14 pitchers who saw action last year, although staff ace Chris Fetter (7-3, 3.26 ERA) is the top loss.  Fetter had all three of the pitching staff’s complete games last year, and he struckout 103 in 94 IP.  Senior LHP Eric Katzman (7-4, 3.53 ERA) returns to lead the rotation, while Matt Miller (3.70 ERA, 3 SV) and Tyler Burgoon (4-2, 4.84 ERA, 4 SV) join Dufek in the bullpen.

Carolina Challenge:  Michigan plays a 3-game series at North Carolina, which has made four straight College World Series Appearances, March 5-7.  The Wolverines also play two games vs. Coastal Carolina in Myrtle Beach March 13 & 14.

Michigan State

2009 Record:  (23-31, 13-11)

Mascot:  Spartans

Head Coach:  Jake Boss, Jr.

Location:  East Lansing, MI

Vitals:  .284 BA, 30 HR, .366 OBP, .966 Fld%…5.19 ERA, 2 CG, 7 SV, 302 K, 244 BB, .294 opp. BA

Who’s The Boss:  Second year Michigan State head coach Jake Boss, Jr.’s dad, Jake Boss, Sr., is the Spartans’ volunteer assistant coach.  The elder boss has 29 years of head coaching experience was inducted into the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1994.  He has also served as a Major League scout for the Toronto Blue Jays and L.A. Dodgers.

Sparty’s Charges:  The Spartans return the bulk of their starting position players, although they do lose their top overall hitter Eric Roof (.345, 6 HR, 41 RBIs), who led the team in nearly every offensive category.  Outfielder Eli Boike (.310, 36 RBIs, 12 SB), who led MSU with 8 home runs heads the list of returnees.  Jeff Holm (16), Jonathon Roof (11) and Brandon Eckerle (13) combined with Boike to help the Spartans steal 71 bases last year.

Two For One:  Two of three weekend starters, Soph. Tony Bucciferro (5-2, 3.55 ERA) and Jr.  A.J. Achter (3-6, 3.76 ERA), return to spearhead the pitching staff.  They do lose Nolan Moody (6-5, 4.53 ERA), who led the staff with his six wins and tossed the team’s only two complete games.

Minnesota

2009 Record:  (40-19, 17-6)

Mascot:  Golden Gophers

Head Coach:  John Anderson

Location:  Minneapolis, MN

Vitals:  .314 BA, 55 HR, .391 OBP, .971 Fld%…4.85 ERA, 1 CG, 18 SV, 392 K, 192 BB, .285 opp. BA

Slow And Steady:  Minnesota didn’t make a big early splash like Illinois, but the Gophers had just a pair of two-game losing streaks and one three-game skid during the regular season en-route to 40 wins in 2009.  Minnesota has won at least 40 games and gone to an NCAA Regional in two of the last three seasons.

Minnesota Milestone:  Head coach John Anderson got his 1,000th career win last May with a 7-6 win at Penn State.  Anderson is the 20th head coach to win 1,000 games with the same team and the first Big Ten coach to

Scott Matyas

accomplish the feat.

Iron Men:  Senior Michael Kvasnicka (.341, 10 HR, 65 RBIs) leads trio of returning Minnesota players who started all 59 games last year.  Redshirt Soph. Nick O’Shea (.287, 11 HR, 44 RBIs) started every game last year as well, while A.J. Petterson (.353) started all but one game.  The Golden Gophers do lose Derek McCallum (.409, 18 HR, 86 RBIs), who also started every game last year and then was taken by the Minnesota Twins in the fourth round of last year’s MLB Draft.

Golden Arm:   Closer Scott Matyas (0-1, 2.22 ERA, 15 SV) is back to lead the pitching staff.  The junior finished second in the Big Ten with his 15 saves last year to Ohio State’s Jake Hale.  He struckout 45 of the 104 batters he faced in 28 1/3 innings last year.  Matyas was drafted by the Yankees last year in the 29th round, but he opted to return for his jurnio season (he redshirted in 2007). Fellow junior Seth Rosin (7-1, 4.21 ERA) is the lone returning weekend starter.

Northwestern

2009 Record:  (14-35-1, 5-17)

Mascot:  Wildcats

Head Coach:  Paul Stevens

Location:  Evanston, IL

Vitals:  .264 BA, 35 HR, .333 OBP, .964 Fld%…6.39 ERA, 6 CG, 4 SV, 274 K, 182 BB, .318 opp. BA

Big League Digs:  The Wildcats will play a doubleheader vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee in Milwaukee’s Miller Park on April 28.  The twin bill will be played after the Milwaukee Brewers play the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 12:10 pm game.

Wildcat Workhorses:  Northwestern returns it entire weekend pitching rotation from 2009.  Senior LHP Joe Muraski (3-5, 5.31 ERA) led the staff with 65 Ks in 81 1/3 IP, while posting a team-best .276 opponent batting average, junior LHP Eric Jokisch (4-7, 5.48 ERA) pitched five of the staff’s six complete games en-route to a team-leading 88 2/3 IP and sophomore RHP Eric Morton (2-7, 5.65 ERA) was the only other Wildcat to pitch more than 57 innings in ’09.    Relievers Michael Jahns (1-1, 3.56 ERA) and Francis Brooke (2-2, 3.68 ERA) are back as well.

Long Ball Loss:  The Wildcats return most of their line-up from 2009, but they lose home run and RBI leader Tony Vercelli (.258, 11 HR, 40 RBIs).  Paul Snieder (.244, 6 HR, 25 RBIs) is the team’s top returning home run hitter, Kenneth Avila (.293) hit for the best average last year, while Chris Lashmet (.296, 5 HR, 30 RBIs) returns as well.

No Home Cookin’:  For the second straight year Northwestern will play just 15 home games.

Ohio State

2009 Record:  (42-19, 18-6)

Mascot:  Buckeyes

Head Coach:  Bob Todd

Location:  Columbus, OH

Vitals:  .328 BA, 66 HR, .400 BA, .963 Fld%…6.39 ERA, 5 CG, 21 SV, 462 K, 265 BB, .300 opp. BA

Dan Burkhart (left) & Alex Wimmers

Dynamic Duo:  Reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Dan Burkhart (.354, 10 HR, 62 RBIs) and co-Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Alex Wimmers (9-2, 3.27 ERA) return to spearhead the Buckeyes in 2010.  The juniors were not only high school teammates at Cincinnati’s Archbishop Moeller high school, but also teammates back to their Little League days.  Burkhart started 57 of OSU’s 61 games last year, while serving as the battery mate for Wimmers’ May 2, 2009 no-hitter in a 6-0 win over arch-rival Michigan.

Buckeyes Back:  Including Burkhart OSU returns 8 of its top 10 hitters from last year’s NCAA Regional team.  Among them are outfielder Michael Stephens (.346, 14 HR, 63 RBIs), team batting leader Ryan Dew (.388), Zach Hurley (.346, 14 SB), Cory Kovanda (.341), and Matt Streng (.308, 8 HR).  Starting pitchers Eric Best (7-4, 5.95 ERA) and and Dean Wolosiansky (11-2, 6.04 ERA) are back as well.

There’s A Hole In The Pen:  The biggest hole to fill for the Buckeyes in 2010 will be the one left by closer Jake Hale (0-1, 1.31 ERA, 18 SV).  The All-American led the Big Ten and ranked second in the nation last year with his 18 saves.

Bad Aftertaste:  Despite the thrill of a trip to the Tallahassee NCAA Regional last year, Ohio State ended the season on a sour note with a 37-4 loss to host Florida State.  The Seminoles set NCAA Tournament records for runs, hits (38), total bases (66), and doubles (15) against a team that was playing its fourth game in three days.  33 of the FSU runs were earned.  Without those runs the OSU staff ERA would drop nearly half a run to 5.93.

Big East Challenge, Part II:  In addition to its games vs. Notre Dame, USF and Cincinnati at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge Ohio State has five more match-ups with Big East teams during the regular season.  The Buckeyes play UConn on March 14 in Knoxville, TN,  USF again in Winter Haven on March 24, two games vs. Louisville in Columbus May 4 & 5, and then welcome Pittsburgh to town for a May 18 contest.

Penn State

2009 Record:  (25-26, 8-16)

Mascot:  Nittany Lions

Head Coach:  Robbie Wine

Location:  State College, PA

Vitals:  .294 BA, 29 HR, .371 OBP, .964 Fld%…5.78 ERA, 1 CG, 10 SV, 339 K, 219 BB, .300 opp. BA

Staying & Going:  Penn State returns its top two hitters, but loses two of its top run producers from last year’s team.  sophomore Jordan Sternaka led the Nittany Lions in batting average (.365), home runs (6), RBIs (42), slg% (.536), and triples (3) as a true freshman.  He also tied fellow returnee Blake Lynd (.356) for the team lead with 39 runs scored.  PSU does lose coach’s son Cory Wine (.307, 5 HR, 41 RBIs) and Mike Deese (.301, 5 HR, 40 RBIs).

PSU Pitching:  The pitching staff loses its top three starters from 2009, but three top relievers return.  Sophomore Ryan Ignas (5-1, 5.31 ERA, 5 SV) led the staff in wins and saves last year, Sr. LHP David Lutz (4-2, 3.38 ERA, 3 SV) had the staff’s best ERA and Jr. Jesse Alfreno’s (1-0, 4.44 ERA, SV) 20 appearances were the team’s third-most behind Lutz (26) and Ignas (22).  Alfreno is also a cornerback on the Penn State football team.

Texas Two Step:  Penn State plays five straight games against 2009 NCAA Tournament teams in March with two games vs. Texas A&M in College Station, TX followed by a 3-game set vs. Texas State in San Marcos.

Purdue

2009 Record:  (25-26, 11-12)

Mascot:  Boilermakers

Head Coach:  Doug Schreiber

Location:  West Lafayette, IN

Vitals:  .316 BA, 40 RBIs, .405 OBP, .954 Fld%…5.96 ERA, 4 CG, 10 SV, 341 K, 199 BB, .301 opp. BA

Big Boiler Losses:  Purdue loses three vital cogs from last year’s team.  Brandon Haveman (.422, 20 doubles), John Cummins (.400) and slugger Dan Black (.310, 15 HR, 51 RBIs) are all gone.  Black’s 62 walks were second in the nation in 2009.

Top Returners:  Sophomore infielder Eric Charles (.371, 45 Runs) is the Boilermakers top returning hitter.  He’s joined in the line-up by David Blount (.322) and Drew Madia (.290, 6 HR, 32 RBIs), whose home run and RBI totals were both second to Black last year.

Plenty Of Pitching:  All three weekend starters, seniors Matt Bischoff (4-5, 5.54 ERA) & Matt Jansen (4-6, 6.62 ERA) and junior Matt Morgan (6-5, 4.75 ERA), are back for the Boilermakers this year.  Bischoff has received All-Big Ten recognition in each of his first three seasons.  Saves leader Kevin Cahill (3-2, 6.40 ERA, 6 SV) is back in the bullpen along with Drew Wurdack (4-1, 5.45 ERA, 2 SV)

Home Grown:  23 players on Purdue’s official web site roster are from the state of Indiana.

2010 Big Ten Conference Predictions

Player of the Year:  Ryan LaMarre – Michigan

Pitcher of the Year:  Alex Wimmers – Ohio State

Conference Champion:  Ohio State – The Buckeyes should win a close race with Minnesota on its heels.

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