Big Ten Baseball Weekly Review: 2012 Week 13

My predictions from last Friday as to how the weekend would turn out were pretty close. Penn State and Indiana remain the surprise stories of the conference, although Purdue should remain in the spotlight as they clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title, their first since 1909.

Nebraska stepped on Minnesota's head, driving them into desperate territory and giving the Huskers a boost by sweeping them in Lincoln. Penn State swept Illinois at home and drove them from postseason consideration.

Things are taking shape for the Big Ten tournament. At this point, it's Purdue's conference. With Penn State and Indiana sitting at second and RPI's of 116 and 105, they're not exactly qualifiers for the NCAA tournament. Someone besides Purdue, Indiana or Penn State needs to win the tournament to get a second qualifier from the Big Ten into the NCAA tournament.


Big Ten

Overall

Team

Record

Pct.

Record

Pct.

1. Purdue

16-5

.762

39-10

.796

2. Penn State

13-8

.619

27-24

.529

Indiana

13-8

.619

26-26

.500

4. Michigan State

12-9

.571

33-17

.660

Nebraska

12-9

.571

32-19

.627

6. Ohio State

11-10

.524

30-22

.577

7. Minnesota

10-11

.476

28-25

.528

8. Illinois

9-12

.429

26-24

.520

9. Iowa

8-13

.381

20-26

.435

10. Michigan

7-14

.333

21-31

.404

11. Northwestern

6-18

.250

17-33

.340

Illinois

0-3

Penn State 3, Illinois 2

Penn State 8, Illinois 6

Penn State 3, Illinois 2

What a horrid week for Illinois. I thought they'd lose the series at Penn State, but I figured there was little probability of them being swept. Illinois was picked to finish sixth at the start of the season, but at this point, it's a safe bet that they won't be making the Big Ten tournament.

Illini pitcher Kevin Johnson threw a complete game (fourth of the season) on Friday, giving up seven hits, three runs (two earned), but Penn State's start Joe Kurrach and his relief gave up only three hits. Penn State committed five errors. How do you lose a game when the other team commits five errors? No base runners.

Saturday Illinois came up with 14 hits, but the Lions hit four home runs. Sunday -

Illinois scored a run at the top of the ninth, and had base runners at 1st and 2nd with only one out, but, again Penn State pitching shut them down.

With their final series at home against Minnesota, Illinois has a shot at postseason, but they'll probably need some help.

Indiana

Northwestern 4, Indiana 3

Indiana 5, Northwestern 2

Indiana 2, Northwestern 1

Indiana - still second in the conference with a series win at Northwestern.

Friday's loss came as Northwestern scored four runs in the first four innings and Joey DeNato was chased after only four innings. He may still be feeling the affects of getting pounded by Nebraska the previous series. Indiana tried to rally, scoring a run in the ninth, but couldn't drive in another base runner, the final out coming on a check-swing appeal from the first base ump. Tough way to lose a game.

Saturday, pitchers Kyle Hart and Johnny Hoffman combined to limit the Wildcats to seven hits and two runs. Hoffman's relief yielded 4.1 innings, two hits and no runs.

Sunday, pitcher Chad Martin went 8.1 innings, allowing only five hits and a run.

Indiana's final series comes against Ohio State at home, a series they should win, given their hot hand and the Buckeyes' problems winning on the road.

Iowa

Michigan State 6, Iowa 0

Iowa 2, Michigan State 1

Michigan State 7, Iowa 3

Iowa managed a win in the series at home with Michigan State, ensuring that they'll miss the Big Ten tournament this season. The lone win came when the Hawkeyes scored a run in each of the eighth and ninth innings while Sasha Kuebel threw seven innings, giving up six hits and a run. That winning run - a bases loaded walk.

Michigan

2-3

Coastal Carolina 6, Michigan 1

Michigan 5, Coastal Carolina 2

Purdue 4, Michigan 0

Purdue 14, Michigan 3

Michigan 4, Purdue 3

Hey, the Wolverines at least took a game from Purdue, which is more than I expected of them, although they did it because of a base running error by Purdue:

Michigan executed a weird double play to end the contest. The Wolverines held a 4-3 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth, but Purdue's David Miller was hit by a pitch and Andrew Dixon walked to open the inning. Stephen Talbott then moved both runners up on a sacrifice bunt. Tyler Spillner's pop up was corralled by Brosnahan, who dropped it on the transfer. Miller, thinking he dropped the pop up, went home and was tagged out at the plate ending the game.

Michigan finishes their season at home against Nebraska.

Michigan State

Michigan State 15, Western Michigan 7

Michigan State 7, Toledo 2

Michigan State 6, Iowa 0

Iowa 2, Michigan State 1

Michigan State 7, Iowa 3

In the Friday win at Iowa, Sparty starting pitcher Tony Bucciferro threw a complete game shutout, giving up just five hits.

The Saturday loss came on a two-out, bases loaded walk. Starter Andrew Waszak did hit job, throwing 7.1 innings, giving up three hits and one run, but his relief failed him when Tony Wieber walked the only two batters he faced, and then Bryce Jenney struck out one then walked another.

Sunday, David Garner threw seven scoreless innings, giving up only two hits. Reliever Trey Popp made it a little interesting, giving up four hits and three runs in the eighth in seven at-bits, but closer Bryce Jenney shut the Hawkeyes down for the series win.

Michigan State's final series comes against Penn State at home. The edge here has to go to the home team as the Spartans have a chance at getting to that #2 spot.

Minnesota

0-3

Nebraska 4, Minnesota 3

Nebraska 8, Minnesota 7

Nebraska 6, Minnesota 5

It is clear from this series that the last two seasons have been something close to hell for Minnesota. Last year, the Gophers played most of their games on the road due to the roof collapsing at the Metrodome. They tried to make up for it this year by playing nearly all their games at home. The lack of playing outside on the road was a factor in this series as the Gophers road record dropped to 2-9.

Nebraska jumped to early leads in all three games, but Minnesota battled back.

In Friday's game, the Huskers lead 4-1 as the Gophers tried to rally. TJ Oakes, the conference's best pitcher, went eight innings, giving up four earned runs while giving up 10 hits.

Saturday the Gophers erased a 7-1 Nebraska lead to tie it in the sixth. The normally reliable DJ Snelten was chased after only 3.2 innings, giving up all seven runs on eight hits. The winning run came off a home run bashed by Husker Pat Kelly, a Red Wing, Minnesota native.

Sunday, Nebraska jumped to a 6-2 lead, and again the Gophers came back but couldn't finish the deal. They pounded out 16 hits, but stranded 12.

Minnesota's final series is at Illinois. Given their problems on the road, it's doubtful that the Gophers win that series, so it's probable that Minnesota's season will end next week.

Nebraska

3-1

Creighton 8, Nebraska 1

Nebraska 4, Minnesota 3

Nebraska 8, Minnesota 7

Nebraska 6, Minnesota 5

Nebraska did what they needed to do to make sure they will make the Big Ten tournament, sweeping Minnesota in three one-run games. This came after a lousy showing against in-state rival Creighton, and after Darin Erstad refused to name starters for two of the weekend games.

The motivational ploy must have worked because Nebraska wasted little time in jumping on top of the Gophers in all three games (read above). Husker pitching was suspect, allowing the Gophers back in those games, but Nebraska finally showed some grind-it-out guts to win all three, putting themselves in position to grab the coveted #2 spot in the Big Ten tourney.

A big part of that grit came from Minnesota native and Nebraska freshman Pat Kelly, who won Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors for his performance, listed below.

Nebraska should win their final series at Michigan. Given that Indiana is at home against Ohio State, and Penn State

Northwestern

1-4

Chicago 6, Northwestern 3

Milwaukee 6, Northwestern 4

Northwestern 4, Indiana 3

Indiana 5, Northwestern 2

Indiana 2, Northwestern 1

Egad. Combine the previous week in which the Wildcats were swept by Ohio State along with a conference series loss and two losses against the University of Chicago and a Milwaukee teamed with a RPI of 232 and you've got team that's won one of it's last eight games.

That one win came courtesy of a eight-inning pitching performance from Brooke Francis in which he gave up six hits and only two runs.

Ohio State

Oklahoma State 4, Ohio State 2

Ohio State 4, Oklahoma State 0

Ohio State 4, Seattle 1

Seattle 11, Ohio State 1

Ohio State 7, Seattle 2

The Buckeyes played the lone non-conference series this weekend and won it at home against a Seattle University squad with a losing record (after the weekend) and a RPI of 198.

That's what makes the 11-1 loss so confounding. The Buckeyes scored their only run in the first inning, after which Seattle starter Brandon Kizer gave up only three hits over the next six innings. Seattle pounded out 17 hits,

The Buckeyes finish on the road at Indiana. The Hoosiers should win that series, given Ohio State's somewhat abysmal road record (7-12).

Penn State

Maryland 7, Penn State 3 (5 innings)

Penn State 3, Illinois 2

Penn State 8, Illinois 6

Penn State 3, Illinois 2

The Lions won the first game when senior Jordan Steranka hit a home run in the sixth inning and relievers Greg Walsh and Dave Walkling didn't allow a Illinois run the last 4.1 innings.

Steranka earned Big Ten Player of the Week for his performance in the series.

Penn State was a team that wasn't worth talking about at the beginning of the season. Yet, here they are, tied for second place after winning their fifth-straight conference series. Their RPI is 116, and their schedule strength is 124.

Purdue

Purdue 11, IPFW 4

Purdue 11, Illinois-Chicago 4

Purdue 4, Michigan 0

Purdue 14, Michigan 3

Michigan 4, Purdue 3

Purdue clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title this week, but with their last series at Iowa, you can go ahead and give it to them. It is a little disturbing that they could have won a title outright with a sweep, but couldn't finish the deal. We'll see what they do this next week and in postseason play.

Purdue isn't just a good team. They're a team that has potential to raise the bar nationally for the Big Ten, something the conference needs if it expects to get more teams in the NCAA tourney.

They've played a tough schedule (ranked 10th by Boyds World) and they're improving their facilities - taking away two of the complaints used by warm weather coaches as an excuse as to why baseball can't be changed to assist northern teams in competing. (More on this later.)

Michigan State, Nebraska, Penn State and Purdue Earn Weekly Baseball Awards

Player of the Week

Jordan Steranka, Penn State

1B - Sr. - Pittsburgh, Pa. - Mt. Lebanon

  • Hit .545, reached base at a .615 clip and slugged 1.364 to combine for a 1.979 OPS, leading Penn State to a series sweep against Illinois and into a tie for second in the conference standings
  • Belted two home runs and recorded three doubles in the series, including a solo shot in the sixth inning of Game 1, which proved to be the game winner
  • Moved into first place in the Penn State records book with 459 career total bases, is 10 base knocks shy of tying the school record for hits, and is two shy of Penn State's career mark in doubles
  • Earns his second award of the season and of his career
  • Last Penn State Player of the Week: Jordan Steranka (April 16, 2012)

Co-Pitchers of the Week

Tony Bucciferro, Michigan State

RHP - Sr. - Joliet, Ill. - Minooka Community

  • Tossed his fourth career complete-game shutout to lead Michigan State to a win over Iowa on Friday
  • Scattered five hits and no walks over nine innings while striking out nine batters, one shy of his career high
  • Became Michigan State's all-time leader in innings pitched with the performance
  • Earns his third career Pitcher of the Week honor and his second this season
  • Last Michigan State Pitcher of the Week: David Garner (April 30, 2012)

Joe Haase, Purdue

RHP - Sr. - Knightstown, Ind. - Knightstown

  • Threw his third career complete-game shutout in a series-opening win over Michigan, helping Purdue to its first Big Ten championship since 1909
  • Scattered four hits and did not walk a batter, tying his career high with seven strikeouts
  • Recorded five 1-2-3 innings and retired 17 of 18 batters in from the third through ninth frames
  • Earns his third career weekly honor and his second this season
  • Last Purdue Pitcher of the Week: Joe Haase (April 9, 2012)

Freshman of the Week

Pat Kelly, Nebraska

2B - Fr. - Red Wing, Minn. - Red Wing

  • Hit .500 and slugged 1.000 to lead Nebraska to a sweep over Minnesota, moving the Huskers from seventh in the Big Ten standings into a tie for fourth
  • Smacked a two-run homer in the fourth inning of the series opener, which proved to be the game-winner, before hitting a solo shot in the sixth inning on Saturday to break a 7-7 tie
  • Scored four runs and drove in four in the series, also stealing a base, while extending his hitting streak to 11 games
  • Earns his second Freshman of the Week honor
  • Last Nebraska Freshman of the Week: Pat Kelly (March 19, 2012)
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