A look forward at the best conference and non-conference baseball match-ups across the Big Ten.
The Nebraska Cornhusker baseball team begins practice under second-year head coach Darin Erstad with a renewed expectation to win the conference. While schools like Indiana, Michigan State and Purdue will want to get in the Huskers way of a rapidly strengthening Big Ten, the Huskers should be considered a legitimate contender thanks to a huge commitment to the program, the best recruiting classes in the league, and a strong up-and-coming coaching staff.
Opening Weekend February 15- 17th:
Nebraska travels to Southern California and plays four games, one at Cal-State Bakersfield, a double-header at Cal State Fullerton and a finale at USC. Husker fans will quickly find out how good the Huskers are in 2013.
Minnesota will also be in Southern California playing a three-game series at perennial contender UCLA
While Michigan isn't expected to do much this year, it does start with a three-game series at California.
February 22nd- 24th:
Nebraska escapes the kettle of its Southern California trip and falls right into the fire in Austin to face their former Big XII rival and powerhouse Texas in a three-game series. Meanwhile, Purdue heads to the Diamond Classic at Dudy Noble Field in Starkville where they play two games against defending Southern Conference Champion Samford, and two games against pre-season Top 5 Mississippi State. The Boilers spend the following weekend playing Samford in Birmingham in a three-game series.
Probably the hardest match-up of the year for the Big Ten, as Michigan plays one game against the New York Mets in an exhibition game at their spring training facility in Port St. Lucie, Florida
Michigan State plays three games against Ohio Valley Conference champion Austin Peay while Northwestern plays a three-game series against SEC opponent. Missouri in Columbia.
Indiana travels to Myrtle Beach to play games against West Virginia, Coastal Carolina and UMBC. Meanwhile, Nebraska opens its home season with a five-game homestand vs New Mexico and Northern Colorado.
Nebraska continues to play Darin Erstad's new tough road schedule, traveling to Ruston, LA to play against Louisiana Tech. ButIndiana has an even tougher road trip as they travel to Gainesville to play the always dangerous Florida Gators.
Michigan State also faces the SEC, heading to Lexington to play Kentucky, while Illinois gets a strong non-conference road-trip as well, facing the Baylor Bears in Waco.
March 15th-20th :
While most Big Ten teams will spend downtime against lesser opponents prior to conference play opening, the Huskers head on a five day spring-break road trip to face UC-Irvine in a three-game series, before facing Cal State Fullerton for a third and fourth time on the season in mid-week tilts.
BIG TEN CONFERENCE PLAY BEGINS:
The opening weekend of Big Ten play should be exciting with two of the expected five teams facing off. Nebraska will travel to Champaign to face Illinois. Defending champion Purdue hosts Ohio State in West Lafayette. In non-conference play, Minnesota heads to Austin to play Texas in a three-game series.
Michigan State travels to Columbus to play Ohio State in what will be a critical series for both team's post-season hopes. The rest of the weekend features bottom half teams playing each other, or mis-matches. Nebraska fans will be particularly interested to see if the Huskers can redeem themselves for an embarrassing 2012 performance in Evansville when they play Northwestern at Haymarket Park.
The conference race revolves around Indiana hosting Illinois in what should be an exciting series and the beginning of a key stretch for the Illini. The cross-state rivalry of Michigan and Michigan State gives the Wolverines an opportunity to spoil the Spartan's season, while Nebraska travels to Iowa City to play Iowa, a location they traditionally have struggled in. The Huskers host Creighton in game one of their traditional three-game midweek series following the weekend.
April 12th- 17th
Nebraska hosts Ohio State in a key series for both schools, and in Nebraska's last major homestand of the season. The Huskers follow the Buckeyes with two games against former Nebraska head coach Dave Van Horn's Arkansas Razorbacks. Indiana travels to Michigan State in another big game for conference standings. Purdue travels to Illinois.
April 19th- 21st
The Ohio State Buckeyes host Illinois at the end of a run that's pretty critical for the Illinois. A couple of scrappy and dangerous underdogs host league favorites, as Nebraska travels to Purdue and Michigan State travels to Minnesota.
For all the Husker fans who've wanted to start the Nebraska ace against Creighton's typical ace-for-two-innings and Johnny Wholestaff strategy, this year they'll get to see it happen. Nebraska heads to the TD Ameritrade Classic, playing a Friday night tilt against Creighton, before a double-header with Oklahoma State and a Sunday finale against Big-Ten-member-to-be Rutgers. Purdue travels to East Lansing to take on Michigan State. Meanwhile, Penn State travels to Ohio State.
After finishing finals, the Huskers play in perhaps the most key series of the entire season in the Big Ten, hosting the Indiana Hoosiers at Hawks Field in a Saturday-Monday series. The Spartans also face a major series when they host Illinois. Purdue heads to Ann Arbor to play Michigan.
The Ohio State Buckeyes take a challenging week off, with two midweek games against Georgia Tech, followed by a three-game series at home against the Oregon Ducks. Nebraska travels to Minnesota, while Illinois hosts Penn State. Northwestern concludes its Big Ten Conference season at Indiana.
The final weekend of the regular is a little disappointing, but Indiana traveling to Ohio State figures to be an excellent series with potential conference title implications. Nebraska gets to stay home and host senior day against the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan State travels to University Park to play Penn State, while Illinois travels to Minnesota and Iowa travels to Purdue. Northwestern closes with a series at Wichita State.
The Big Ten tournament takes place this year in Minneapolis, Minnesota at Target Field, the first time the tournament will be held at a Major League Baseball facility. For those who really like to plan ahead, the 2014 Big Ten Tourney will take place at TD Ameritrade in Omaha, Nebraska.
May 31st-June 3rd:
NCAA Regionals at 16 campus sites.
June 7th - 10th:
NCAA Super Regionals at 8 campus sites.
College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.