The 2015 Big Ten Baseball tournament begins today at Target Field in Minneapolis. It may well be the final showing for the 2015 Nebraska baseball team.
Seasons have already ended for Minnesota, Northwestern, Rutgers, Penn State and Purdue as only the top eight teams make the tournament.
Tourney Seeds are as follows:
- Michigan State
- Ohio State
D1baseball.com projects Michigan State, Ohio State, Indiana, Maryland, Iowa and (obviously) Illinois to make the NCAA tournament. That there are six teams projected to the tourney - the Big Ten has often had difficulty getting two in - ought to give you an idea of how much the Big Ten has improved in baseball.
The Illini are a clear favorite. They've won 26 straight games, and haven't lost since March 29th when they suffered their only conference loss to Michigan State. They lead the conference in team batting (.301) and pitching (2.60 ERA) and are third in fielding (.975).
Four Illinois pitchers rank in the Big Ten's Top six ERA leaders. Reliever Tyler Jay leads the conference with a 0.67 ERA followed by Kevin Duchene (1.19) in second, Drasen Johnson (2.34) in fifth and Rob McDonnell (2.35) in sixth. Duchene, Drasen, McDonnell and John Kravitz (3.76 ERA) all have over 10 starts apiece.
Illinois will likely start Duchene against the Huskers. Duchene is 10-1 and earned First Team All Big Ten honors.
The Illini offense is lead by David Kerian, the Big Ten's Player of the Year. Kerian is currently on a 17-game hitting streak, leads the Illini in batting percentage (.383), slugging percentage (.661) and on base percentage (.467). Because that isn't quite enough, Kerian leads the Big Ten in home runs (13) as the Illini have hit 50 this season (21st in the NCAA). You needed reasons to feel better, right?
The Huskers were projected to battle Maryland for the conference title before the season began. Nebraska was ranked for most of April as they went on a 15-1 streak during a 16-game homestand. Then came the series loss to Ohio State, a sweep by Iowa, and another series loss at home to lowly Purdue. They lost two of three to Illinois, the third game being cancelled due to rain. The Huskers have lost 10 of their last 15.
Now the only way Nebraska can make the NCAA tournament is to win the conference title; a pretty hard fall for a team that was once considered to be a regional host.
Wednesday, May 20 - Game Schedule
Game 1: No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 6 Indiana at 10 a.m.*
Game 2: No. 2 Iowa vs. No. 7 Ohio State at 2 p.m.*
Game 3: No. 1 Illinois vs. No. 8 Nebraska at 6 p.m.>
Game 4: No. 4 Maryland vs. No. 5 Michigan State at 10 p.m.>
* BTN Plus
All times (Eastern) and dates subject to change