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Big Ten Baseball Weekend Preview

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Here’s what’s happening this weekend around Big Ten baseball!

Michigan managed to remain ranked in two of the four college baseball polls, having dropped out of Baseball America and just missed the cut on the USA Today Coaches Poll.

Michigan leads the Big Ten in RPI at 30, followed by Indiana at 36, then Michigan State at 38.

I don’t think it will take long before you see a definite separation between the top and bottom of the conference. It will be a matter of who the last teams are that make the Big Ten tournament, something that seems to be a measuring stick for a conference that has traditionally/historically struggled to get more than one or two teams in the NCAA tournament - a pretty low bar to hit, honestly.

This Week’s Series:

Maryland @ Rutgers

The Terps won their series with Michigan last weekend, then get a not great Rutgers team this weekend. If they happen to sweep, they’ll start the season 5-1 in conference. NOT SO FAST... Rutgers does have a losing record, but according to Boydsworld, they’ve played the 15th toughest schedule in the nation, and their RPI is at 54, so don’t be so quick to be making fun of Rutgers.

Check these out:

• This weekend will mark Maryland’s first trip to Rutgers since 1951.

• The all-time series is knotted at 9-9-1 since 1936.

OMG, the drama!

I was going to try to tell you who might be the conference leaders for Rutgers, but the stupid ass Bigten.org site keeps linking to 2016 baseball statistics apparently because nobody in the wealthiest conference in the nation gives a flying shit about hardball. After several days worth of clicking around, I finally find a link... which may or may not be correct.

Unfortunately, Rutgers is second to last in the conference in team pitching (6.78 ERA) and dead last in team fielding (.954). They have committed 41 errors (!!!). (Nebraska has committed 16 errors, and I’m guessing that Darin Erstad has given 5 miles of laps for every one of them.)

On the Maryland side:

The Terps have won 14 of their last 17 games after starting the season 1-5. Of Maryland’s eight losses, seven have come against ranked teams, and six losses have come against teams currently ranked in the top-10.

Right-hander Brian Shaffer leads the Big Ten in strikeouts (48) and ERA (1.77). Brandon Gum ranks second in the Big Ten on on-base percentage, reaching base at a .479 clip.

On second thought, maybe you should just go back to making fun of Rutgers.

Minnesota @ Michigan State

WOoohooo... a series between the undefeated leaders of the conference! You realize whomever wins this series will be 5-1 (I am really doubting a sweep by either team) and in very good shape to start the conference season.

Michigan State is first in conference in team batting (.303) and second in team pitching (3.34 ERA), but 11th in defense (.965). Minnesota is third at (.284), fourth in ERA (4.11) and fourth in fielding (.977). Should be a very interesting series.

How’s this for a Friday pitching matchup - MSU is slated to start sophomore lefty Alex Troop on Friday. Troop has a 3-1 record with a 2.23 ERA, and he’s slated to face junior left-hander Lucas Gilbreath of Minnesota, who has a 2-0 mark with a 2.73 ERA

Penn State @ Michigan

This is probably not that interesting of a series. Penn State is (once again) not very good, while Michigan is wincing from that series loss at Maryland last week. If the Wolverines can pull off the sweep, they’ll be in fine shape moving forward.

Penn State’s RPI is at 172.

Purdue @ Ohio State

This is more interesting than one might think. You’ve got Ohio State, that seems to be flailing around against a Purdue team with a new coach that seems to have found new life. Were the Buckeyes to lose this series, they’d be at 0-6 or 1-5 in conference to start the season and that is no place for an Ohio State baseball team to be.

The Buckeyes are second to last in conference in team batting (.240), ninth in team pitching (5.15 ERA), and second to last in fielding (.960). That’s... wow. Shocking, actually. You realize the Buckeyes won last year’s Big Ten tournament, right? Purdue is fifth in batting (.272), 10th in pitching (5.44 ERA), and eighth in fielding (.966).

Nebraska @ Indiana

Between Crimson Quarry (Indiana) and ourselves there is a lot of coverage on this series that you should read.

Nebraska Baseball: Q&A With Indiana’s Crimson Quarry

Nebraska Baseball: Indiana Series Preview

Crimson Query: Corn Nation talks all things Nebraska Baseball

Indiana State @ Illinois

Illinois is not very good at baseball this season. They are last in the conference in team ERA at 6.94. They come into the weekend with a 6-16 record and a RPI of 228. Indiana State, OTOH, has a winning 12-9 record and a RPI of 146, and they just beat Indiana midweek. This doesn’t sound good for Illinois.

From their notes, Illinois is a young team:

170 1/3 of Illinois' 192 innings pitched have been by freshmen or sophomores (88.7%). • 148 of Illinois' 202 hits have been by freshmen or sophomores (73.3%). Freshmen have 38 hits, all by Massey and Troike. Illinois is 0-14 when scoring six or fewer runs. The Illini are 2-7 in games decided by two or fewer runs.

On a bright note, here are Illinois’ promotions for the weekend:

Friday // Super Hero Night

Fans are encouraged to wear super hero costumes and gear for a theme day at the park that will include super hero festivities and music. Fans that come dressed in super hero attire will receive Fighting Illini sunglasses! A mask-making station will be available located at Fighting Illini Fan HQ, directly behind the press box.

Saturday // Kids Club Day

Members of the Fighting Illini Kids Club are invited to join Illinois baseball for a behind-the-scenes tour of the press box and the team's clubhouse. To pre-register your child for the event, click here. The Fighting Illini Kids Club will also be hosting an information table and distributing free snow cones to all fans.

Sunday // Bark in the Park

Fans are encouraged to bring their dogs to the ballpark for an afternoon of Illinois baseball. Gates open at 12 p.m., and first pitch is slated for 1 p.m.

SUPER HERO NIGHT!!!!! What/who you going as?

UNLV @ Iowa

Check this out, from Iowa’s game notes:

Hawkeyes lead the Big Ten in runs (Mason McCoy, 26), RBIs (Jake Adams, 31), home runs (Jake Adams, 9), doubles (Mason McCoy, 9), slugging percentage (Jake Adams, .678), and total bases (Jake Adams, 61). Sophomore Robert Neustrom is also second in the B1G in RBIs (28) and hits (36), and third in batting average (.379).

Not too shabby. UNLV comes in on an eight-game losing streak with an overall record of 10-17 and a RPI of 198.

Here are Iowa’s game promotions for this weekend:

On Friday, the first 250 fans will receive a free jersey rally towel.

• On Saturday, it is "Have a Catch" Saturday, and the first 300 fans will received a free Hawkeye lanyard. Adults and children can play catch in the outfield for 30 minutes at the conclusion of the game.

• The finale is "Sunday Runday" where children can run the bases at the conclusion of the game. The first 250 fans will receive a free Hawkeye pennant.

RALLY TOWEL? HOW CAN YOU NOT GET TO DUANE BANKS FIELD?

Air Force @ Northwestern

Northwestern, a team with a RPI of 288, against another team with a losing record and a RPI of 231. Hey, maybe it’ll be a pretty good series. The Wildcats did just beat another losing team - Chicago State - with an RPI of 279, so maybe Northwestern will pick up some wins against Air Force. Isn’t that exciting?