Nothing like a young man dreaming his whole life of covering his favorite team in the press box at the “Capital of College Baseball” TD Ameritrade Park! What’s that? It’s Charles Schwab Field now? Oh no bother, I can adjust to that. I’ll still enjoy covering my beloved Huskers, who have never missed a Big Ten Tournament since joining the conference in 2012!
(Checks bracket) Oh... Oh no!
Well, either way the Big Ten Baseball Tournament is my favorite sporting event of the year, reminds me of what the College World Series used to be. Only the real baseball nerds show up. (Hey, I think I see Corn Nation baseball writer, Todd Wolverton over there!) I’m bringing Day 1 recap to you a day later than planned, as Wednesday had the threat of rain all morning (glances at Purdue), and actual rain all afternoon and evening. So lets see how the day went.
#3 Iowa - 2
#6 Penn State - 5
Iowa trotted out Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Adam Mazur in hopes of getting their tournament off on the right foot. He pitched well, but was let down in the top of the 3rd inning, by a ball getting stuck in the Third Baseman’s webbing of his glove. Instead of an inning ending double play, Penn St had the bases loaded. And as usually happens after something quirky like that, the next batter drove in 2 runs with a single to RF. Iowa scored a run of their own in the bottom of the inning to make the score 2-1 after 3.
The score would remain the same until the top of the 6th, when Penn St’s All Big Ten catcher Matt Wood smashed a 3 run home run to deep right field, it actually hit the exterior wall of the stadium. Thats a massive feat in this giant stadium. I’ve only seen 1 ball hit farther than that here in the 100 or so games I’ve attended, and that was a batting practice ball from Big Ben Miller. After Iowa tacked on another run, a familiar name in Huskerland, Travis Luensmann, came in to finish the game for the Nittany Lions and upset the #3 Hawkeyes.
#2 Rutgers - 10
#7 Purdue - 3
This one was all Rutgers from the start. A speedy 1-2-3 inning on defense, followed by a lead-off home run from All-Big Ten CF Ryan Lasko let Purdue know they would be in for a day. Purdue did actually hold a brief lead in the 2nd after a home run and 3 doubles in the inning, but Rutgers answered right back, with the help of a Purdue balk to put 2 runners in scoring position, a single drove in both runners to ties the game at 3-3 after 2 innings.
Good pitching and defense, including the Purdue RF losing his hat on 3 consecutive plays in which he had to run after a ball, kept the score there until the 7th. Then the carousel started to spin on the base paths for Rutgers. They used 4 walks, 2 singles, and a BAD fielders choice by the pitcher (threw to first instead of home plate to stop a run) to pile on 5 runs in the 7th. They would add 2 in the 8th to make the final score 10-3, as Purdue would take its bad juju to the losers bracket game Friday morning.
#1 Maryland - 6
#8 Indiana - 5
The battle of the most experienced and talented team against the youngest team in the field started about like you’d imagine. Maryland abused the outfield wall of The Schwab (we are going with that nickname, right?) as the number 6 offense in the entire country pounded 5 doubles in the first four innings. Not to be outdone, All-Big Ten Pitcher Jason Savacool retired 13 batters in a row going to the 6th with the score 4-0 Maryland. Thats when things changed. Indiana subbed in their closer Reese Sharp in the 4th and he went 5.1 innings of shutout ball.
The Hoosiers took started to get to Savacool, homering off him and scoring on a single and a balk before he left the game in the 6th. From there the teams remained scoreless until trading runs in the 10th. And it was finally in the bottom of the 11th that Maryland led off with a B1G Tournament record 9th double, they then tried to bunt him over, but the Indiana bunt coverage decided to just let everyone have a free base anyway. Following a hit batter, and strikeout, the Terps walked off the Hoosiers on the totally anticlimactic hit by pitch. The top seed survives.
#4 Illinois - 5
#5 Michigan - 7
The late game, emphasis on LATE, with the 10:53pm first pitch, started with a BANG! Or a BANG!-BANG! rather, with Michigan’s first two hitters launching home runs to deep right center. Illinois would tack on a run of their own in the 2nd, but Michigan would answer right back in the 3rd to take it back to 3-1. In the bottom of the 4th, the Illini’s Cam McDonald hit a single to add to his 63 game reached base streak. He would be driven in, along with the tying run on back to back doubles, to make it 3-3 after 4.
Michigan would again answer with their 3rd solo home run to right-center in the 5th. (This ballpark is fun when its cold and there is no wind blowing in like always happens in June.) Illinois just kept battling, doing seemingly all their damage with 2 outs on the day, tying the game at 4 going to the 7th. The hero of the night ended up being Michigan Linebacker/Left-Fielder (you read that right) Joey Velazquez. After missing some of the baseball season due to football spring practice, he had his best game of the spring, accumulating 3 hits and the go ahead RBI in the top of the 8th.
And with that day 1 of the tournament is over! And not a minute too soon at 2:16 am, a record for the latest game in the history of the park formerly known as TD Ameritrade. We will be back Friday at 9am for the greatest losers bracket game of all time in Purdue-Iowa. Feel free to watch along and comment here.