Alright, the 2023 Big Ten conference baseball season is 3 weeks old. Teams have played either 3 series or 2 series with a bye that was filled in some other manner (Thanks to Wisconsin absolutely refusing to field a baseball team). It has produced a few early surprises in the standings (see Northwestern, Iowa) and some teams (Indiana, Michigan State) have kept their early season success going.
Now we can take a first look at the standings and see how teams got there, and where we can expect to see them trend in the next few weeks. We will keep an eye on there with updates every couple weeks to start out, then every week as we get closer to the conference tournament to see what teams are going to make it to Omaha at the end of May.
So lets get to it!
Big Ten Standings
Record: 22-10 overall (7-2 in conference)
The Hoosiers just continue to impress. Despite being picked sixth in the conference, the team with a loaded sophomore class is ascending earlier than expected. They beat up on the 2 teams at the bottom of the standings in Ohio State and Penn State in the first 2 series, but proved they belong by beating Iowa 2-1 in their series last week. They should remain up here, as they have a relatively easy schedule outside of the Maryland series, whom they do get at home
#2 Michigan State
Record: 18-10 (6-3)
The team no one in the preseason, including Spartan fans most of all, thought would be in the position they are, have won all 3 series in the conference. They took down Purdue, then really turned heads by winning the first 2 games at Rutgers. Now they are fresh off a series win against Ohio State. The Spartans get a week off in conference, then the competition starts to ramp up towards the end of the season. It will be interesting to see if they can hang on.
Record: 17-14 (6-3)
A sweep of the falling Penn State, followed by a win at Illinois set up a big series hosting Nebraska. Despite coming to play and making it tough the first two games, the team that struggles most on Sundays has to get that part of its pitching rotation shored up if it wants to ensure itself a spot in the conference tournament. Their biggest bat in catcher Jimmy Obertop has yet to play a game. Can he get back soon enough to help them?
Record: 19-12 (4-2)
A tough non-conference slate has prepared the Terrapins for Big Ten play. The preseason favorites have taken down both schools predicted to finish second and third behind them in the rankings (Iowa and Rutgers) in their first two series. They get a little reprieve in Ohio State and Purdue before taking on Indiana and Nebraska in back to back weeks. The Terps should be either the 1 or 2 seed in Omaha when all is said and done.
Record: 18-10-1 (4-2)
The Huskers have preformed about as expected and won series over Illinois and on the road at Michigan. Over the next 4 weeks, they play the top 2 preseason teams (Maryland and Iowa) on the road, and the 2 teams most picked to finish at the bottom of the league (Northwestern and Minnesota) in Lincoln. Nebraska really need to nail down 5 or 6 of the games at home, and hopefully grab a series on the road to keep their RPI up.
Record: 14-16 (5-4)
Purdue is where it is by playing the two worst teams in the B1G, in Minnesota and Northwestern. They did steal a game at Michigan State to open conference play. They get one more series against Penn State this week that they need to win to get a shot at Omaha, because after that, the difficulty increases and stays that way through the end of the season.
Record: 8-22 (3-3)
After continuing their struggles of recent years in the non-conference games, Minnesota was able to scratch out a series victory to lead off the conference season at Ohio State. They then won a game hosting Purdue, and are sitting at .500. Their fall should start this week though, as they host Iowa and face the top teams in the conference the rest of the way.
Record: 5-21 (3-3)
Here is the surprise of the entire standings. Not only has Northwestern surprisingly won a game in the conference, but they actually won their series at Illinois. Expect them to drop in a hurry, as they play the current top 4 teams in the conference and 2 of the predicted top 3 in the preseason.
Record: 13-15 (3-6)
Illinois started out their conference slate in a somewhat disappointing fashion, losing series to Nebraska and Michigan, teams they were thought to be on par with, but the real stunner was their not only losing a game, but a series to Northwestern. Northwestern had only won 3 games all year prior to the two vs Illinois. The Illini has conference leading Indiana next week, before getting a chance to rebound against Minnesota and Ohio State.
Record: 22-8 (2-4)
Iowa has been on the wrong end of two hard fought series against the two best teams in the conference, hosting Maryland and traveling to Indiana. Don’t expect them to remain in this spot in the standings long. Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State, and Ohio State make up 4 of their remaining 6 series. Those should allow the Hawkeyes to climb up the ladder to where they expect to be.
Record: 16-15 (2-4)
The team everyone expected to continue their success that had them second in the conference in both the regular season and tournament has struggled all year. That has continued with in the conference slate, as series losses to Michigan State and at Maryland has them off to a bad start. Michigan comes to town this week, but then their strength of schedule decreases by quite a bit. So with their current RPI, they still have a chance to control their own destiny.
#12 Ohio State
Record: 15-15 (2-7)
After having a better non-conference showing than they were expected to have with all the turnover in coaching staff and their roster, Ohio State started off the conference season by being swept by Indiana, then lost series to Minnesota and Michigan State. The Buckeyes face Maryland next before getting an opportunity to get some wins against Penn State.
#13 Penn State
Record: 17-11 (1-5)
Penn State outperformed their expectations in non-conference thanks to both a soft schedule and their offense getting off to a hot start. They got a rude awakening at Michigan, being swept and only scoring 8 runs in the process. They then hosted Indiana, and while the offense showed up, they lost a double header by a combined 26-12. After sweeping Delaware State on their bye week, they need to get some wins in the next couple weeks against Ohio State and Purdue, because the schedule gets rough after that.
Still can’t figure out how to throw a ball, whether it be a football or baseball.