Over halfway home in the conference season, and things are finally starting to look like what we expected before the conference season began. Michigan has charged up the standings after struggling in non-conference, and they get back their most experienced bat. They are in the top 3 that have put a couple games between the mess that is the next 6 spots.
It looks as though we will have 9 teams competing down the stretch for the 8 spots to get to Omaha. The bottom 5 either don’t have a baseball team, have a murderers row schedule coming up, or are just ready for 2023 to be over. So lets see where things stand.
Big Ten Standings
Record: 30-11 overall (9-3 in conference)
Since we last saw them, Indiana gave up the number 1 spot in the conference for a week, but gained it back during their off week. They lost the Friday night game to Illinois 2 weeks ago, but have rattled off 7 straight wins since that night, including a weekend sweep over Ohio (as in the former Fighting Frankies). A big weekend matchup hosting Maryland looms this weekend. If they get through that, they may very well hang onto the #1 spot through the final weekend.
Record: 25-15 (8-4)
The Terps continue to win every Big Ten series 2-1. The last two were against Ohio State and Purdue. Purdue actually beat them on Friday night with Jason Savacool on the mound, giving him his first conference loss. As mentioned above, the big series of the weekend is Maryland traveling to Indiana. The Terrapins then host Nebraska in what should be an incredibly offensive series at their little league sized stadium.
Record: 21-18 (9-6)
The hard part of Michigan’s Big Ten schedule is behind them. Since their Nebraska series, they lost a series 2-1 to a suddenly surging Rutgers team, and then beat the in-state rival Spartans. They get their bye week this week and take on nationally ranked Oklahoma State. A rare southern team coming up north to play an entire series. The Wolverines have the current bottom 3 teams in the league left on their Big Ten schedule, Minnesota, Northwestern and Ohio State. So they could find themselves surprisingly in the race for the number 1 slot. And top bat Jimmy Obertop has made his return as a DH, could be a difference maker.
Record: 29-10 (7-5)
As expected, the Hawkeyes climbed the ladder the past couple weeks. Despite dropping a Friday night game to the struggling Minnesota team, they have rattled off wins in their last 5 Big Ten games, including the dominating sweep of Nebraska. They have Penn State and Ohio State coming up, so wins should be expected, but Iowa has been all over the board with teams that they should dominate, including getting 10-runned last week by UIC so anything is possible.
#5 Michigan State
Record: 24-13 (7-5)
The Spartans have had their bye week, a sweep of Western Illinois, and a 2-1 series loss to rival Michigan. That was a series they needed to win to keep pace with the top of the conference. They have an opportunity to grab more wins over the next couple weeks, as they have Northwestern and Illinois next. They end the season with series against Iowa and Indiana, so wins may be hard to come by at that point.
Record: 24-16 (7-5)
Though they had been struggling, Rutgers has all of a sudden won 9 of their last 10 games overall, including 5 of 6 in the Big Ten. A series win hosting Michigan, followed by a sweep of Northwestern in Evanston, had put the Scarlet Knights right back in the thick of the Big Ten race. If they can keep this pace going against a relatively easy Big Ten schedule, they could find themselves in the top 3 or 4, where they were picked preseason.
Record: 21-14-1 (7-5)
What a whirlwind 2 weeks it’s been for Nebraska. After showing off its mighty offense and sweeping the overwhelmed Northwestern, the Huskers forgot to pack the bats on their trip to Iowa City, and were swept just as easily by the Hawkeyes. This took them from first place in the league to in essence a tie for 4th. Nebraska can make up ground hosting Minnesota this week before traveling to Maryland for its final matchup against one of the upper echelon teams in the conference.
Record: 19-20 (8-7)
Purdue has gone 3-3 in the last two weeks, winning a series against Penn State, and stealing that Friday night game against Maryland mentioned above. The Maryland series started a tough stretch for Purdue, as they have Rutgers, a bye, Indiana and Nebraska left on the conference schedule. Don’t expect to see the Boilermakers in Omaha, as they should struggle with that remaining schedule.
Record: 18-18 (7-8)
Illinois has had a rough go of it this year. They lost their first 4 series, including the stunner to Northwestern, before finally winning one, via a sweep, over Minnesota. They are going to have to fight to make it to Omaha though. They have one easier series against Ohio State next, but then get to take on Rutgers and Michigan State, who may also be fighting for one of the final few spots at that point.
#10 Penn State
Record: 23-13 (5-7)
Penn State has climbed back into the discussion to fight for a spot in Omaha. They swept Ohio State last week after losing a series 2-1 to Purdue. I would not expect them to climb any higher, as they may have the toughest remaining schedule of any team in the B1G. Iowa, at Rutgers, at Nebraska and Maryland still remain on the Nittany Lions books.
Record: 10-27 (4-8)
Minnesota pulled off a big win against Iowa on Friday night 2 weeks ago, but have lost 5 straight since, with the final 2 games to Iowa, and getting swept by Illinois. Nebraska is up next for the Gophers, with Michigan, Maryland and Rutgers still waiting in the wings. They will have to get extremely lucky to improve upon their current position.
Record: 6-28 (3-9)
As expected, Northwestern’s time in the top 8 did not last. Sweeps by both Nebraska and Rutgers have knocked the Wildcats down to the Big Ten cellar. They really don’t seem to have any fight left in them after this absurd year. Michigan State is up next, then Indiana, Michigan and Iowa. 2023 can’t end soon enough for these guys.
#13 Ohio State
Record: 15-15 (3-12)
Ohio State’s nightmare conference season continues. It was expected to be a rebuilding year under the new staff, but I don’t think anyone saw it being this bad. They were able to steal a game against Maryland, but were then swept by Penn State. Illinois, Iowa and Michigan sit between the Buckeyes and the merciful end to the season.
Still no baseball team for the Sadgers.