It’s been 4 years since we’ve seen the Huskers play in a Big Ten Tournament game… and we will have to wait one more day with the new format until we get to see them this year. An extra day of rest for the starters, may come with a more condensed schedule that will be potentially rough on the bullpen for Nebraska.
More on those guys will come later! What happened to all the other teams in Omaha? After the last two weekends in regular season conference play, it’s easy to see that this tournament is wide open for any of the teams to take. Heck on the last Friday of the regular season, none of the top 6 teams won a game against the bottom 6 teams in the conference. Let’s see who took a big first step towards the automatic birth in the NCAA Tournament.
#3 Iowa - 13
#6 Michigan - 3
Game one of the 2023 Big Ten Baseball Tournament was a Hawkeye blowout of the Michigan Wolverines. From the outset, it appeared one team with yellow shoes and a shortstop with 1970’s era stirrups was amped up and ready to play, and the other one has an M on their cap. Despite appearing lethargic throughout the game, Michigan did put up the first run of the game in the top of the second inning thanks to Hawkeye starter Marcus Morgan having problems finding the strike zone and giving up a couple of hits, along with a wild pitch and a hit batter. However, the Hawkeyes immediately answered in the bottom of the same inning as B1G Pitcher of the Year Connor O’Halloran also struggled with his control and gave up two singles to Hawkeye batters.
The 1-1 score held until the 5th inning when the game turned for the boys from Iowa City. Morgan walked the first two Wolverine batters and was replaced by reliever Jack Whitlock, who promptly walked the bases loaded. It was at that point that the game was decided. With big inning potential for Michigan and their two, three, and four hitters coming up with bases loaded and no outs, Whitlock became the player of the game striking out Ted Burton, Jonathan Kim, and Jimmy Obertop on 17 pitches. To beat Iowa, you have to have to beat them! They are too fundamentally sound and they keeping coming at you until the last out. Michigan blew a golden opportunity.
And just like it seems to go, Iowa grabbed their bats and scored six runs in the bottom of that 5th inning, culminating with a grand slam by Brayden Frazier, just his third home run of the season. Ball game! Michigan added single runs in the sixth and eighth innings, while Iowa added four in the seventh and ended the game via run rule with two in the bottom of the eighth. As stated at the outset, one team came out ready to play. The Hawkeyes had an aggressive mindset, going first to third every time a ball was hit through the infield and jumping on pitches early in the count. Iowa advances to the 2:00 p.m. game Friday versus the winner of Indiana and Illinois. Michigan will take on the loser of that game tomorrow at 7:00 p.m.
#2 Indiana - 4
#7 Illinois - 3
Indiana decided to take a bit of a gamble, and make this a bullpen game, hoping to win and get the day off Wednesday, and in the meantime saving their starters for more normal rest. Ben Seiler got then through two bumpy, but scoreless innings. The first Hoosier reliever finally got touched up in the 5th with an RBI double by Branden Comia. Indiana answered right back with 2 runs in the bottom of the inning to lead 2-1 after 5.
The Hoosiers would get 2 more insurance runs in the bottom of the 8th. It was a good thing too. Illinois loaded the bases in the 9th off of a HBP, single and walk, bringing their stud senior Cam McDonald to the plate with 2 out. He hit a hard grounder deep to the short stop who threw wild to first base allowing McDonald to reach and 2 runs to score. Indiana’s pitcher then elevated a fastball a little to much to power hitter Drake Westcott, but he popped it up to end the game.
#1 Maryland - 3
#8 Michigan State - 2
Maryland also started the game somewhat arrogantly, sending out their Saturday starter to take on the Spartans. It almost cost them big time in the first, as they scored one on a double, but the baserunner overran second going for a triple, when the runner had been stopped on third. A walk followed and what could have been bases loaded with 1 out, ended up as runners on the corners, with 2 out and couldn’t capitalize. Maryland was able to push a couple runs across on sac flys to take a 2-1 lead after 1 (but in their home park would probably be up 4-1).
Michigan State kept the pressure on getting multiple baserunners each inning but 4 straight innings with double plays by Maryland wiped their scoring opportunities away. It took until the 7th for Michigan State to finally get a run across. A leadoff triple by 9-hitter Greg Ziegler set up an RBI single by Brock Vandenburg. And it was tied going to the 8th.
MSU threatened again in the 8th, but… you guessed it, a double play ended that. Maryland took advantage in the bottom of the inning, using a leadoff single followed by a new play for the Terps, a sacrifice bunt. Luke Shliger then shot a double down the left field line to give them the 3-2 lead for good.
Illinois and Michigan will be the first elimination game, taking place after the Nebraska game Wednesday.
Michigan State then takes on the loser of Nebraska-Rutgers on Thursday morning, followed by the two winners games. Iowa and Indiana then Maryland vs Nebraska/Rutgers.
See everyone Wednesday at 2pm!