2012 Big Ten Baseball Tourney Preview
The rest of the field: Indiana is the No. 2 seed, Penn State No. 3, Nebraska, in its inaugural Big Ten season, No. 4, Michigan State No. 5 seed and Ohio State No. 6. Get BTN.com special contributor Chris Webb’s tourney preview in this post.
See Webb’s preview below and follow him on Twitter (@ChrisMWebb) for updates throughout the tourney.
No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers
41-12 overall record, 17-7 in Big Ten
16th appearance; most recent: 2011
15-30 tournament record, 0 championships
Team offense: .318 AVG, .385 OBP, .436 SLG, 32 HR, 63-86 SB-ATT
Team defense: 3.15 ERA, .252 BAA, 1.20 WHIP, 337 SO, .969 FLD
3 key players: Sr. RHP Joe Haase; Jr. C Kevin Plawecki; Jr. 3B Cameron Perkins
Boilermaker notes: Purdue enters the conference tournament for the fifth consecutive season — a claim no other program can make. As consistent as Purdue has been in finishing in the top six, though, an automatic NCAA bid has eluded the Boilermakers in each tournament. This year the Boilermakers will not need to rely on the automatic bid to reach the NCAA tournament. Nor is this a year to rely on history as Purdue claimed the conference championship for the first time since 1909. With one of the nation’s top hitting teams led by the Big Ten’s top two positional draft prospects, Plawecki and Perkins, a stout one-two pitching punch, an All-America closer and a team full of upperclassmen, Purdue is as sound of a team the conference has seen in a decade. Purdue heads into Columbus as the tournament favorite, looking to stay on track in a season to remember.
No. 2 Indiana Hoosiers
Ninth tournament appearance; most recent: 2010
14-13 tournament record, two championships: 1996, 2009
Team offense: .273 AVG, .356 OBP, .398 SLG, 37 HR, 74-105 SB-ATT
Team defense: 4.6 3 ERA, .290 BAA, 1.56 WHIP, 371 SO, .953 FLD
3 key players: Soph. LHP Joey DeNato; Fr. C Kyle Schwarber; Fr. 1B Sam Travis
Hoosier notes: The Hoosiers can be an example of being too young to know any better. Expected by few to make the tournament field, let alone finish one game out of the conference championship, a Bloomington baby boom has propelled Indiana in 2012. The top two candidates for Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors, catcher Kyle Schwarber and Sam Travis, have combined for 17 home runs, 52 extra base hits, and 96 RBI. Like the heavy hitters anchoring the order, Indiana has a dominant underclass 1-2 duo atop their rotation, with sophomore left-hander Joey DeNato, a 2011 first-team all-conference selection, and freshman southpaw Kyle Hart. With just two seniors, the young Hoosiers blitzed through May winners of eight out of 11. Indiana did not play its in-state rivals in the regular season, but the tournament may set-up a Hoosier State showdown.
No. 3 Penn State
Tenth tournament appearance; most recent: 2011
13-19 tournament record, 0 championships
Team offense: .252 AVG, .325 OBP, .378 SLG, 37 HR, 31-44 SB-ATT
Team defense: 4.13 ERA, .265 BAA, 1.51 WHIP, 391 SO, .967 FLD
3 key players: Sr. 3B Joey DeBernardis; Soph. LHP Joe Kurrasch; Sr. 1B Jordan Steranka
Nittany Lions notes: Penn State heads west as the sexy pick in the tournament. A team in the preseason that neither the coaches nor the national media had pegged in the conference’s top six, Penn State entered the final weekend with an outside shot at claiming a piece of the conference crown. Such a position would have been thought of as impossible on March 25 when Penn State sat 5-16. Winners of 24 of the final 33 and victors in its last six Big Ten series, Penn State rides a wave of momentum into Columbus. Coach Robbie Wine has the Big Ten’s ERA leader in Kurrasch, in Steven Hill a number two who led the Big Ten in ERA a year ago and tossed a no-no this year, followed by John Walter, a pitcher with more than 200 career innings. Oh, and they can slug it, hitting 37 home runs and 137 extra-base hits.
No. 4 Nebraska
First year in Big Ten; first tournament appearance
Team offense: .314 AVG, .384 OBP, .447 SLG, 46 HR, 58-77 SB-ATT
Team defense: 4.33 ERA, .288 BAA, 1.51 WHIP, 312 SO, .975 FLD
3 key players: Soph. DH Michael Prittchard; Jr. 1B Richard Stock; Jr. 3B Josh Scheffert
Cornhusker notes: The season has been one of firsts for Nebraska. The campaign marked the first season to have native son Darin Erstad at the helm, and it also marked Nebraska’s first season in the Big Ten. As the Red and White have made the established conference programs take notice of the new kid, those taking notice have been provided with a prolific offensive display. With a conference-leading 46 home runs, and a Big Ten-best .447 slugging mark, Nebraska boasts four players with at least five home runs, as well as five with at least 35 RBI for a team that averaged seven runs a game. The mighty offense will be needed as Erstad can only call on one starter with at least six starts and a sub-4.00 ERA. As the temperature rises, Husker nation needs the bats to stay hot in a pitcher-heavy field.
No. 5 Michigan State
Tenth tournament appearance; most recent: 2011
8-18 tournament record, 0 championships
Team offense: .299 AVG, .379 OBP, .398 SLG, 27 HR, 60-82 SB-ATT
Team defense: 3.08 ERA, .242 BAA, 1.21 WHIP, 359 SO, .973 FLD
3 key players: Jr. 3B Torsten Boss; Sr. RHP Tony Bucciferro; Jr. 2B Ryan Jones
Spartan notes: The preseason pick by the coaches to capture the conference championship, the season did not go as expected for the 2011 conference champs. Offensive inconsistency plagued the Spartans throughout the year, resulting in 16 games with at least eight runs and 15 with three runs or fewer. With the inconsistencies at the plate, the pitching stepped up and powered the Spartans to 35 wins. That pitching is also what makes Michigan State a dangerous No. 5 seed. Coach Jake Boss Jr. boasts four pitchers who started at least nine games and carried and sub-3.55 ERA. As a result, the Spartans have the deepest pitching staff in the tournament. From four good starters, a half-dozen quality bullpen options, and one of the best closers, the 3.08 team ERA Michigan State will carry to Huntington Park will make them a tough out.
No. 6 Ohio State
25th tournament appearance; most recent: 2011
50-35 tournament record, eight championships: 1991, ’92, ’94, ’95, ’97, 2002, ’05, ‘07.
Team offense: .270 AVG, .373 OBP, .358 SLG, 21 HR, 84-109 SB-ATT
Team defense: 4.26 ERA, .274 BAA, 1.43 WHIP, 332 SO, .968 FLD
3 key players: Soph. 1B/RHP Josh Dezse; Jr. 3B Brad Hallberg; Soph. RHP Jaron Long
Buckeyes notes: It took numerous tiebreakers, but the Buckeyes edged out Illinois and Minnesota for the final spot in the tournament field after all three finished 11-13 during the conference season. Safely in the postseason, Ohio State looks to capture the glory of past seasons. Making their 25th appearance, Ohio State’s 50 tournament wins in 85 contests equals the combined total of the other five participants. The last time Ohio State was the six seed in the Big Ten Tournament, in 2007, the Buckeyes became the first six seed to claim the tournament title. Ohio State will enter the tournament losers of three straight after being swept by Indiana, but with Huntington Park a mere 10 minute drive from the Ohio State campus, the Scarlet and Gray hope a bit of hometown luck is on their side. Ohio State finished the regular season 18-7 in home games.
A couple tweets regarding the tourney:
BTN special contributor Chris Webb is covering the 2012 Big Ten Baseball Tournament in Columbus for BTN.com. He also maintains the Big Ten baseball blog B1Gbaseball.com.