For the first time since 2012 Purdue is playing postseason baseball. The Big Ten baseball season closed today and, with a 21-3 win at Penn State, Nebraska earned the regular season title with a 16-7-1 record. Had their third game with Indiana not ended in a travel curfew tie they could have been tied with Michigan at 16-8. The Wolverines were a half game back, and Minnesota also was the odd team out at 15-8 as they had a game against Rutgers cancelled, and it ended up costing them the 3 seed.
Overall, however, the Big Ten was quite compact. Only 4.5 games separated Nebraska in first place from Purdue in 8th. Minnesota, Nebraska, Indiana, Michigan, Maryland, and Iowa return to the tournament from last year, while Purdue is in for the first time since 2012 and Northwestern for the first time since 2012.
The Tournament gets underway Wednesday morning in Bloomington. All games will be carried by Big Ten Network. Here is the day 1 schedule:
3 Seed Minnesota (33-19, 15-8) vs. 6 Seed Indiana (32-20-2, 14-9-1) 10am
2 Seed Michigan (42-13, 16-8) vs. 7 Seed Northwestern (24-28, 13-11) 1:30pm
1 Seed Nebraska (34-18-1, 16-7-1) vs. 8 Seed Purdue (29-25, 12-12) 5pm
4 Seed Maryland (34-19, 15-9) vs. 5 Seed Iowa (32-19, 15-9) 8:30pm
This is a double elimination tournament, so Purdue gets at least two games. If Purdue beats Nebraska it will play at 8:30pm Thursday against the Iowa-Maryland winner. If Purdue loses it will play at 1:30pm Wednesday against the Iowa-Maryland loser. Oh, and all games are in nearby Bloomington at Indiana’s Bart Kaufman Field.
This should be a good tournament. Based on the current RPI numbers Nebraska, Michigan, Maryland, and Indiana should all have a very good shot of reaching the NCAA Tournament as at large teams. The other four teams would need the automatic bid of winning the conference tournament. Minnesota was in decent shape, but Purdue winning a series on their home field likely burst their bubble.
In terms of how Purdue did against the field, it won series against Minnesota and Indiana two games to one. It was swept by Michigan, and lost series to Northwestern and Iowa two games to one. Purdue didn’t play Nebraska or Maryland this year, but was swept by Nebraska last season and won one of three games at Maryland. The Cornhuskers did lose their opening game at last place Penn State this weekend, while Maryland is struggling, having lost four straight series to Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern, and High Point.
The hardest part for Purdue will be pitching. Tanner Andrews and Gareth Stroh are good enough to give Purdue a chance and Ross Learnard is one of the best relievers in the league, but beyond that, the starting pitching has been suspect. Purdue has had a season-long quest to find a third starter, and Jack Dellinger is 2-4 in nine midweek starts. Mike Kornacker, Brian Ghiselli, Tanner Schumacher, Hunter Wolfe, and even Dalton Parker have all started games, but rarely have made it past five innings. Andrews, Stroh, and Learnard account for 19 of Purdue’s 29 wins.
But we will see. The advantage Purdue would have if it wins the first two games pitched by Andrews and Stroh is rest. They would be sitting in the winner’s bracket without having to play on Friday. They would also face a team on its 4th pitcher. I’ll have more of a preview later in the week, but it is at least nice to be talking about baseball still. Let’s get a win to get to 30 on the season and see what happens now that we are here.
And don’t discount being the 8 seed. Last season Iowa made the championship game as the 8 seed and only lost 8-7 to Ohio State.