The 2017 college baseball season is in the rear view mirror and it is time to prep for the postseason. And with the Big Ten Tournament on the horizon, it’s time to handicap the field.
A lot of eyes will be on the No. 17 Michigan Wolverines, who just completed the regular season with a 42-13 overall record, 16-8 in the Big Ten which is good for the 2-seed in the upcoming tournament. It’s their highest win mark — both in league play and overall — since the 2008 campaign.
They will enter the Big Ten Tournament, which is held at Bart Kaufman Field on the campus of Indiana University this week, looking to pad their resume for the NCAA Selection Committee.
Here is a look at the tournament bracket.
Here's your full Big Ten Baseball Tournament bracket! pic.twitter.com/s6Itboj86I
— Big Ten Baseball (@B1Gbaseball) May 20, 2017
The action will run from May 24-29. The Wolverines will begin their run towards what could be their second tournament title in three seasons against the 7-seed Northwestern (24-28, 13-11 Big Ten).
Michigan has been in the polls for almost the entire season, hovering anywhere from the teens to the low 20’s. A 23-5 mark at the friendly confines of Ray Fisher Stadium coupled with the highest-scoring team in the Big Ten (6.7 runs per game) has aided in their success this season.
The offense is led by six players hitting .290 or better. Sophomore Ako Thomas is hitting just north of .360 despite having played in only 43 of the team’s 55 games played thus far. Among the regulars, senior and former junior college transfer Michael Brdar has been a constant catalyst both offensively and defensively, hitting over .310 and helping lead a Michigan club that led the conference in fielding percentage.
They have a pair of big bats to do the dirty work in the lineup as well. Senior Johnny Slater (Southfield Lathrup HS) and junior Drew Lugbauer have each notched 20+ extra-base hits and a combined 101 runs batted in; Lugbauer’s 57 RBI was second in the Big Ten.
You’ll find Michigan at or near the top of many major pitching categories in the Big Ten this well. They posted the lowest team ERA, lowest opponent batting average and recorded the most strikeouts as a staff. They also did a good job limiting major damage, ranking in the top third in fewest XBHs allowed on the season.
There’s little to no doubt that Michigan should be the NCAA Tournament, it’ll be just a matter of where they will go and how highly-seeded they will be. 16 teams will be hosting 4-team, double-elimination regionals in the first weekend, although the top 8 seeds are officially recognized. It’s safe to assume that, if Michigan puts together a good week in Bloomington, they will have a decent chance at hosting a regional.
The NCAA Division I Baseball Selection Show can be seen on Monday May 29 at noon ET on ESPNU.
So let’s give a quick rundown of the conference tournament field. Michigan is the 2-seed, behind only top-seeded Nebraska. The Wolverines will play Northwestern, whom they did not see in the regular season. Regardless of the outcome, their second game will be either against 3-seed Minnesota or 6-seed and host Indiana. Michigan played Indiana in one series at home this year in late April, a 2-1 series win for the Hoosiers. The Wolverines did not play Minnesota in the regular season.
For a complete look at the Big Ten Tournament bracket along with dates and start times, click here. All of the games this week can see on the Big Ten Network.
SPARTANS’ SEASON ENDS PREMATURELY
Aside from capping a great regular season, Michigan has to have some added pleasure with the way the season ended. They finished up this past weekend taking two games in a 3-game set with in-state rival Michigan State.
The Spartans (29-23, 10-14 Big Ten) took a step back after going 36-20 a season ago and just missing out on an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. This year, however, they underachieved in league play and could not come through when they needed to most.
Their season series finale against Michigan was one where a sweep of the Wolverines would have clinched them the 8-seed and into the conference tournament. They won the series opener on Thursday before falling on Saturday, officially eliminating the Spartans.
Prior to the season, MSU head coach Jake Boss had led the Spartans to winning 30+ games in seven of his first eight seasons, along with winning records in league play in all but one season. They will now be sitting at home looking on at the 8-team Big Ten Tournament field.