Buckeyes Not Projected In Baseball Top Tier

By Maria DiTurno, February 18th, 2017

For all those who follow college baseball faithfully, the conference coaches recently voted Maryland as the preseason favorite for the 2017 Big Ten Championship.

This vote was cast looking at the top six teams for this upcoming season. Behind the Terrapins were Michigan at No. 2, Nebraska at No. 3, the fourth spot goes to Indiana, fifth place to Michigan State then Iowa and Minnesota sneak their way in for a tie in the No. 6 spot.

This means Ohio State is not projected to be one of the top Big Ten baseball teams this upcoming season. Even with three players on the preseason honors list, the Buckeyes just couldn’t make their way to the top.

But what makes these other teams worthy of being in the top six preseason spots?

Currently, Maryland is returning its sophomore outfielder, All-Freshman standout Marty Costes. Costes is not only on the preseason honors list but was also on the field for 54 games in the previous season. As a freshman, Costes hit .236 and led the team with 37 RBIs. Maryland also has sophomore Nick Dunn leading the team in hits with a .300 average last season and Kevin Smith, a junior infielder who started all 57 games, is representing Maryland on the preseason honors list.

Michigan finished a winning season with three big contributors. Jake Bivens finished his junior year as an infielder with a .356 batting average, scoring 53 runs and adding 26 RBIs to make him a member of the third-team All-Big Ten list. Michigan also has junior Oliver Jaskie, who had a 3.19 ERA and a 7-3 record starting in 14 games. Lastly, Michigan boasts the talents of Drew Lugbaue, who scored 39 runs and contributed 47 RBIs as a junior infielder.

Nebraska, the second-place Big Ten finisher last season, came away from its 14th NCAA tournament appearance with more key players ready to contribute in 2017. Chad Luensmann, currently a sophomore relief pitcher, is the reigning Big Ten freshman of the year and a second-team All-Big Ten selection for many reasons. He had 13 saves for the Cornhuskers with a 1.18 ERA. Junior Jake Meyers was a standout starting pitcher and had an ERA of 1.42. Junior Cornhusker Scott Schreiber received first-team All-Big Ten recognition from his .325 batting average and performance as an outfielder showing he will be bringing is “A” game in 2017.

Michigan State, projected at No. 4, starts its preseason with several honorees, including senior Matt Byars, the Spartan catcher who batted .284 last season with 58 hits and 26 RBIs. Next, junior Brandon Hughes hit .303 and drove in 31 in his 55-game stretch. Redshirt sophomore Alex Troop only played in 12 games last year, but really stepped up for the Spartans. He had an ERA of 2.57 and a batting average of 3.72, scoring 11 runs and 13 RBIs while producing a 3-0 record from playing four games on the mound. The Spartans posted an overall record of 36-20 last year.

The Iowa Hawkeyes, also in the running for the Big Ten Championship game in 2016, start their preseason with honoree junior pitcher Nick Gallagher, who comes into 2017 with an 8-3 record and a 2.57 ERA to make him an All-Big Ten selection. Then there is senior Mason McCoy, another All-Big Ten selection who had a batting average of .291 with 56 hits and 34 RBIs, and sophomore Robert Neustorm, an outfielder with 41 RBIs as a result of a .307 batting average.

Lastly, the Minnesota Gophers slide in the top 6 to defend their Big Ten Championship and their 36-21 record with several individuals receiving preseason honorees. First is junior Micah Coffey, second-team All-Big Ten honoree and Golden Gopher infielder. Coffey appeared in 56 games for a final batting average of .333 that totaled 70 hits and 42 RBIs. Junior Lucas Gilbreath was a starting pitcher for Minnesota, appearing in 16 games on the mound, posting a 3-2 record with a 1.36 ERA. Lastly, sophomore Terrin Vavra, another infielder, played 32 games and had 43 hits and 20 RBIs while hitting .358 overall.

Tune in to see if these projected teams and players will be able to claim a conference title, or if the hungry OSU team upset the coaches’ selections and make their way back into the top six. Friday marks the start of the 2017 baseball season that should its usual amount of drama.