2017 Season Preview: Big Ten Conference

With the college baseball season less than two weeks away, it’s time to look forward to the Big Ten season. The Minnesota Golden Gophers finished with the best regular season conference record, but it was the Ohio State Buckeyes who took home the Big Ten Tournament crown.

The Terps finished sixth in the Big Ten, clinching a spot in the Big Ten Tournament on the final day of the season. Maryland then upset No. 3-seed Indiana twice in the Big Ten Tournament, ultimately reaching the semi-finals before falling to Iowa. Despite the strong finish, the Terps missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013. Now, with a wide open conference in 2017, Maryland is the consensus favorite according to both D1Baseball.com and PerfectGame.

Projected Big Ten Finish is displayed as D1 Baseball’s projection followed by Perfect Game’s projection. Teams are ordered according to their projected finish. 



Projected Big Ten Finish: 1st/1st

2016 Record: 30-27 (13-11 B1G)

Key Players Lost: RHP Mike Shawaryn, OF Anthony Papio

Key Returning Players: SS Kevin Smith, 2B Nick Dunn

Despite the loss of Papio, the Terps’ lineup comes back for the 2017 revamped and ready to get back to the postseason. John Szefc’s team returns possibly the best middle infield in the country — Kevin Smith and Nick Dunn — to go along with 2016’s freshman sensation Marty Costes in the middle of the order. On the pitching side, Maryland will be without last year’s ace Mike Shawaryn, but a weekend rotation of Brian Shaffer, Taylor Bloom, and Hunter Parsons should be able to fill in nicely. They will also be able to hand the ball off to a nasty back end of the bullpen, which sports a good combination of power (Mike Rescigno) and finesse (Ryan Selmer).

Nebraska logo


Projected Big Ten Finish: 3rd/2nd

2016 Record: 37-22 (16-8 B1G)

Key Players Lost: INF Jake Placzek, INF Steven Reveles

Key Returning Players: OF/LHP Jake Meyers, OF Scott Schreiber

2016 Maryland vs. Nebraska: Did not play

2017 Maryland vs. Nebraska: April 7-9 @ Nebraska

Behind Maryland, Nebraska may be the top contender for the Big Ten title in 2017. The Huskers bring back most of a roster that finished second in the conference in 2016, including two-way star Jake Meyers, who hit .326 at the plate and posted a 1.42 ERA on the mound. Joining Meyers in the lineup again this season is Scott Schreiber, who led the conference in slugging percentage and home runs last season. If Nebraska stays healthy, they can be part of an exciting two-horse race for the top spot in the Big Ten.



Projected Big Ten Finish: 2nd/4th

2016 Record: 36-21 (13-10 B1G)

Key Players Lost: OF Cody Bruder, DH/LHP Carmen Benedetti

Key Returning Players: INF Jake Bivens, LHP Oliver Jaskie

2016 Maryland vs. Michigan: Did not play

2017 Maryland vs. Michigan: March 24-26 @ Maryland

Michigan finished second in batting average and first in on-base percentage in 2016, but the big bats in that powerful offense will not be back in 2017. The Wolverines will be without their entire starting outfield from last season, which included .372 hitter Cody Bruder, .326 hitter Carmen Benedetti, and .298 hitter Matt Ramsay. Along with the lineup turnover, Michigan  is also losing ace Brett Adcock, who allowed opposing hitters to bat only .190 last season. Junior Oliver Jaskie willl have to step up on the mound while junior Jake Bivens will need to pick shoulder the offensive load for the Wolverines in 2017.


Projected Big Ten Finish: 4th/3rd

2016 Record: 32-24 (15-9 B1G)

Key Players Lost: LHP Caleb Baragar, LHP Kyle Hart

Key Returning Players: OF Craig Dedelow, OF Logan Sowers

2016 Maryland vs. Indiana: 2-0 in Big Ten Tournament

2017 Maryland vs. Indiana: April 28-30 @ Indiana

The 2017 Indiana Hoosiers will bring back almost their entire lineup from 2016. Freshman all-american Luke Miller returns after hitting .282 last season, and will be joined again by outfielders Craig Dedelow and Logan Sowers, who both project to be important contributors in 2017. The issue for Indiana this season will be the pitching staff, which lost its entire weekend rotation and its best reliever from last season. In 2017, the Hoosiers will have to rely on less experienced starters like sophomore Jonathan Stiever for help on the mound.


Michigan State

Projected Big Ten Finish: 5th/5th

2016 Record: 36-20 (13-11 B1G)

Key Players Lost: IF Jordan Zimmerman, LHP Cam Vieaux

Key Returning Players: 2B Dan Durkin, RHP Ethan Landon

2016 Maryland vs. Michigan State: 2-2 (0-1 in Big Ten Tournament)

2017 Maryland vs. Michigan State: April 21-23 @ Maryland

Michigan State had the best pitching staff ERA in the Big Ten in 2016, but they will be without 2016’s best two performers on the mound in 2017. Cam Vieaux posted the second-best ERA in the conference, while his teammate Dakota Mekkes pitched to a conference-best ERA out of the bullpen. However, the Spartans will return the rest of a staff that allowed a conference-low 19 home runs last season. On offense, Michigan State will be without Jordan Zimmerman, who batted .374 in 2016, but will still bring back a good lineup that can compete in the conference.


Ohio State

Projected Big Ten Finish: 7th/6th

2016 Record: 44-20 (15-9 B1G)

Key Players Lost: INF Nick Sergakis, OF Ronnie Dawson

Key Returning Players: C/INF Jalen Washington, RHP Seth Kinker

2016 Maryland vs. Ohio State: 3-0

2017 Maryland vs. Ohio State: Not scheduled

Of all of the Big Ten teams, Ohio State may be taking the biggest hit this season. The Buckeyes are losing six of their regular position players from last year’s team, including Nick Sergakis and Ronnie Dawson, who both hit over .330 in 2016. As for the rotation, the Buckeyes will be without their top two starting pitchers from last season, including first-team All-Big Ten selection Tanner Tully. Ohio State does have plenty of freshman coming in who could step into starting roles, but they will be have to prove themselves before the Buckeyes can be considered a true conference contender.



Projected Big Ten Finish: 8th/7th

2016 Record: 28-23 (12-12 B1G) 

Key Players Lost: RHP Cody Sedlock, C Jason Goldstein

Key Returning Players: 1B/OF Pat McInerney, RHP Cole Bellair

2016 Maryland vs. Illinois: 1-2

2017 Maryland vs. Illinois: May 5-7 @ Illinois

After a mediocre 12-12 Big Ten performance last season, Illinois is losing its two most productive players from 2016. Starting pitcher Cody Sedlock moved on to the pros after posting a 2.49 ERA and collecting the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year award last season, while catcher Jason Goldstein was also drafted after a season in which he led the Fighting Illini in batting average and on-base percentage. The Illini will, however, bring back most of the rest of their roster, including 1B/DH Pat McInerney, who slashed .301/.373/.456 last season.



Projected Big Ten Finish: 6th/9th

2016 Record: 36-21 (16-7 B1G)

Key Players Lost: OF/RHP Matt Fiedler, C Austin Athmann

Key Returning Players: RHP Toby Anderson, INF Micah Coffey

2016 Maryland vs. Minnesota: 1-2

2017 Maryland vs. Minnesota: Not scheduled

After winning the Big Ten regular season title and making the NCAA Tournament in 2016, Minnesota projects to take a substantial step back in 2017. The Golden Gophers are losing four of their top five hitters from last season, including Matt Fiedler, who hit .372 with eight home runs and made 15 starts on the mound. The roster turnover for Minnesota continues into the pitching staff, where they have lost 2016 staff ace Dalton Sawyer and closer Jordan Jess. The Gophers now have seven new true freshman on the roster who may need to step up to keep Minnesota competitive in 2017.



Projected Big Ten Finish: 9th/8th

2016 Record: 30-26 (12-12 B1G)

Key Players Lost: OF Joel Booker, SS Nick Roscetti

Key Returning Players: RHP Nick Gallagher, INF Mason McCoy

2016 Maryland vs. Iowa: 1-3 (0-1 in Big Ten Tournament)

2017 Maryland vs. Iowa: Not scheduled

The middle of the Iowa batting order will look much different in 2017. Its top three hitters, including Big Ten hits leader Joel Booker, have all since graduated and will need to be replaced. Possible early lineup struggles will need to be picked up by a pitching rotation that returns its anchor, Nick Gallagher, in 2017. Gallagher pitched to a 2.57 ERA last season and will be the key piece this season if Iowa wants to make a run back to the Big Ten Championship Game.


Penn State

Projected Big Ten Finish: 10th/10th

2016 Record: 28-27 (12-12 B1G)

Key Players Lost: 3B Jim Haley, RHP Jack Anderson

Key Returning Players: OF Nick Riotto, RHP Justin Hagenman

2016 Maryland vs. Penn State: 2-1

2017 Maryland vs. Penn State: April 14-16 @ Maryland

Coming off a season in which they were almost perfectly average, the Nittany Lions may be looking at a losing season in 2017. Penn State is losing its three most productive hitters from 2016, including Jim Haley, who hit .315 last season. The Nittany Lions will also feel the losses on the mound, where they will be without their top two starting pitchers last season. Penn State will also miss its 2016 closer Jack Anderson, who’s submarine delivery helped him pick up 13 saves last season. Baseball could make for a not-so-happy Valley in 2017.



Projected Big Ten Finish: 11th/11th

2016 Record: 27-28 (9-15 B1G)

Key Players Lost: C R.J. Devish, LHP Howie Brey

Key Returning Players: OF Jawuan Harris, OF Tom Marcinczyk

2016 Maryland vs. Rutgers: 1-2

2017 Maryland vs. Rutgers: March 31-April 2 @ Rutgers

Rutgers struggled in 2016, and it won’t get any easier this season. The Scarlet Knights have lost R.J. Devish, who was the conference leader in batting average (.375) and on-base percentage (.524) last season, and Howie Brey, who posted a 3.50 ERA in 14 starts. Despite Rutgers’ struggles last season, they did lead the conference with 121 stolen bases, and outfielder Juwuan Harris picked up a conference-best 37 of them. The Scarlet Knights will have to continue to run if they want to improve in 2017.



Projected Big Ten Finish: 12th/12th

2016 Record: 15-39 (7-17 B1G)

Key Players Lost: LHP Reed Mason, 1B/OF Zach Jones

Key Returning Players: OF/LHP Matt Hopfner, 3B Connor Lind

2016 Maryland vs. Northwestern: Did not play

2017 Maryland vs. Northwestern: May 12-14 @ Maryland

Northwestern struggled in conference play last season, but they will return most of their offense, and those hitters will have had another offseason to get better. The most important returning hitter is Matt Hopfner, who hit .355 in 2016. On the pitching side, however, things are looking bleak at Northwestern. The Wildcats finished last in the Big Ten in ERA and batting average against last season, and they have since lost their only viable starting pitcher, Reed Mason. It will be tough for Northwestern to get outs in 2017.



Projected Big Ten Finish: 13th/13th

2016 Record: 10-44 (2-22 B1G)

Key Players Lost: OF Kyle Johnson, RHP Matt Frawley

Key Returning Players: C Nick Dalesandro, RHP Tanner Andrews

2016 Maryland vs. Purdue: 2-1

2017 Maryland vs. Purdue: Not scheduled

Coming off of a putrid 2-22 conference record in 2016, Purdue comes into this season with a lot of roster turnover. The Boilermakers will be without last season’s top hitter, Kyle Johnson, who batted .318, and top pitcher, Matt Frawley, who posted a 2.78 ERA. Sporting the second-worst pitching staff and worst offense in the Big Ten in 2016, the Boilermakers have nowhere to go but up.