It is that time of year again, as the Big Ten Baseball Tournament is finally here. Unlike the women’s softball tournament, the baseball tournament only features the top six teams in the conference. This year’s bracket features six teams that all have aspirations to be in the College World Series, but any one of them would be happy to have the pleasure of knowing they are guaranteed a spot if they can win the Big Ten Tournament. As a preview, we will look at all six teams and examine their strengths and weaknesses and give their odds for winning it all.
#1 Seed: Indiana Hoosiers - Indiana, an amazing 40-13, may very well have exactly what is needed to win the Big Ten Tournament with ease. The main reason they are huge favorites is the fact that in neutral site games this season, they are 9-1. With a team ERA of 2.53, the Hoosiers have shown they are a very tough team to hit against, striking out 317 batters. Dustin DeMuth and Kyle Schwarber lead the offense, combining for 79 RBI’s while they both bat over .380. If any team slips up against this offense, they will be in for a long day.mOdds of Winning: 2-1
#2 Seed: Ohio State Buckeyes - At 34-12 and 15-9 in conference play, the Ohio State Buckeyes come into the tournament looking to make some noise after finishing the season on a 2-7 slide. While Ohio State lacks the hitter a team can build around, Kirby Pellant has done all he can to be the offensive leader of this team. Batting .314, Pellant has become the best hitter on the team, and has led the charge for tOSU. On the mound, Ohio State boasts one of the best closers in college baseball in Trace Dempsey, who has a sub 1 ERA in 33 1/3 innings pitched. If Ohio State gets to the ninth with a lead, it may be too much for any team to overcome. Odds of Winning: 6-1
#3 Seed: Nebraska Cornhuskers - Losing the tie breaker to Ohio State, Nebraska sits at the #3 seed, going 15-9 in the Big Ten. Chad Christensen hits .362, Michael Pritchard hits .343, and Nebraska has no problem finding offense in this lineup. The Cornhuskers have found success in Big Ten play, even though their overall record is an abysmal 25-28. The primary starter for Nebraska, Christian DeLeon, has ridden a 3.51 ERA to a 6-4 record, and has pitched well this season, but not great. If Nebraska hopes to turn some heads, they will need good starts from DeLeon and some offensive firepower all around. Odds of Winning: 5-1
#4 Seed: Minnesota Golden Gophers - At 13-8 in the Big Ten, Minnesota stumbled into the tournament, finishing the season 2-6, and losing two out of three to their first round matchup, the Fighting Illini. Offensively, the Gophers have shown flashes of being very good, but they have been unable to find any long-term offense. Batting .258 as a team, the pitching has been the teams savior all season long. With two starters with an ERA under 3 (Tom Windle and Ben Meyer), the Gophers have been able to shut down opponents, even though they lack the run scoring they need to consistently win games in the Big Ten. Minnesota will need to score some runs to win games, as the pitching has shown up all season long. Odds of Winning: 8-1
#5 Seed: Illinois Fighting Illini - Winners of nine of their last twelve, the Illinois Fighting Illini are looking to guarantee their spot in the College World Series. Justin Parr, the Big Ten Player of the Year, has led the Illini all season long. Hitting .415 with 51 RBI’s, Parr has shown Illini fans that there is reason for optimism in Champaign. The pitching staff for the Illini has pitched decently with a team ERA of 3.67, but it is the offense that has helped this team to a 14-10 record and has made them one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten right now. The offense has forced opponents into a 5.84 ERA while enjoying 205 walks. If the Illini can continue to play as they have been as of late, they could be playing on the final day of the tournament. Odds of Winning: 11-1
#6 Seed: Michigan Wolverines - The Michigan Wolverines were able to slip in to the Big Ten Tournament as the #6 seed, but that does not mean they are an easy win for any team. Going 8-3 in their last eleven games, Michigan has been able to win hard-fought games, showing that they are a battle tested team, with four batters hitting over .320. Jimmy Pickens has been a beast for the offense, mashing nine home runs this season. Andrew Waszak has pitched well for this Wolverines team, going 6-3 with a 2.36 ERA. Michigan will need to slip past a very tough Nebraska team to advance in the winners bracket, but they have to like their chances with Waszak on the mound. Odds of Winning: 14-1
What do you think, Illini Nation? Who do you think will win the 2013 Big Ten Tournament?
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