Big Ten Baseball Tournament Preview
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The 2012 Big Ten Baseball Tournament kicks off Wednesday at Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio. The tournament takes the conference's top six finishers from the regular season, pitting seeds 3-6 in action in the first round, while the top two seeds each get first-round byes.
Ohio State sophomore pitcher Jaron Long was named first team All-Big Ten.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Purdue, who is looking for their first Big Ten championship since 1909 and is the number one seed for the first time in the tournament's history, finished the Big Ten season with a 17-7 record and will be appearing in its fifth-consecutive Big Ten Tournament. The Boilermakers have a first-round bye for the first time since 2008 and will begin play on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. ET.
Purdue led the conference in batting with a .318 team average, and boasts four regulars in their lineup with at least a .340 batting average. Catcher Kevin Plawecki was named Big Ten Player of the Year after finishing the season batting .361 with five homeruns and 40 RBIs. As a testament to the Boilers' prowess at the plate, Plawecki finished third on his team in both homers and runs batted in, and second in batting. The Boilers also have the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Joe Haase, who finished the season with a 9-1 record and a 3.41 ERA.
The number two seed is Indiana, who finished the regular season with a 16-8 Big Ten record. They will be playing in their fourth conference tournament in the last five years. The Hoosiers will be looking for their third Big Ten Tournament championship. Their last one came in 2009 at Huntington Park. This is Indiana's highest seed since the tournament expanded to six teams in 2000.
Hoosier first baseman Sam Travis won the Big Ten Freshman of the Year Award following a season where he batted .324, hit nine homeruns and drove in 49 RBIs, which was good for second in the conference. Fellow freshman Kyle Schwarber hit .313 with eight homeruns and 47 RBIs this season.
Penn State owns the third seed in the bracket after finishing Big Ten play with a 15-9 mark and will make its second consecutive tournament appearance. This is the Nittany Lions' highest seed since 2008, when they were also third. They are seeking their first tournament title.
They are led by All-Big Ten first baseman Jordan Steranka, who finished fifth in the conference in batting with a .362 average and second in homeruns with eleven.
Nebraska, the number four seed, finished the regular season 14-10 in Big Ten play, and makes the Big Ten Tournament in its first year as a conference member. This is the Huskers' first postseason appearance since 2008.
Nebraska placed three players on the All-Big Ten first team, including Michael Pritchard, who led the conference in batting with a .379 average.
Michigan State enters the tournament as the fifth seed after finishing 13-11 during conference play. The Spartans are making their 10th overall appearance in the tournament, and their third in the last four years. Michigan State has yet to win a Big Ten Tournament.
The Spartans are led by All-Big Ten outfielder Jordan Keur, who finished with a .362 batting average this season, and second baseman Ryan Jones, who led the Spartans in batting with a .363 average. Starting pitcher Tony Bucciferro finished with a 5-3 record and a 2.94 ERA.
Ohio State rounds out the tournament as the sixth seed after finishing with an 11-13 record in Big Ten play. The Buckeyes finished tied in the standings with Illinois and Minnesota, but claimed the tiebreaker by virtue of their record against the three teams' common opponents. This will be the 25th tournament appearance for Ohio State, which is second among all Big Ten teams. The Buckeyes have won eight conference tournaments, which is tied for second among all Big Ten teams.
Ohio State starting pitcher Jaron Long is a first team All-Big Ten selection after finishing the season with a 6-2 record and a 2.29 ERA, which was good for third-best in the conference.
The first pitch is set for Wednesday at 12:05 p.m. ET as Nebraska faces Michigan State. Game two will begin at approximately 3:35 p.m. ET and will match up Penn State and Ohio State. Purdue and Indiana will begin play on Thursday and will face the winners of Wednesday's games.
Every game of the Big Ten Tournament will be aired on the Big Ten Network.
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