The Big Ten kicked off their 2022 baseball season last Friday, February 18th, with a full slate for the first time in two years. Since the teams only played in-conference games last year, the 2022 season brought new challenges, new faces in new places, and tons of action.
Illinois kicked off the 2022 Big Ten season with a three-game set against Kansas, dropping two of three at Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi, Texas. Losing the opener 4-2, the Fighting Illini put up a good fight, taking the lead in the seventh. However, reliever Alex Vera was unable to hold on and put two on base. While he was taken out before either could score, closer Tommy Green let the inherited runners score, costing the Illini the game.
Kansas got to game two opener Ryan Banderhei early, scoring seven in the first two innings. The bullpen experienced similar woes, and the Illini couldn’t get their bats going, dropping the game 12-1. Sunday saw Illinois overcome their early deficit, beating the Jayhawks 7-1 behind a strong performance from starter Payton Hutchings. Illinois sits at 1-2 after their opening weekend.
Iowa took on three opponents in Charleston, South Carolina, starting their season against the Air Force. In a dominating win over the Falcons, Iowa put up twelve runs with first baseman Peyton Williams responsible for three. The Falcons only managed two runs against Iowa pitching, one in the first against starter Adam Mazur, and one in the ninth against closer Jacob Henderson (inherited from Benjamin DeTaeye).
The Hawkeyes had another dominating win on Saturday, defeating Ball State 11-1. Iowa’s offense got to Ball State starter Tyler Schweitzer early, putting up a five-spot in the first inning. The Cardinals struggled against Iowa’s pitching staff, managing only two hits and giving Hawkeye Brody Brecht his first win. Iowa completed the three-game sweep on Sunday, beating Bucknell 3-0. Combining for eight hits, Iowa made easy work of Bucknell’s Austin Odell who took the loss. Iowa sits at 3-0 after their successful opening weekend.
Rutgers also found early success this season, sweeping Houston Baptist in a three-game set. Opening with a 4-0 victory over the Huskies, Rutgers managed 11 hits against Houston’s pitching staff. The Scarlet Knights’ pitching staff combined for nine innings of scoreless ball, giving up only three hits.
Rutgers scored a statement win over the Huskies in game two, winning 18-3. Highlighted by right fielder Richie Schiekofer’s five hits and Ben Gorski and Wyatt Parliament’s five scoreless innings in relief, the Scarlet Knights combined for 21 hits and ten strikeouts. Closing out the sweep on Sunday, the Scarlet Knights defeated Houston Baptist 10-5 behind pitcher Justin Sinibaldi. Racking up 11 hits while giving up ten, the victory wasn’t as easy as Saturday’s but brought Rutgers to a comfortable 3-0 to start the season.
Northwestern may be looking for a re-do of their opening weekend after dropping all four games to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. After rallying back from an early deficit to lead the Blazers in the seventh, the Wildcats couldn’t hold on and dropped the opener 8-7. Managing only three strikeouts, the pitching staff couldn’t offer much help to the active bats. In the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, it was much of the same story with the pitching again managing only three strikeouts. This time, however, the Wildcats’ bats were silent and only scored one run while the Blazers scored four.
Hoping to recover from the early deficit, Northwestern got a good start in the day’s second game. Scoring three in the first two innings, the Wildcats held the lead for six innings. However, the pitching once again imploded in the bottom half of the sixth, giving up seven runs. The Wildcats dropped it 10-4 and exhausted six pitchers in the process. Sunday’s finale was more of the same with Northwestern losing 11-5. This time, it was the starter in trouble with Kellen Pate giving up four runs in four innings. While the bats saw some signs of life late in the game, scoring four over the final three innings, the damage had been done and the Wildcats started their season 0-4.
Ohio State had a busy weekend, facing three opponents in four days and winning three of four games. Friday’s opener saw the Buckeyes’ bats explode for a 15-4 win over Marshall University. With the game tied until the fourth, Ohio State had a big inning in the fifth, scoring eight. Second baseman Drew Reckart highlighted the game with a four-hit performance while the Buckeyes’ pitching staff combined for 16 strikeouts. OSU enjoyed similar success on Saturday, beating Indiana State 9-3. While the Sycamores opened the scoring with a run in the top of the first, the Buckeyes immediately responded with three of their own in the bottom half. This time, it was Marcus Ernst and Hank Thomas at the front, each with two RBIs.
The second game against the Sycamores was much closer with the Buckeyes just barely pulling away with a 9-8 victory. Indiana State once again opened the scoring with four runs in the first two innings, and four more in the fourth. While it looked bleak for the Buckeyes, they responded with three runs of their own in the fifth, one in the seventh, and five in the eight for a commanding comeback win. OSU’s successful run came to an end on Monday as they dropped the closer against BYU 9-6. Facing struggles from opener Aaron Funk, the Buckeyes found themselves in an early 6-0 deficit after the top of the third. While they scored three in the bottom of the inning and another three in the eighth, it was not enough. Justis Reiser and the Cougars took the game from the Buckeyes who sit at 3-1 after the opening weekend.
Indiana found themselves in a hole after week one, dropping all three to Clemson. Unable to score in their season opener, they lost game one 9-0. Facing struggles from opener John-Biagio Modugno, the Hoosiers were in a deficit early and could not recover. Although the pitching staff combined for 17 strikeouts, it was no match for their offense, who only managed three hits.
Game two was no better for the struggling Hoosiers who lost 19-4. Although they earned an early 4-0 lead after two, Clemson exploded after that. Again striking out 16, Indiana’s strike throwers were not enough to keep the Tigers, who managed 13 hits, down. Sunday’s finale looked much better for the Hoosiers who opened the scoring with a home run in the top of the first. They held the lead until the seventh when Clemson tied it at four but lost 5-4 on an RBI lineout in the tenth. Indiana’s Tuesday game against Miami (Ohio) was postponed, so the Hoosiers sit at 0-3 after week one.
Purdue enjoyed a very successful opening weekend, sweeping a four-game set against South Dakota State in Sugar Land, Texas. Scoring early on a solo home run by newcomer Paul Toetz, the Boilermakers lost their lead when SDS scored four in the third. After tying it up in the bottom of the inning, the Boilermakers had the energy they needed to win the game, taking the lead back in the seventh and winning 5-4. The first of two games on Saturday was a dominating win for Purdue as they took down the Jackrabbits 11-1. While SDS started the game off with an RBI single in the third, they would not score again. Purdue took command in the bottom of the inning, again thanks to Toetz. Boilermaker pitching struck out 12 and held the Jackrabbits to just three hits, a promising sign for the team.
The Boilermakers carried that momentum into the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, winning 14-3. For the third game in a row, Toetz opened the scoring for Purdue with an RBI flyout. The pitching staff also found success again, striking out 12 and allowing just three runs on five hits. While the Jackrabbits scored three times in the ninth, it was nowhere near enough to take down the cruising Boilermakers. Purdue closed out the sweep on Sunday with another double-digit performance. While the Jackrabbits scored first again, the Boilermakers exploded for seven runs in the bottom of the first inning. Behind Kyle Wade’s strong relief of 3.1 innings and just one earned run, the Boilermakers beat SDS 10-7 to close out week one at 4-0.
Minnesota faced a busy weekend, playing Florida Atlantic and Florida Gulf Coast for five games between Friday and Wednesday. They got their season started on the right foot Friday afternoon, beating Florida Atlantic 9-1. Behind five innings of two-hit ball from Sam Ireland, the Golden Gophers combined for twelve hits, earning themselves an easy victory. They were unable to continue that success on Saturday, however, losing 8-2. After falling behind 5-0 after four innings, the Gophers never recovered from a weak relief performance. Their woes continued on Sunday as they dropped game three to the Owls 13-4. They looked like they may have gotten some of their energy back as they opened the game with two home runs in the first inning, but FAU immediately responded and never looked back. The Gophers faced rocky relief pitching and defensive plights, committing three errors and suffering a staggering loss.
Monday’s series finale was not any better, as the Gophers lost 17-9 with no help from their pitching. Although the bats were alive and Minnesota managed nine runs on ten hits, FAU’s offense was just too much for the Gophers’ pitching who managed only two scoreless innings. On Wednesday, Minnesota was optimistic as they faced a new opponent, Florida Gulf Coast. However, they experienced many of the same woes that had ravaged them over the weekend. Giving up six runs in the third inning, pitching was once again the name of the game. While the Gophers got some energy back in the fourth after scoring five runs, that was all they could manage behind their relief’s dismal performance. Minnesota sits at 1-4 after their opening week.
Nebraska took on Sam Houston for four games to open their season, winning just one in Huntsville, Texas. The Cornhuskers looked strong early, scoring three in the second inning of Friday’s opener. However, Sam Houston immediately came back, scoring five of their own in the bottom of the innings. Although Nebraska came back to tie it up in the top of the seventh, SHS did more damage in the bottom of the inning, handing Emmett Olson the 8-5 loss. The Cornhuskers opened the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader with an RBI single in the second but again lost their early lead to a four-run third inning by SHS. The Bearkats’ pitching held the Cornhuskers to just one run, giving Coltin Atkinson the win after six one-run innings.
Saturday’s second game went much better for Nebraska who pulled away with a 12-9 victory over the Bearkats. Waking the bats up early, Nebraska scored four runs in the first inning, and five in the second. Adding insurance in the fifth, eighth, and ninth, it would prove to be much needed as the Cornhuskers’ pitching faltered late and surrendered nine runs on ten hits. However, Colby Gomes was able to close out the Cornhuskers first victory in 2022. The excitement of the win did not last long, however, as Sam Houston closed out the series with a 6-3 win over Nebraska. Jumping on starter Braxton Bragg early, SHS scored all six runs in the first two innings. Nebraska attempted a comeback by scoring three in the eighth, but couldn’t build off of that and handed Steven Beard his first victory of the season for SHS. Nebraska sits at 1-3 after week one.
Maryland enjoyed a successful opening week, sweeping a three-game set against Baylor and one against UMBC. The Terrapins’ pitching staff shone in Friday’s opener, holding Baylor to no runs on five hits. This provided starter Nick Dean an easy victory after the Terrapins scored two in the first inning. After adding two insurance runs in the eighth, Maryland claimed a season-opening victory. The offense started strong early once again in Saturday’s game two as the Terrapins scored four in the first. After starter Ryan Ramsey’s quality start of six innings and two runs, the bullpen held on for a 9-5 victory over the Bears.
Sunday’s series finale was a similar story, granting the Terrapins the sweep over Baylor. While the Bears took an early lead in the first inning, Maryland bounced right back in the second, scoring two. It was a back-and-forth battle until the seventh when Matt Shaw broke it open with a two-run home run to left field. Maryland needed just two pitchers to get the job done as starter Jason Savacool threw eight innings of two-run ball and earned his first victory of the season, 8-4. After a short break, the Terrapins were back at it on Tuesday against UMBC. After Maryland earned an early lead after a two-run third inning, the Retrievers tied it up with two in the fifth. After a strong performance from Terrapin pitching, Chris Alleyne scored the game-winner on a single from Nick Lorusso in the bottom of the ninth for a walk-off 3-2 victory. The Terrapins sit at a Big Ten best 4-0, tied with Purdue.
Michigan faced a busy schedule over the weekend, facing four opponents in four days. Playing in the new Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, the Wolverines dropped their first game of the season to Texas Tech, 7-6. It was a close game through all nine innings, with Michigan taking the early lead. In the seventh inning, it was 6-5 Michigan with two to go. However, Texas Tech came to life in the bottom of the ninth, walking off the Wolverines on an RBI single by Owen Washburn. Saturday’s game against Kansas State was a different story, with Michigan earning a dominant 10-2 win. While KSU took the first lead in the fourth, Michigan came back to score three in the sixth and never looked back. The bats exploded for seven runs in the seventh, securing the victory for Michigan’s Jacob Denner who threw six innings of four-hit ball.
Facing Oklahoma on Sunday, the Wolverines’ bats fell silent. Scoring just one run on four hits and committing three errors, Michigan’s 11 strikeouts could not help them. Oklahoma put up two in the second inning, meaning that Michigan never held the lead. Connor O’Halloran suffered his first loss of the season after throwing 4.2 innings for three hits and three runs. The Wolverines came back on Monday against UT Arlington to win 9-7 and split their opening series. Behind a strong 5.2 innings from starter Chase Allen, Michigan combined for nine runs on 11 hits. Although the Wolverines’ bullpen faltered in the ninth to give up four runs, their offense had provided enough of a cushion to give Allen his first win and put Michigan at 2-2 after week one.
Michigan State played four against UNLV in Las Vegas, winning three in dominating fashion. Although the Spartans were granted a strong performance from starter Zach Iverson after four innings, the bats couldn’t find the same strength. Scoring just two runs on eight hits, MSU’s defense was lacking as they committed three errors and the bullpen allowed three runs. This secured a 4-2 win for the Runnin’ Rebels and Josh Ibarra. MSU’s bats came alive in both games of Saturday’s doubleheader, winning the first 10-6. Backed by strong performances from Nick Powers and Conner Tomasic on the mound, the Spartans erupted for five runs in the seventh and an insurance run in the ninth. Zaid Walker and Bryan Broecker highlighted the day offensively, each with three RBIs.
Saturday’s second game saw similar success for the Spartans who won 12-6 behind Ryan Szczepaniak. Coming alive early by scoring five in the first three innings, MSU’s pitching made sure UNLV never got the lead. Coming up with another big inning in the eighth with five runs, MSU secured the win and at least a series split. On Sunday, they earned the series win with an 11-7 victory over the Runnin’ Rebels. Again taking an early four-run lead, they couldn’t hold on as long this time and the game was tied after three. UNLV took the lead in the fifth after scoring three runs, but MSU scored five over the final two innings, securing the win for relief pitcher Kyle Dunning. After winning the series, Michigan State sits at 3-1 on the young season.
Penn State battled against three opponents over four games, winning just one. Friday’s opener saw the Nittany Lions’ pitching staff struggle as they gave up ten runs. They were not solely to blame, however, as the offense could only come up with one run in the ninth. Starter Trey Dombrowski was charged with the 10-1 loss. PSU got some revenge back in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader against LIU, winning 14-3. Exploding for six runs in the first inning, the Lions set the tone for the game early. Behind five innings of one-run ball from starter Kellan Tulio, the Lions enjoyed the easy victory before setting up to play again that evening.
Unfortunately, PSU did not enjoy the same success in game two as they had that morning and dropped it to the Sharks 11-8. Things looked good early for the Lions after they scored five runs in the first inning. That lead was lost, however, when LIU enjoyed the same inning in the sixth. Exhausting six pitchers, PSU could not seem to find the strike zone, walking 12 and giving up 11 hits. The Lions’ struggles were compounded in Sunday’s finale against Northeastern, an 8-1 loss. Things didn’t look too bad after the sixth inning after starter Tommy Molsky had gone six innings with just two runs on four hits, and the Lions were only down one. However, the bats fell silent and the bullpen imploded after that. After scoring five in the top of the ninth, the Huskies beat the Lions 8-1, resulting in a 1-3 start to the season for Penn State.
Big Ten Standings
Michigan State 3-1
Ohio State 3-1
Penn State 1-3
Featured photo from @PurdueBaseball on Twitter.