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Big Ten coaches select 2019 CWS finalist Wolverines to claim conference title
ROSEMONT, Ill. – Michigan was voted the preseason favorite to claim the 2020 Big Ten Baseball Championship as selected by the conference coaches and announced on Wednesday. The coaches voted on the top six teams and also selected three students from their own squads to a Preseason Honors list.
The Wolverines were followed in the preseason poll by Ohio State in second place and No. 3 Minnesota, Nebraska, Indiana and Illinois.
Michigan came within one victory of winning the 2019 NCAA College World Series. One of the final at-large teams selected to the NCAA Tournament field, the Wolverines (50-22) advanced to their eighth College World Series and first since 1984. In the CWS finals, Michigan defeated Vanderbilt, 7-4, in the first game of the best two-of-three series, but the Commodores rallied to win the final two games.
The Wolverines are directed by Erik Bakich, who was named the 2019 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Coach of the Year. Starting pitcher Jeff Criswell and designated hitter Jordan Nwogu earned first-team All-Big Ten accolades last year and return for 2020. Criswell was 7-1 with a 2.72 ERA and 116 strikeouts last season, while Nwogu posted a .321 batting average and scored a team-high 58 runs. Returning shortstop Jack Blomgren earned second-team all-conference honors last year.
Ohio State won the 2019 Big Ten Tournament, beating Nebraska 3-1 in the championship game, to earn the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes won their 10th Big Ten Tournament and, as the No. 7 seed, became the lowest seed to win the event. Ohio State secured its 22nd NCAA Tournament appearance and third in four years, finishing with a 36-27 overall record. Pitchers Seth Lonsway and Griffin Smith, who made the Big Ten All-Tournament Team, return this season. Also among the returnees is catcher Dillon Dingler, who earned second-team all-conference honors a year ago.
Minnesota was tied with Illinois and Nebraska for third place in the 2019 conference standings. The Golden Gophers finished the campaign with a 29-27 overall mark. Returning starting pitcher Max Meyer was a second-team All-Big Ten selection last year and earned first-team accolades in 2018. Meyer, who also plays in the outfield, led the Golden Gophers with 87 strikeouts last season. Infielder Jordan Kozicky led the team with 11 home runs and delivered 49 RBI and 14 doubles. Pitcher JP Massey had 31 strikeouts in 25 innings of work and also started three games.
Nebraska posted a 32-24 record last year and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the 16th time. The Cornhuskers were tied with Illinois and Minnesota for third place in the conference standings. Will Bolt returns to his alma mater as head coach this season. As a player or coach, Bolt has been a part of all three of Nebraska’s College World Series squads. Among the returnees for the Huskers are second-team All-Big Ten selections Aaron Palensky (OF) and Cam Chick (DH). Palensky led the Huskers in batting average (.320), hits (71), runs (43), HR (7) and total bases (107). Chick had 31 RBI and 33 runs scored last season, starting games at DH, second base, third base and the outfield.
Indiana won its seventh Big Ten Championship, and first since 2014, last season. The Hoosiers were selected to participate in the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year and ninth time overall. Led by Jeff Mercer, the 2019 Big Ten Coach of the Year, the Hoosiers finished with a 36-21 overall record. Returning third baseman Cole Barr garnered second-team All-Big Ten honors last year. A starter in all 60 games, he led the Hoosiers with 17 home runs and had 51 RBI with 46 runs scored.
The Fighting Illini earned a 36-21 mark last year and advanced to their 12th NCAA Tournament. Illinois finished in a tie for third in the conference standings with Minnesota and Nebraska. Among the returnees for the Illini is pitcher Garrett Acton, who earned first-team All-Big Ten plaudits. Acton set a Big Ten single-season record with 19 saves and had a 2.18 ERA. Pitcher Ty Weber was second on the team with 79.2 innings pitched, earning a 4-3 record and a 3.28 ERA.
The 2020 Big Ten baseball season is set to begin Friday. The preseason poll, featuring the top six teams, and the complete Preseason Honors list can be found below.
2020 BIG TEN BASEBALL PRESEASON POLL (top six teams)
1 Michigan
2 Ohio State
3 Minnesota
4 Nebraska
5 Indiana
6 Illinois
2020 BIG TEN BASEBALL PRESEASON HONORS LIST
Garrett Acton, RHP, Sr., Illinois
Branden Comia, SS, So., Illinois
Ty Weber, RHP, Sr., Illinois
Cole Barr, 3B, Jr., Indiana
Elijah Dunham, OF, Jr, Indiana
Tommy Sommer, LHP, Jr., Indiana
Grant Judkins, RHP, Sr., Iowa
Grant Leonard, RHP, Sr., Iowa
Austin Martin, C, Sr., Iowa
Randy Bednar, OF, Jr., Maryland
Maxwell Costes, INF, So., Maryland
Sean Fisher, LHP, Jr., Maryland
Jeff Criswell, RHP, Jr., Michigan
Jesse Franklin, OF, Jr., Michigan
Jordan Nwogu, OF, Jr., Michigan
Mason Erla, RHP, Jr., Michigan State
Jarrett Olson, LHP, Sr., Michigan State
Zaid Walker, OF, So., Michigan State
Jordan Kozicky, IF, Sr., Minnesota
JP Massey, RHP, So., Minnesota
Max Meyer, RHP, Jr., Minnesota
Aaron Palensky, OF, Jr., Nebraska
Spencer Schwellenbach, IF, So., Nebraska
Gareth Stroh, LHP, Sr., Nebraska
Mike Doherty, RHP, So., Northwestern
Shawn Goosenberg, SS, So., Northwestern
Michael Trautwein, C, So., Northwestern
Garrett Burhenn, RHP, So., Ohio State
Dillon Dingler, C, Jr., Ohio State
Seth Lonsway, LHP, So., Ohio State
Bailey Dees, SP, Jr., Penn State
Conor Larkin, SP, Jr., Penn State
Justin Williams, 3B, So., Penn State
Zac Fascia, C, Sr., Purdue
Bo Hofstra, RHP, Jr., Purdue
Skyler Hunter, OF, Sr., Purdue
Danny DiGeorgio, SS, Jr., Rutgers
Tevin Murray, SP, Sr., Rutgers
Harry Rutkowski, SP, Jr., Rutgers