The Big Ten regular season comes to a close this weekend and it certainly does not lack drama. Illinois, winners of twenty-four straight, sits atop the conference with a fantastic 19-1 record. The Illini meet Nebraska this weekend in Champaign needing two wins or two Hawkeye losses to claim the regular season crown. Though it requires swallowing pride and possibly bleach, we need Nebraska to win at least two to keep our championship hopes alive.
Just how remarkable are Iowa and Illinois? Since Ohio State in 1966, no Big Ten team has finished with a higher winning percentage than Illinois' current .950 clip (excluding the East/West divisional format abandoned in 1988). Prior to '66, only Michigan's undefeated 1945 squad carried a better winning percentage than Illinois. An Iowa sweep (assuming an Illinois sweep) would match the highest winning percentage for a second place team since 1936 [!]. Big Ten baseball en fuego.
The Scarlet Knights have not had much fun the last few weeks. After playing Illinois tough for two games, the Knights watched Illini runners cross the plate twenty-eight times Sunday. So bad was the loss they created an RBI Baseball video to commemorate the trouncing. Entering the weekend 17-34-1 (5-16), Rutgers carries the highest team ERA (6.42) and second lowest batting average (.258) in the B1G. The Scarlet Knights have four players with 11+ steals (73 SB as a team) and seem to employ #Hellerball tendencies (few strikeouts, frequent sac bunts, and regular sac flies). Sophomore outfielder Tom Marcincyzk sports a .330/7HR/30RBI slash to lead Rutgers at the plate. Frankly Rutgers is a bad team that Iowa should sweep.
Game One Matchup and Info
Time, Location: Today at 2 pm CT, Piscataway, NJ
Media: Gametracker and Big Ten Plus
Pitching Probables: Tyler Peyton, IA (6-3, 2.90) vs. TBA
What to Watch For: Rutgers played Illinois tough last weekend, losing 5-4 and 6-2 before Sunady's whoopin'. Their weekend rotation is all TBA, signalling demoralized Jersey Boyz ready for summer on the Shore. Peyton should be able to beat them by himself and because #Hellerball preaches focus, I foresee a sweep.
Normal thread rules apply. Given the Thursday-Friday-Saturday schedule I plan to provide gamescores and updates. Let's Go Hawks!!