Strong finish makes Michigan pick to win Big Ten baseball title
The Associated Press
Six schools have won or shared a Big Ten baseball championship since 2009, and there will be a seventh if the coaches’ preseason poll turns out to be right.
Michigan is the pick after it finished third in the regular season and swept through the conference tournament last year.
The Wolverines enter their 150th season with five everyday players and three starting pitchers back from their 39-25 team.
Carmen Benedetti is one of the country’s top two-way players. He led the Big Ten with 25 doubles and 71 RBIs last season and was second in the conference with a .352 batting average. He picked up three saves with a 1.84 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 14 2-3 innings.
Outfielder Cody Bruder batted .308 with 43 RBIs, and shortstop Jake Bivens hit .319 while earning national honors as a freshman.
Left-hander Brett Adcock led Michigan starters with 10 wins and a 3.10 ERA, and he struck out 95 in 90 innings.
Last season, Michigan made its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008, losing in the regionals. The Wolverines were among a Big Ten-record five teams to make the national tournament.
Some things to watch in the Big Ten this year:
REBUILDING ILLINI: Regular-season champion Illinois won a conference-record 27 straight games on its way to a school-record 50 wins. Coach Dan Hartleb lost key pieces from the team that made it to the super regionals and will rely on several of his 14 newcomers. All-conference players are back in catcher Jason Goldstein and shortstop Adam Walton, and No. 1 pitcher Cody Sedlock could be an early draft pick.
THE MAN AT MARYLAND: Mike Shawaryn is the best pitcher in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country. He set program records with 13 wins and 138 strikeouts and comes into his junior season with a school-record 24 wins.
HAWKEYE ENCORE? Iowa is coming off its best season in 25 years and brings back four everyday players and two of its three weekend starting pitchers. The Hawkeyes went 41-18, finished second in the Big Ten and went to an NCAA regional. Tyler Peyton returns as the Friday night starter, and he’ll play first base when he’s not on the mound. He batted a team-best .337.
HOOSIER DUO: Left-hander Kyle Hart and righty Jake Kelzer will be keys to Indiana reaching the NCAA Tournament for a fourth straight year. Hart got a late start last season after having Tommy John surgery in 2014. He led Indiana with a 1.21 ERA and 5-0 record in eight starts and two relief appearances. Opponents batted just .237 against Kelzer, a 14th-round draft pick by the Cubs.
BOILERS UP? Don’t overlook Purdue, which finished last in the league in 2015. The Boilermakers won six of their last seven games and bring back seven everyday players and 15 pitchers, including three of their top four starters.
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