Baseball: Northwestern Preview

Submitted by formerlyanonymous on May 14th, 2010 at 3:55 PM

Michigan (29-18, 10-8)

vs

Northwestern (21-27, 10-8)


Friday 6:35pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
Alan Oaks (4-5, 3.75 ERA) vs Eric Jokisch (4-5, 4.59 ERA)
Stats Audio (WCBN)   BTN.com ($)  
Notes: Michigan is 108-27 all time, Last year: 1-2 series loss. Jokisch
is a LHP.

Michigan

vs

Northwestern


Saturday 1:05 ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
Bobby Brosnahan(5-4, 4.64 ERA) vs Francis Brooke (5-3, 4.28 ERA)
Stats Audio (MGo)   BTN.com ($)  
Notes:

Michigan

vs

Northwestern


Sunday 1:05pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
TBA vs TBA
Stats Audio (MGo)   BTN.com ($)  
Notes: Could see Katzman or Sinnery.

It's the first round of Big Ten Elimination as we've reached the final two weeks of regular season Big Ten baseball. Michigan faces one of the three other teams tied for the Big Ten lead in the Northwestern Wildcats, a team with a solid pitching staff and a surprisingly decent offense that came together just in time for conference play. This is also a series for revenge as Northwestern was the team to knock Michigan out of the Big Ten Tournament in 2009. Vengeance must be had.

Quick look at the midweek game against Michigan State, as well as a preview of Northwestern after the jump:

About that MSU Game

Michigan lost a mid-week, non-conference game at home against Michigan State on Wednesday by a score of 13-10. The first 6 innings were an insult to baseball. They took 3 hours with absolutely no pitching of any quality whatsoever for either team.

bad pitching

The last 3 innings were respectable, lasting just 46 minutes, but by then, most fans had left and I had long since gouged my eyes out at the bile being streamed over my internet connection. Yes, it was that bad.

For those interested, several players did have great games on offense. Coley Crank had two dingers on a 4/5 day, posting 5 RBI. Toth went 3/4 with 2 RBI and 2 runs. LaMarre went 2/4 with 2 RBI and a run. Lorenz went 3/5 with 2 doubles and a stand up triple, scoring two runs. Dennis also had a pair of hits, including a double.

If there is one positive I take out of this, it's that Matt Broder had his first solid outing this year. In his previous 4 stints, he had lasted just over 2 innings combined for an ERA just over 11. Broder has had some solid summer numbers as a left handed starter, but it was against quite weak competition. As a redshirt freshman, we'll see him more over the next few years, and hopefully not as Jeff DeCarlo v2.0 (although the academic side of DeCarlo would be nice, knowing nothing about Broder's academics).

Like any other mid-week game, this meant absolutely nothing. Neither team should brag too much about it as it was ugly. State does have bragging rights for the next year though, as at least they managed to win.

On to Northwestern.

Northwestern's Season

The Wildcats are a tale of two seasons. In the early out of conference schedule, NU was about as bad as it gets. They exited the early season with a 6-18 record with one decent win and a myriad of BAD losses. Looking back, the Rutgers win is much improved as they've been a top 100 team almost all season. The UCONN win is still impressive with the Huskies still in the top 25. On the flip side, they also had losses to George Mason, Winthrop, and Marist, and that was just in their opening weekend.

Since Big Ten play has started, Northwestern is quite a different team. They've lost only two series including the opener against Ohio State and last weekend against Indiana, both in Evanston. Over that stretch, including mid-week games, NU is 15-9, riding some solid starting pitching and an offense capable of scoring just enough runs.

Northwestern's Pitching

In the darkest depths of the off season, I was on the Northwestern bandwagon as a dark horse contender for the Big Ten title (why did I drop them, I'm not sure?) on the basis of their starting pitching. They are lead by lefty Eric Jokisch, who won the series clincher against Michigan last year. The 6'3" junior is one of the better pitchers in the conference in terms of stuff, but he's not overpowering. He has 51 strikeouts in 68.2 innings pitched, and has an opponent batting average of .285. He does have two complete games on the season, one of them last week at Indiana. He won't give up many extra base hits, but rather a lot of contact singles through the infield. He does have a lot of wild pitches (8) and HBP (5), but I'm not sure how fluky those numbers might be over 12 appearances.

Francis Brooke is a 6'3" sophomore who spent last year as a key contributor in the bullpen. This season, he's been firmly entrenched as a regular starter. He's their workhorse, throwing 74.2 innings including one complete game. He's also not a strikeout pitcher with just 44 on the year, but he has given up a 18 doubles and 7 homers. His biggest strength is his lack of walks. He has just 7(!) this season.

The third starter could be one of a few. The first is Joe Muraski. Muraski earned the other win in last year's series, but he's struggled plenty this year. In 59.1 innings (13 appearances and 12 starts), he's posted a 7.13 ERA and .335 opponent batting average. He's also given up a team leading 19 doubles.

The other potential starter is David Jensen. Jensen is 1-2 over 13 appearances including 4 starts. He's been used as a long reliever for the most part, with 42.2 innings over 13 appearances. His opponent batting average is pretty high at .315, and his ERA is also up at 6.75. Jensen has given up a team high 8 homers on the year and has only 26 strikeouts.

Both Jensen and Muraski are left handed seniors, with Jensen being a bit taller at 6'6". Muraski is only 6'2". The right handed option is freshman Jack Harvey. Harvey was shellacked in his last outing at Indiana, lasting just one inning before Jensen bailed him out. It was his first start, so perhaps that experiment has passed.

The Northwestern closer is righty Paul Snieder (also their everyday first baseman) who has 10 saves in 20 appearances this season, posting a spectacular 1.91 ERA. In 33 innings he has 31 Ks, and only given up 4 extra base hits (20 hits total). The other go to reliever is Matt Gailey. Galey has a 1-1 record with 1 save in 19 appearances. In 22 innings, he's given up just 3 earned runs (6 total) while striking out 14.

Northwestern's Offense

The Wildcat offense starts where the pitching ends, with Paul Snieder. Snieder (hits left handed) is hitting .393 on the year with a team high .596 slugging percentage. His 6 homers and 15 doubles are also both leading the team. The guy is an all around great player and will be tough to deal with all weekend.

Another big hitter of note is Chad Noble. The senior from Texas is in his fourth season as NU's everyday catcher and he's finally exploded this season. After his first two seasons hitting around .250, he moved up to .297 last season. This year, he's currently at a .371 clip. He doesn't have that many RBI (22), but he does have a decent slugging percentage of .515, second to Snieder. He does lead all Wildcats with 37 runs scored.

The high average guy for NU is sophomore second baseman Zach Morton. Morton is hitting .356 on the season with only 10 extra base hits (57 total hits). He second to Snieder on the team with a .455 on base percentage.

The RBI leader on the team is third baseman Chris Lashmet. He's hitting just .304 on the season, but has 35 RBI with 12 doubles, 3 triples, and four homers (.467 slugging).

The only major stolen base threat for the Wildcats is Trevor Stevens. Stevens, a .286 hitter, has 13 steals in 19 attempts on the season.

Weather

weather

That's glorious. Winds should be blowing in stiff from right on Friday. If it's going to go out, it better be on a line and stay below the indoor track building's top. Saturday will be a cross from right to left, but it won't be huge.

Series Thoughts

bigtenbaseballroulette Last year's NU series was a horrible time for me. I spent that weekend at the funeral for my grandfather. I came home to find that Michigan was forced into a double header by rain, and they lost both, eliminating them from even the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan lost out to the last place team in the Big Ten, falling totally out of contention. I'm craving some retribution for that series loss.

But this NU team isn't the same as last year. These guys are catching fire just at the right time, and Michigan isn't playing that well lately either. This will be a battle between first place teams, both desperately trying to secure one of the Big Ten Tournament byes. It's anyone's regular season title to grab at the moment, and the two teams that secure byes will be sitting pretty when it comes to the auto-bid.

It should be a great series, and very evenly matched, and because Michigan has the home field advantage, I'm taking Michigan 2-1 in the series. I'm hoping the pitching staff is on a weekly oscillation, so last week's horrible starting pitching will be followed up by a sterling performance this week. The team needs it badly.

Stuff I'll be watching for this weekend:

  • Will Katzman start Sunday? He was back to Evil Katzman in his brief outing against MSU in the mid-week. I'm never comfortable with him on the mound.
  • Will the pitchers cut down on the walks? Alan Oaks was questionable last week, as was Sinnery. Sinnery shouldn't be afraid to throw strikes with his downward motion on his pitches. Our defense should be able to cover.
  • Has Coley Crank busted the slump with the 2 homers against State? Was it just another mid-week fluke. On that same note, did we waste great offensive outings by Lorenz and Dennis, two players that have just occasional offensive spurts, in the midweek?
  • Was Biondi's 0/3 against State indicative of the slump still lingering, or will he return to the form he was against Minnesota?

If you're in Ann Arbor, get to the Fish this weekend. This is the last home series of the year, with just one home game left after it, this Tuesday against Ball State.

Comments

formerlyanonymous

May 14th, 2010 at 9:41 PM ^

Michigan wins 4-3. A couple big hustle plays and some poor NU defense make the difference. Biondi stretched a couple 1st to 3rd plays that turned out to be huge. LaMarre went 2/4 with a triple, 2 runs and 2 RBI. Oaks did just enough, handing it over to Gerbe and Burgoon. Both did well. Toth went 3/4.

Lots of good, and hopefully we see it carry over to game 2 tomorrow.

I'm probably going to miss the game live and watch a replay of it afterwards. The plan is to catch UT-Arlington host Lamar followed by Air Force at TCU. Making a day out of it in the metroplex. Really wish Dallas Baptist would be playing the late game, but oh well.

formerlyanonymous

May 15th, 2010 at 9:28 AM ^

Yeah, Air Force isn't a good team at all. Their 8-39 now. TCU is a top 5 team. That game was started a few weeks ago at Air Force with some brutal pitching. They had 13 doubles and 9 homers in the game, and only 2 of those doubles came after play was resumed. TCU just had commercial plane tickets and the two teams agreed before the game at a time that they would have to suspend play.

I expect today would be similar to yesterday. TCU is fighting to keep a national seed. AF isn't good. UTA is actually pretty good (fringe top 100 RPI) in the Southland. Michael Choice is a top end draft pick and their ace Mitchell has been really good as well. Luckily last night was rained out for them, so I'll get to see Mitchell in the early game (12p, late game at 3p). I figure that's worth seeing over DBU (a top 100 RPI team as well), and it's their senior day (1p).  Then I'll catch TCU for the 4p game, get home, buy the archived version of Michigan's game and try to watch that before falling asleep. I feel tired just thinking about all of it.

formerlyanonymous

May 14th, 2010 at 10:19 PM ^

#

Team

W

L

1

Minnesota

13

8

2

Michigan

12

9

 

Purdue

12

9

4

Northwestern

11

10

 

Michigan State

10

11

 

Iowa

10

11

 

Ohio State

10

11

 

Indiana

10

11

9

Illinois

9

12

10

Penn State

8

13

formerlyanonymous

May 16th, 2010 at 8:08 PM ^

Minnesota has clinched a spot in the tounament. I think Michigan still needs one more win before they clinch a BTT berth. As for who we need to lose, Michigan would need two teams to lose, one being Iowa, and the other being out of Michigan State, Ohio State, or Indiana. Iowa is important as they have a tie breaker against Michigan head-to-head.

Other Chris

May 15th, 2010 at 9:34 AM ^

Although I don't know what was up with Lashmet having Oak's number.  "That that same dude again!" said my son in wonder.

Could you tell on the feed how into it the crowd was when LaMarre tripled and Burgoon struck out Noble?

formerlyanonymous

May 15th, 2010 at 9:52 AM ^

I was in a different window on the LaMarre triple but I could hear them over the announcer yelling into the mic. I think I was probably a bit too into the Noble K to admit if I was paying attention to the crowd. Seemed like a decent crowd, but a little on the thin side. Still had 1,384 in the box score, so maybe the stands behind the plate were full, just nothing down the baselines.

Other Chris

May 15th, 2010 at 10:24 AM ^

A couple of university units having bonding outings, so the seatbacks were fuller than usual.  The bleachers had the usual suspects in the usual quantities.  A kid I used to coach in Science Olympiad (I know, dorktastic) was on that Little League team who "sang" -- they were so thrilled with themselves for saying "root root root for Michigan."

I was really surprised how loud the crowd got for LaMarre's triple -- I don't think I've heard it that loud this year.  I think he could have made it home the way the ball seemed to have been bobbled on the relay but better safe than sorry I guess.

Also, event staff said that State game was the worst thing they've ever had to be a part of, witness, or know about.  Since that capped off the absolute worst work day I can remember having, we shall never speak of it again.

Other Chris

May 15th, 2010 at 9:56 PM ^

Thought they'd battled back and could hold on to win, but no.  Kind of like last Saturday, actually.

Oh well, there is always tomorrow!  With Michigan and Purdue losing, looks like Minnesota has sole possession of #1?

Steve in PA

May 15th, 2010 at 9:55 PM ^

FA, do you think you could do your writeup a little early?  We're planning on making at least 2 of those games and I'd like to give some info to those who are going with me.  Of course, a few of them are PSU homers but my son and I will be representing.

formerlyanonymous

May 15th, 2010 at 11:12 PM ^

I'll try to have it out by Thursday night, but life is throwing me everything it has at me right now. While on my trip today, car battery has decided to play dead every chance it gets (nothing like having that happen at 5pm on a Saturday while 2 hours from home, and no, it's not the battery, seems like connection to battery terminals), room key card disappeared on the trip, shoulder injury from 2007 decided to flare up where I was in such pain I was on the verge of throwing up the entire 2 hour trip home. All sorts of fun.

I did see some pretty good baseball today, though. Air Force, ~#270 in RPI beat ~#4 TCU. It was intense. Great stadium. The UTA game was less interesting. 12 runs on 4 hits... in just the 8th inning for Lamar. It was painful.

formerlyanonymous

May 16th, 2010 at 1:33 PM ^

Sinnery on the mound today. Scoreless through one. Huge game as the winner holds the tie breaker head-to-head and the loser falls further behind in the race for a bye.

Other than Michigan, rooting interest today is for Illinois(vs Purdue) and Penn State (@Minnesota).

formerlyanonymous

May 16th, 2010 at 1:34 PM ^

Game is also shaping up to be high scoring on senior day. Great weather. Good sized crowd. Pitchers have given up quite a few hits but no runs thus far. Both bullpens are pretty taxed.

Alton

May 16th, 2010 at 5:04 PM ^

This is why you never leave a baseball game early.  Michigan wins, 15-14.  Greatest comeback ever?

 

Minnesota is in first at 13-8, Michigan & Purdue tied for 2nd at 12-9, with Michigan owning the tiebreaker over Purdue.  Minnesota and Ohio State play each other this weekend, and there are good reasons to root against either of them:  Ohio State is in a 4-way tie for 5th place, and in danger of not playing in the conference tournament that they are hosting. 

formerlyanonymous

May 16th, 2010 at 7:52 PM ^

Holding on doing the write up until I can watch the game today. They haven't archived it yet, so all I saw was up until they brought in Katzman in the 2nd. Hopefully I'll have it out tomorrow for the weekday crowd. I'll update the standings in a minute.