Hawkeyes Picked Fifth by Big Ten Coaches, Perfect Game USA

Feb. 15, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa – – The University of Iowa baseball team has been picked to finish fifth in the Big Ten by the conference coaches and also Perfect Game USA, an online baseball publication.

After winning the Big Ten’s regular-season and tournament titles last season, Minnesota has been named the conference favorite for the 2011 season, the Big Ten announced on Monday. For the first time in conference history, the Big Ten baseball coaches voted on the top six teams and also selected three players from their teams for a Players to Watch list. Also among the top six projected finishers for the season were No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Indiana, No. 4 Michigan State, No. 5 Iowa and No. 6 Ohio State.

Iowa tied for third in the 2010 Big Ten standings and advanced to the championship game of the tournament. The Hawkeyes are led by starting pitcher Jarred Hippen, third baseman Zach McCool and reliever Kevin Lee. Hippen was named to last year’s All-Big Ten second team and the All-Tournament Team, while McCool held a spot on the third team. The Hawkeyes return seven position starters and 10 pitchers from last year’s squad. Iowa opens its season this weekend with three games at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge in Tampa, Fla. The Hawkeyes open play Friday vs. West Virginia at 9 a.m. (CT).

The Golden Gophers return 24 players from last year’s team that advanced to the program’s 30th overall and second consecutive NCAA Championship. Among the returnees are Players to Watch Justin Gominsky, Scott Matyas and TJ Oakes. Matyas and Oakes were third-team All-Big Ten honorees as relief and starting pitchers, respectively. Minnesota is led by 2010 Big Ten Coach of the Year John Anderson.

Michigan finished third in last year’s conference standings and is led by a trio of sophomores in center fielder Patrick Biondi, pitcher Bobby Brosnahan and shortstop Derek Dennis. All three were named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team last season, and Brosnahan earned a spot on the 2010 All-Tournament Team.

Last year’s Big Ten Player of the Year Alex Dickerson headlines Indiana’s returners, having already been named to several preseason All-America teams. Look for Dickerson, as well as senior first baseman Jerrud Sabourin and freshman starter Joey DeNato to lead the Hoosiers, who tied for fifth in the 2010 standings.

Michigan State tied for seventh in last year’s conference standings and welcomes back reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year Ryan Jones at second base. Also set to lead the Spartans are senior first baseman Jeff Holm and sophomore Torsten Boss at third. Jones and Boss were second-team All-Big Ten honorees last year, while Holm earned a spot on the third team.

Ohio State tied for seventh in last year’s standings and will be led by first-year head coach Greg Beals in 2011. On the field, the Buckeyes will look to senior outfielder Brian DeLucia, freshman first baseman/reliever Josh Dezse and senior starter Drew Rucinski.

Overall, the Big Ten Players to Watch list includes 12 members of last year’s All-Big Ten teams, including first-team selections Dickerson and Northwestern third baseman Chris Lashmet and reliever Paul Snieder. The list also features last year’s conference Player and Freshman of the Year and nine members of the 2010 Big Ten All-Freshman Team.

2011 BIG TEN BASEBALL PRESEASON POLL (top six teams)1.                   Minnesota2.                   Michigan3.                   Indiana4.                   Michigan State5.                   Iowa6.                   Ohio State