June 3, 2012
[ONE // illini golfer captures national title]
Illinois' Thomas Pieters won the NCAA Men's Golf Championships individual title at Riviera Country Club this past Thursday, firing a 5-under 208 over 54 holes. The Illini sophomore is the second Illinois golfer in the last three years to claim the title, following 2010 champion Scott Langley. As a team, Illinois (+35) placed 21st while Iowa (+36) tied for 22nd, both missing the cut for the match-play portion of the championships. The Hawkeyes' Joseph Winslow carded Iowa's top score, firing a 2-over 215 over three rounds of play.
[TWO // get on track for nationals]
The Big Ten will be well-represented at the 2012 NCAA Men's and Women's Outdoor Track & Field Championships this upcoming week, as 96 individual qualifiers and 12 relay squads travel to Des Moines, Iowa, for the national event that is scheduled for June 6-9. The participants qualified based on their finish at the preliminary championships, which were held May 24-26. Click here for a complete list of men's qualifiers and here for women's qualifiers.
[THREE // big ten baseball season concludes]
The Big Ten baseball season concluded this past weekend as both Michigan State and Purdue dropped two games in NCAA Regional action. At the Gary, Ind. Regional, which was hosted by the Boilermakers, Purdue opened Friday with a 7-2 win over Valparaiso, but fell 7-3 to Kent State and 6-3 to Kentucky over the weekend. The Boilers ended the season 45-14, marking a program record for wins in a season. Michigan State lost 6-2 to Pepperdine in the Palo Alto Regional on Friday and was then eliminated on Saturday in an 8-2 result to Fresno State. The Spartans ended the year with a 37-23 record, the third-most wins in program history.
[FOUR // a semifinalist for spikes]
Purdue catcher Kevin Plawecki was named this past week as one of 30 finalists for the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award. Plawecki was named the Big Ten's Player of the Year and the Big Ten Tournament's Most Outstanding Player and is also a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Player of the Year Trophy and the Johnny Bench Catcher of the Year Award.
[FIVE // purdue's plawecki named all-american]
Speaking of Kevin Plawecki, the Purdue slugger was named a Louisville Slugger Second-Team All-American, Collegiate Baseball Newspaper announced on Thursday. Plawecki joins Mitch Hilligoss (2005), Mike Biltmier (1993) and Moose Skowron (1950) as the full-fledged All-America honorees in the history of the Purdue program. Two weeks ago, he became the third Boiler to be a first team All-Big Ten performer in back-to-back seasons. Earlier this month, Plawecki became just the fifth player since 1981 to win the Big Ten's Player/Pitcher of the Year and Tournament Most Outstanding Player in the same season. He entered the NCAA Tournament this past week as the third most difficult batter to strikeout in the country (8 Ks in 211 at-bats) while leading the Big Ten with 20 doubles.
[SIX // nu's bast one of the nation's best]
Northwestern third baseman Marisa Bast earned third-team All-America honors from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association this past Thursday. The sophomore was voted a first-team All-Big Ten performer this season after ranking among the nation's top 10 in runs batted in per game, driving in 68 on the season, which ranked second in Wildcat single-season history.
[SEVEN // five big ten returners named to watch list]
Five Big Ten student-athletes have been named to the watch list for the Johnny "The Jet" Rodgers Return Specialist Award, awarded to the nation's top return specialist. The award, now in its second year, is named after former Nebraska player Johnny Rodgers. Big Ten student-athletes on the preseason watch list are Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah, Northwestern's Venric Mark, Ohio State's Jordan Hall, Purdue's Raheem Mostert and Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis. To be eligible, a player must be a primary return specialist (punt and/or kickoff), be ranked among the national leaders in return and display "leadership, courage, desire, respect for authority and discipline." A list of 12 semifinalists will be selected in late October, and four finalists will be announced in November. The winner will be selected in December.
[EIGHT // larson honored for classwork]
Minnesota's Troy Larson was named to the 2012 Capital One Division I Academic All-America Second Team, the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) announced on Friday. Larson, named to the second team, is the only Big Ten Conference baseball player to be honored with the award and the first Gopher baseball student-athlete since Matt Nohelty in 2009. He becomes the ninth Golden Gopher to earn the prestigious honor and Minnesota baseball's 14 Academic All-America citation. The Maplewood, Minn., native owns a grade point average of 3.95 with a double major in genetics/cell biology and biochemistry. Larson finished his junior season with a .304 batting average and played in 42 games, despite battling an ankle injury midseason.
[NINE // others honored for efforts in the classroom]
Seventeen Big Ten student-athletes were named Thursday to the Capital One Academic All-District Men's and Women's Track & Field/Cross Country Teams. The teams are selected to recognize the nation's top student-athletes for their combined athletic and academic performances. First team honorees advance to the Capital One Academic All-America Team Ballot, which will be selected in June. The Big Ten's first-team selections included Indiana's Andy Bayer, Chelsea Blanchard and Breanne Ehrman, Iowa's McKenzie Melander and Erik Sowinski, Michigan's Rebecca Addison, Michigan State's Rebecca Buchholtz, Minnesota's Quentin Mege, Nebraska's Bjorn Barrefors, Brett Grieb and Nate Polacek, and Wisconsin's Elliot Krause. Additional honorees included Indiana's Samantha Ginther, Michigan's Jillian Smith and Kiley Tobel, and Nebraska's Cami Jiskra and Ashley Miller.
[TEN // big ten announces academic all-conference honorees]
As the 2011-12 academic year comes to a close, the Big Ten recognizes a total of 1,154 spring and at-large sports student-athletes who were named Thursday to the Academic All-Conference team. The list of honored student-athletes features 109 baseball players, 87 softball players, 132 women's rowers, 51 men's and 36 women's golfers, 50 men's and 58 women's tennis athletes, 163 men's and 198 women's track and field standouts and 139 men's (representing ice hockey, volleyball, lacrosse, fencing, rowing and pistol and rifle) and 131 women's (representing bowling, water polo, ice hockey, fencing, synchronized swimming, lightweight rowing, lacrosse and pistol and rifle) at-large athletes. To be eligible for Academic All-Big Ten selection, student-athletes must be letterwinners who are in at least their second academic year at their institution and carry a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or higher. At least 19 Big Ten student-athletes have maintained unblemished GPAs.
[ELEVEN // being a good sport]
The Big Ten announced on Wednesday the 24 student-athletes named Outstanding Sportsmanship Award winners for the 2011-12 academic year. These individuals were chosen from a group of 300 student-athletes honored throughout the academic year who had displayed positive sportsmanship. One member of each varsity sports team on every campus was chosen by his or her institution as a Sportsmanship Award honoree. From each university's list, two Outstanding Sportsmanship Award winners were then selected. All of the Sportsmanship Award honorees have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior. In addition, these student-athletes must be in good academic standing and must have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting. The 2012 Big Ten Outstanding Sportsmanship Award winners can be found by clicking here.
[TWELVE // michigan's nesbitt worth "reeding"]
Finally this week, we wish congratulations to Michigan's Stephen Nesbitt, who was named Tuesday as this year's recipient of the Big Ten Conference William R. Reed Memorial Award. The award is named in honor of former Big Ten Commissioner William R. Reed who served the conference for more than 20 years. The conference annually honors the former commissioner by presenting this award to a student journalist from one of the Big Ten campuses who, through his or her coverage during the previous academic term, best exemplifies the spirit, ideals and dedication to the Big Ten and intercollegiate athletics, which marked the life of William R. Reed. Nesbitt, an English major who just completed his junior year, is the managing sports editor for the Michigan Daily, also serving as a football beat reporter and columnist. In addition to writing for the Daily, he is a campus correspondent for ESPNU, and will spend the summer interning for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he will serve as a general sports reporter.