Rosemont, Ill. – Maryland was voted the preseason favorite to claim the 2015 Big Ten Baseball Championship as voted on by the conference coaches and announced on Wednesday. The coaches voted on the top six teams and also selected three student-athletes from their own squads to a Players to Watch list. The Terrapins were followed in the preseason poll by Nebraska in second place, No. 3 Illinois, Indiana in fourth place, No. 5 Michigan and Ohio State in sixth place.
Maryland is coming off its first Super Regional appearance in program history and returns All-American infielder Brandon Lowe and pitcher Mike Shawaryn. Lowe batted .348 last season and tied for the team lead in RBI (42). Shawaryn set the program record with 11 wins last season. Kevin Mooney, who notched a program record 13 saves in 2014, also returns for the Terrapins. Lowe, Mooney and Shawaryn were named Maryland’s Players to Watch.
Nebraska was picked to finish second after advancing to the NCAA Regional and finishing the season with a 41-21 record. The Huskers finished second in the Big Ten a year ago and return unanimous All-Big Ten first-team pitcher Chance Sinclair. Also comprising Nebraska’s Players to Watch are outfielder Ryan Boldt, a 2014 All-Big Ten Freshman Team selection, and senior pitcher Kyle Kubat, who earned a spot on the Big Ten All-Tournament Team in 2013 and 2014.
Illinois welcomes back 18 letterwinners from last season, including five starting pitchers. Among the staff and Players to Watch are junior left handers Kevin Duchene and Tyler Jay. Duchene went 4-1 with a Big Ten-best 1.80 ERA, 35 strikeouts and 55 innings pitched in nine starts last season. Jay earned second-team All-Mideast Region and All-Big Ten honors a year ago, while sophomore shortstop Adam Walton was named second-team All-Big Ten and was a member of the All-Freshman team.
The Hoosiers won the 2014 outright Big Ten title and Big Ten Tournament Championship. Indiana returns three starters that hit over .300 last year, including first-team All-Big Ten selection Scott Donley, who was named to the Players to Watch list, along with pitchers Scott Effross and Ryan Halstead. Effross led the conference with 32 appearances and recorded an ERA of 1.98. The Hoosiers welcome back Halstead after redshirting last season. As a junior, he struck out 48 batters in 43.2 innings of work.
Michigan is coming off a 30-win season in 2014, with infielder and relief pitcher Jacob Cronenworth, outfielder Jackson Glines and shortstop Travis Maezes recognized as Players to Watch. On the mound, Cronenworth recorded 12 saves and posted a 1.75 ERA last season. Glines was named a second-team All-Big Ten selection after batting .332 in 2014, while Maezes hit .302 with 18 doubles, four triples and three home runs.
Ohio State rounded out the preseason poll’s top six teams. The Buckeyes return 21 letterwinners from the 2014 campaign, including seven position players and four starting pitchers. Ohio State’s southpaw, Tanner Tully, was named the 2014 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and returns as a Player to Watch this season. Ronnie Dawson and Travis Lakins were also recognized as the Buckeyes’ Players to Watch.
The 2015 Big Ten baseball season is set to begin on Friday, Feb. 13.
The top-six preseason poll and complete Players to Watch list can be found below.
2015 BIG TEN BASEBALL PRESEASON POLL (top six teams)
6. Ohio State
2015 BIG TEN BASEBALL PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kevin Duchene, Jr., SP, Illinois
Tyler Jay, Jr., RP, Illinois
Adam Walton, So., SS, Illinois
Scott Effross, Jr., SP, Indiana
Ryan Halstead, Sr., RP, Indiana
Scott Donley, Sr., OF, Indiana
Jake Mangler, Sr., 2B, Iowa
Tyler Peyton, Jr., 1B/SP, Iowa
Eric Toole, Sr., OF, Iowa
Brandon Lowe, So., 2B, Maryland
Kevin Mooney, Jr., RP, Maryland
Mike Shawaryn, So., SP, Maryland
Jacob Cronenworth, Jr., IF/RP, Michigan
Jackson Glines, Sr., OF, Michigan
Travis Maezes, Jr., SS, Michigan
Jeff Kinley, Sr., RP, Michigan State
Blaise Salter, Sr., C, Michigan State
Mick VanVossen, Sr., SP, Michigan State
Ben Meyer, Sr., SP, Minnesota
Dalton Sawyer, Jr., SP., Minnesota
Connor Schaefbauer, Jr., 2B, Minnesota
Ryan Boldt, So., OF, Nebraska
Kyle Kubat, Sr., SP, Nebraska
Chance Sinclair, Sr., SP, Nebraska
Scott Heelan, Sr., C, Northwestern
Brandon Magallones, Sr., RHP, Northwestern
Kyle Ruchim, Sr., IF, Northwestern
Ronnie Dawson, So., OF, Ohio State
Travis Lakins, So., RHP, Ohio State
Tanner Tully, So., LHP, Ohio State
James Haley, So., SS, Penn State
Christian Helsel, So., 3B, Penn State
Taylor Lehman, Fr., LHP, Penn State
Kyle Johnson, Jr., CF, Purdue
Brandon Krieg, Sr., 3B, Purdue
Kyle Wood, Jr., 1B/RP, Purdue
Howie Brey, Jr., SP, Rutgers
Mike Carter, So., OF, Rutgers
Vinny Zarrillo, Sr., OF, Rutgers