ROSEMONT, Ill. - Indiana was voted the preseason favorite to claim the 2018 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 students from their own squads to a Preseason Honors list. The Hoosiers were followed in the preseason poll by Nebraska in second place, No. 3 Minnesota, Maryland in fourth place, No. 5 Michigan and Iowa in sixth place.
Indiana accumulated a 34-24-2 overall record a year ago and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. Among the Hoosiers' preseason honorees are Academic All-Big Ten honoree Luke Miller and second-team All-Big Ten selections Matt Lloyd and Logan Sowers. Miller tied for third in the Big Ten in runs (52), tied for eighth in home runs (10), and was 11th in total bases (109) last season. Lloyd was Indiana's primary closer, tying for fourth in the conference in saves (9), while Sowers led the Big Ten with 19 doubles, was third in total bases (127) and fourth in home runs (13).
The Cornhuskers return as the defending Big Ten Champions. Nebraska posted a 35-22-1 record last year and are led into 2018 by preseason honorees right-handed pitcher/outfielder Luis Alvarado, left-handed pitcher Jake McSteen and outfielder/first baseman Scott Schreiber. Last season, Alvarado saw time in the outfield as well as on the mound as the Huskers' co-closer with Chad Luensmann, while ranking third on the team in runs scored (39). McSteen played in 22 games as a reliever and posted a 4-0 record for the Cornhuskers to go along with a 2.04 ERA. Schreiber led the Husker offense in most statistical categories, including batting average (.330), slugging percentage (.494), hits (77), RBIs (51), home runs (7) and doubles (15) to earn first-team All-Big Ten recognition.
The Golden Gophers posted a 36-20 record last year and are led into 2018 by preseason honorees infielder Micah Coffey, first baseman Toby Hanson and infielder Luke Pettersen. Coffey, a second-team All-Big Ten honoree, appeared in 51 games for the Gophers, hitting .340 with 69 hits and 46 RBI. Hanson started all 57 games at first base, posting a .319 batting average and leading the team with 57 RBIs, earning him third-team All-Big Ten honors. Pettersen appeared in 56 games in 2017 and led the Gophers with a .354 batting average with 69 hits.
Maryland finished the season with a 37-22 record last year. The Terrapins return junior outfielder Marty Costes, who started all 61 games. Costes, a returning first-team All-Big Ten selection, hit .322 on the year, tied for the team lead with 13 home runs and notched a slugging percentage of .548. Also representing Maryland on the Preseason Honors list are junior infielder Nick Dunn, who batted .261 with a career-high five home runs last season, and sophomore left-handed pitcher Tyler Blohm, who made 16 starts, posting a 3.48 ERA in 75.0 innings pitched a year ago.
The Wolverines finished 2017 with their 23rd NCAA Tournament appearance and a 42-17 overall record. Junior outfielder Jonathan Engelmann ended the 2017 season with a .339 slugging percentage and a .341 on-base percentage, scoring 33 runs and adding 30 RBI. Junior outfielder Miles Lewis started all 59 games in left field for the Wolverines and finished the season with a team-leading 14 doubles. Ako Thomas, a junior infielder for the Wolverines and 2017 first-team All-Big Ten selection, led the team with a .994 fielding percentage and a .354 batting average.
The Hawkeyes claimed their first Big Ten Tournament title last season, finishing the year with a 39-22 overall record. Among Iowa's preseason honorees are Tyler Cropley, a second-team All-Big Ten and All-Tournament selection who hit .268 with 41 runs and 36 RBIs in 2017, along with right-handed pitcher Zach Daniels, who went 7-3 on the year with a 3.22 ERA in 24 appearances. Outfielder Robert Neustrom, a second-team All-Big Ten honoree who started all 61 games and hit .310 with 79 hits, 41 runs, and 55 RBIs, rounds out the list.
The 2018 Big Ten baseball season is set to begin on Friday, Feb. 16. The preseason poll, featuring the top six teams, and the complete Preseason Honors list can be found below.
2018 BIG TEN BASEBALL PRESEASON POLL (top six teams)
2018 BIG TEN BASEBALL PRESEASON HONORS LIST
Michael Massey, INF, So., Illinois
Zac Taylor, OF, Jr., Illinois
Jack Yalowitz, OF, Jr., Illinois
Matt Lloyd, INF, Jr., Indiana
Luke Miller, INF, So., Indiana
Logan Sowers, OF, Sr., Indiana
Tyler Cropley, C/OF, Sr., Iowa
Zach Daniels, RHP/INF, Jr., Iowa
Robert Neustrom, OF, Jr., Iowa
Tyler Blohm, SP, So., Maryland
Marty Costes, OF, Jr., Maryland
Nick Dunn, INF, Jr., Maryland
Jonathan Engelmann, OF, Jr., Michigan
Miles Lewis, OF, Jr., Michigan
Ako Thomas, INF, Jr., Michigan
Riley McCauley, RHP, Jr., Michigan State
Bryce Kelley, OF/LHP, So., Michigan State
Jake Lowery, RHP, Sr., Michigan State
Micah Coffey, INF, Sr., Minnesota
Toby Hanson, INF/OF, Sr., Minnesota
Luke Pettersen, INF, Sr., Minnesota
Luis Alvarado, RHP/OF, Sr., Nebraska
Jake McSteen, SP, Jr., Nebraska
Scott Schreiber, OF, Sr., Nebraska
Hank Christie, SP, So., Northwestern
Jack Dunn, INF, Jr., Northwestern
Alex Erro, INF, So., Northwestern
Dominic Canzone, OF, So., Ohio State
Ryan Feltner, SP, Jr., Ohio State
Seth Kinker, RHP, Sr., Ohio State
Jordan Bowersox, OF, Jr., Penn State
Justin Hagenman, SP, Jr., Penn State
Mason Nadeau, OF, So., Penn State
Tanner Andrews, SP, Sr., Purdue
Ross Learnard, RP, Sr., Purdue
Harry Shipley, INF, Sr., Purdue
Jawuan Harris, OF, Jr., Rutgers
Nick Matera, C, Jr., Rutgers
John O'Reilly, SP, Sr., Rutgers