2008 Baseball Season Begins on Friday
Feb. 21, 2008
The 2008 baseball season begins on Friday, Feb. 22, with all 10 Big Ten teams in action.
The opening week of the season includes two series against ranked teams as Minnesota travels to Oxford, Miss., for a three-game set with No. 4 Ole Miss. Minnesota is receiving votes in the Collegiate Baseball and the NCBWA Preseason Division I polls.
Purdue also faces a tough opening challenge with a three-game series at No. 15 Baylor. The Boilermakers welcome back six starting position players and three starting pitchers including last year's batting champion, Ryne White, and Big Ten Freshman of the Year Matt Bischoff, a right-handed pitcher.
Defending Big Ten Champion Michigan has been ranked in several preseason polls, including a No. 8 slot by Baseball America. The Wolverines open their 2008 campaign in Port St. Lucie, Fla., with a three-game series against Villanova. Michigan will then face the New York Mets in an exhibition game on Tuesday.
2007 Big Ten Tournament Champion Ohio State is receiving votes in the Collegiate Baseball poll and made its sixth trip in 10 years to the NCAA Championship last season. The Buckeyes open their 2008 schedule at the Service Academies Spring Classic in Millington, Tenn., with games against Arkansas State, Memphis and Seton Hall.
Penn State is receiving votes in the Collegiate Baseball and NCBWA Preseason Division I polls. The Nittany Lions open this year's campaign with a three-game series at High Point.
Other openers around the conference include Illinois vs. Sam Houston State, Texas State and Lamar at the Al Ogletree Classic in Edinburg, Texas; Indiana at LSU for three games; Iowa against Albany, Notre Dame and Liberty at the Notre Dame Tournament in Clearwater, Fla.; Michigan State vs. Stetson, Missouri and Connecticut at the Stetson Invitational in DeLand, Fla.; and Northwestern in a three-game series at Cal State Northridge.
Big Ten baseball players are candidates for several national awards, including Michigan's Zach Putnam, who last year became the first Big Ten baseball player to earn first-team All-Conference recognition at two different positions in the same season. The junior is a member of the Baseball America Preseason All-America first team, the Preseason NCBWA All-America first team, the Louisville Slugger Preseason All-America second team, and is a candidate for the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award and the Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Award.
Penn State reliever Drew O'Neil was a first-team All-Big Ten selection last season and is a candidate for the Golden Spikes Award, the Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Award and the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award. The junior also landed a spot on the Louisville Slugger Preseason All-America third team.
Joining Putnam and O'Neil on the Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Award watch list are Michigan's Derek VanBuskirk, Minnesota's Nate Hanson and Matt Nohelty, Northwestern's Jake Owens, Ohio State's Justin Miller and Purdue's Bischoff and White. White also earned a spot on the Preseason Louisville Slugger All-America third team and is joined by Michigan's Nate Recknagel and Jason Christian.
The NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award watch list also includes Minnesota's Kyle Carr and Ohio State's Jake Hale. Hale was third in the Big Ten with 10 saves last season and is expected to start for the Buckeyes this year.
Rounding out the list of accolades, Purdue junior Josh Lindblom is a candidate for the Golden Spikes Award. The right-handed pitcher is listed among Baseball America's top prospects in the Big Ten.