January 31, 2015

Big Ten baseball tournament returning to Omaha in 2016 and 2018

Big Ten baseball is coming back to Omaha (photo/FoxNews)

Big Ten baseball is coming back to Omaha (photo/Fox News)

The Big Ten Conference announced that TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., will once again serve as the host venue for the Big Ten Baseball Tournament in 2016 and 2018 after setting record attendance numbers last season. The annual event will return to the site of the NCAA Division I Men’s College World Series from May 18-22, 2016, and May 23-27, 2018.

“We are very excited to return to TD Ameritrade Park for the 2016 and 2018 Big Ten Baseball Tournaments,” Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany said. “It was amazing to see so many passionate fans at the Big Ten Baseball Tournament this past May, and we look forward to coming back to Omaha.”

“The 2014 Big Ten Baseball Tournament far exceeded expectations,” Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority President and CEO Roger Dixon said. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to host the tournament again in 2016 and 2018 and look forward to working with the Big Ten and Nebraska to build on the success.”

The Big Ten Baseball Tournament was held in Omaha for the first time in 2014 and established multiple attendance records. The attendance of 19,965 for the championship game on Sunday, May 25, ranked as the largest single-game conference tournament attendance in NCAA history. The five-day total tournament attendance of 62,020 marked the largest in the history of the event. Four days of the tournament featured attendance of more than 10,000, including Wednesday (10,400), Thursday (11,756), Saturday (12,319) and Sunday.

The Big Ten Baseball Tournament has been played annually since 1981, with a four-team field through 1999 and a six-team event from 2000-2013 before moving to its current eight-team format in 2014. Six different schools have won the Big Ten Baseball Tournament, with Minnesota leading all conference programs with nine titles. Michigan and Ohio State have each won eight conference tournaments, followed by Illinois and Indiana with four tournament crowns and Purdue with one.

The 2015 Big Ten baseball season begins in February and culminates with the Big Ten Baseball Tournament returning to Target Field in Minneapolis, the home of Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins. The site of the 2017 Big Ten Baseball Tournament will be announced at a later date.

Former Husker nearly turns himself into a World Series hero (VIDEO)

Lincoln native and former Cornhusker Alex Gordon was close to becoming a World Series hero.

Bottom of the ninth, two outs Game 7, Gordon keeps the Royals season alive with a single to center off Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. Like a movie, the Giants turn into the Bad News Bears…the ball gets past center fielder Gregor Blanco, left fielder Juan Perez boots the ball at the wall and all of the sudden Gordon is thinking inside the park home run.

Gordon talks about his hit. (VIDEO/MLB.com)

Gordon, who thought single as soon as he hit the ball, turned up the gas as he saw Blanco turn around.  He stumbled a bit coming past second.  Third base coach, former Omaha manager Mike Jirschele made the right call holding up Gordon at third.

Jirschele talks about his decision to hold up Gordon (VIDEO/MLB.com)

Alex is left stranded, the Royals lose game 7 of the World Series 3-2. Gordon went 2 for 3 and drove in one of the Royals runs.

Former Omaha Storm Chasers help lead Royals to a Game 7 in the World Series

By now you’ve heard the stat.  Going back to 1982, eight of ten teams that returned home down 3-2 in the World Series came back to win the championship.

The Royals moved one step closer to becoming the ninth of 11, when they rocked the San Francisco Giants 10-0 in Game 6 of the World Series, Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.  The Royals are looking for their second title.

There were three key areas the Royals needed to control and they accomplished each of those to perfection.

First, the Royals needed to get to Giants starter Jake Peavy…and I mean early.  The reason?  Giants manager Bruce Bochy had his full compliment of pitchers with two days rest, following a day off and Madison Bumgarner’s complete game.  Bochy wouldn’t have to rely on five or six innings from Peavy, like he tried back in Game 2.  Instead Bochy could go to someone like Yusmeiro Petit whenever he felt he needed.

Lorenzo Cain walked and Eric Hosmer singled with two outs, but Billy Butler grounded out to end the first inning.  In the second, the Royals got going and didn’t stop.

Alex Gordon hit a flare to short center, just his third hit of the Series, and moved to third on a single by Salvador Perez.  Mike Moustakas, moved up in the order by Ned Yost, ripped a shot down the first base line for a double scoring Gordon and putting the runners on second and third.  After an Omar Infante strikeout, Peavy got Alcides Escobar to tap towards the first base side.  Brandon Belt hesitated to see if Perez would come home, then Belt got stuck in no man’s land, having no time to flip to second baseman Joe Panik at first or tag the speedy Escobar.  That loaded the bases, instead of giving Peavy two outs.  That play was the turning point of the game.

Nori Aoki got his first hit of the World Series on a single to left scoring Perez and keeping the bases loaded.  Peavy’s night was done.

First goal accomplished:  Get at least three runs off Peavy.  His line:  1.1 innings, six hits, five earned runs.

Bochy went to Petit, who entered the game with 12 scoreless playoff innings and 13 strikeouts, while allowing  just four hits and four walks.  This was the second objective the Royals needed to handle…prove they could hit the deceptive Petit.

Cain kept the rally going, singling off Petit, scoring two more runs to make it 5-0.  Cain then advanced on a wild pitch, giving Hosmer two runners in scoring position.  Hosmer ripped a double making it a 7-0 game and Butler followed with the team’s third double of the inning to make it 8-0.

Goal two accomplished:  Hit Petit. His line: 2/3 of an inning, three hits, two earned runs.

The Royals added solo runs in the third, fifth and seventh innings as Bochy used Jean Machi, Hunter Strickland and then starter Ryan Vogelsong to clean up the mess.

With the exception of Petit, Bochy still has his top bullpen arms available, including two lefties and the use of Madison Bumgarner for relief to come in after Tim Hudson starts Game 7.  However, by the Royals being able to get to Petit, that gave Yordano Ventura the cushion he needed to go deep in the game.

That was the final objective.  Get a quality start out of Ventura.  Yost had a bullpen that was taxed.  Kelvin Herrera looked gassed, Wade Davis was hit in Game 5.  If Yost had to call on those arms again for Tuesday’s game and then need them for a potential Game 7, they wouldn’t have made it.

Stacked with a seven run lead, then eight as Ventura entered the fourth inning, he just rared back and threw a lot of fastballs.  Ventura went seven innings, throwing 100 pitches, with over 65% of them clocking in the mid 90’s.

Goal three accomplished:  Get a quality start from Ventura.  His line:  7 innings, three hits, no runs, five walks and four strikeouts.

Yost used Jason Frasor for the eighth and ninth and now we have a Game 7 final that will feature stocked bullpens with fresh arms and two teams coming off stretches where they both hit the ball really well.  By the Royals being able to rest Herrera and Davis, along with Holland, Yost has his ‘pen set up for his formula of success.

Win the first six innings on Wednesday and the Royals likely “Take The Crown.”

Before Gordon had success with the Royals, he also had success as a youngster in Missouri

Alex Gordon during his times in Beatrice and with the Royals.

Alex Gordon during his times in Beatrice and with the Royals.

The MINK Baseball League, a summer, college-level, wood-bat league currently comprised of teams in Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska, is feeling special pride these days, watching several former players in the league help their current Major League Baseball teams to postseason success.  Of the four clubs still competing for the American and National league championships and the chance to play in the World Series, starting next week, three have ex-MINK League players on their LCS rosters, two playing prominent roles as full-time or platoon starters.

One of the leaders of the hottest postseason teams, the Kansas City Royals, is left fielder Alex Gordon, who spent the summers of 2002 and 2003 playing MINK League baseball in places like Chillicothe and St. Joseph for the now-defunct Beatrice, Neb., Bruins.

In the Kauffman Stadium third-base dugout across the field from Gordon tonight or whenever the weather allows the ALCS to resume will be Caleb Joseph, a rookie catcher for the Baltimore Orioles.

Joseph, who played for the Chillicothe Mudcats in both 2005 and 2006, made his big league postseason debut in memorable style Saturday in Game 2 in Baltimore. He hit a sacrifice fly in his first at-bat and singled in each of his next two plate appearances. He also contributed to Baltimore’s ill-fated bid to square the series at one game apiece when he threw out Royals speedster Jarrod Dyson on a stolen base attempt in the late innings.

Over in the senior circuit, one of the veteran reserves for the Cardinals and an important contributor to their 2011 World Series victory over Texas is utility infielder Daniel Descalso.

Descalso, who had a strong final six weeks to the regular season, was a standout for the MINK League’s Clarinda, Iowa, A’s in 2005.
In addition to these currently-active MLB postseason players, another former MINK Leaguer is part of the Royals’ major-league roster, although he closed the season on the team’s 60-days disabled list.

Pitcher Michael Mariot spent the better part of two months as a member of the Royals’ bullpen, earning one victory, before returning to the minors and then getting injured. Back in 2009, Mariot spent the regular MINK League season with Beatrice.  The trio of players still participating in MLB’s postseason are only part of the story of the contribution of ex-MINK Leaguers to the success of playoff qualifiers.

Huskers release 2015 baseball schedule

Coming off a 41-win season and a trip to the NCAA Tournament, Head Coach Darin Erstad will continue to challenge the Nebraska baseball team in 2015 as it works to reach its ultimate goal of playing in Omaha at the College World Series.  The Huskers are set to play 56 games in 2015, including 27 games at Hawks Field. The Huskers will play 15 games against teams that qualified for the 2014 NCAA Tournament, including a Big Ten road series at Super Regional qualifier Maryland and a three-game home series against College World Series qualifier Texas.

The Huskers will spend the first four weeks of the season on the road, playing a total of 13 games. NU then returns to Hawks Field for 16 straight homes games, including a pair of midweek series with Indiana State and Cal State Fullerton, along with weekend series against Michigan, Florida Gulf Coast and Texas.

Nebraska will play eight Big Ten Conference series, including home sets with Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State and Purdue, while traveling to Maryland, Iowa, Northwestern and Illinois. The Huskers will not play Indiana, Rutgers, Penn State or Michigan State during the 2015 regular season.

The 2015 Big Ten Baseball Tournament is scheduled to run from Wednesday, May 20 through Sunday, May 24 and will take place in Minneapolis, Minn., at Target Field, the home of the Minnesota Twins. Target Field played host to the 2013 Big Ten Baseball Tournament, with the Huskers falling in the championship game to Indiana.

Nebraska baseball schedule