PARK RIDGE, Ill. â€“ The Michigan State baseball team was picked to finish fourth in the first-ever Big Ten Preseason Baseball Poll, the Big Ten Conference announced on Tuesday.
For the first time in conference history, the Big Ten baseball coaches voted on the top six teams and also selected three players from their teams for a â€œPlayers to Watchâ€ list. The top-six teams in the preseason poll were: No. 1 Minnesota, No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Indiana, No. 4 Michigan State, No. 5 Iowa and No. 6 Ohio State.
Fresh off one of the winningest seasons in program history, the Spartans look to build on the momentum created from last year's 34-win team to another successful campaign in 2011. MSU returns 22 letterwinners, including four players who earned All-Big Ten honors last spring, and have several talented freshmen and transfers that are set to make a big impact.
Michigan Stateâ€™s â€œPlayers to Watchâ€ were senior first baseman Jeff Holm, sophomore second baseman Ryan Jones, and sophomore third baseman Torsten Boss.
Holm earned third-team All-Big Ten accolades as a junior after tying for first in the Big Ten during the regular season with 21 doubles, which also ranks tied for third most in an MSU season. Among the Big Ten statistical leaders, Holm ranked third in putouts (502), tied for fourth in runs (54), fifth in stolen bases (23), tied for sixth in triples (5), and tied for seventh in RBIs (50). The 23 stolen bases tie for second in the school record books and his 502 putouts at first base rank first.
Jones became only the second player in program history to be named Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2010, joining Ryan Sontag, who took home the honor in 2005. The Haslett, Mich., native was also named second-team All-Big Ten and to the All-Freshman Team after finishing second on the team and sixth in the conference with a .380 batting average. Jones was the seventh Spartan in the last 11 years to garner Freshman All-America honors.
Boss, who was also a second-team All-Big Ten and All-Freshman Team pick, ranked third on the team with six homers last season. The true freshman from Lowell, Mich., hit .341 with 10 doubles, 56 hits and 41 RBIs, and during conference play, he led the Spartans and ranked 10th in the league with his .385 batting average.
After winning the Big Tenâ€™s regular-season and tournament titles last season, Minnesota was named the conference favorite for the 2011 season. The Golden Gophers return 24 players from last yearâ€™s team that advanced to the programâ€™s 30th overall and second consecutive NCAA Championship.
Overall, the Big Ten Players to Watch list includes 12 members of last yearâ€™s All-Big Ten teams, including first-team selections Alex Dickerson (Indiana) and Northwestern third baseman Chris Lashmet and reliever Paul Snieder. The list also features last yearâ€™s conference Player and Freshman of the Year and nine members of the 2010 Big Ten All-Freshman Team.
The complete â€œPlayers to Watchâ€ list and top-six preseason poll can be found below.
2011 BIG TEN BASEBALL PRESEASON POLL (top six teams)
1.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Minnesota
2.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Michigan
3.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Indiana
4.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Michigan State
5.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Iowa
6.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Ohio State
2011 BIG TEN BASEBALL PLAYERS TO WATCH
Willie Argo, Jr., CF, Illinois
Adam Davis, Jr., C, Illinois
Kevin Johnson, So., SP, Illinois
Joe DeNato, Fr., SP, Indiana
Alex Dickerson, Jr., OF, Indiana
Jerrud Sabourin, Sr., 1B, Indiana
Jarred Hippen, Jr., SP, Iowa
Kevin Lee, Sr., RP, Iowa
Zach McCool, Sr., 3B, Iowa
Patrick Biondi, So., OF, Michigan
Bobby Brosnahan, So., SP, Michigan
Derek Dennis, So., SS, Michigan
Torsten Boss, So., 3B, Michigan State
Jeff Holm, Sr., 1B, Michigan State
Ryan Jones, So., 2B, Michigan State
Justin Gominsky, So., OF, Minnesota
Scott Matyas, Sr., RP, Minnesota
TJ Oakes, So., SP, Minnesota
Chris Lashmet, Sr., 3B, Northwestern
Paul Snieder, Jr., RP/DH, Northwestern
Trevor Stevens, Jr., IF/OF, Northwestern
Brian DeLucia, Sr., OF, Ohio State
Josh Dezse, Fr., 1B/RP, Ohio State
Drew Rucinski, Sr., SP, Ohio State
Joe DeBernardis, Jr., 1B, Penn State
Heath Johnson, Sr., SP, Penn State
Jordan Steranka, Jr., 3B, Penn State
Cameron Perkins, So., 3B, Purdue
Kevin Plawecki, So., C, Purdue
Brad Schreiber, So., SP/DH, Purdue