2022 Big Ten Baseball Season Review and Stock Watch

Image credit: Rutgers' Steve Owens (Courtesy of Rutgers)

There was some historic success at the top of the Big Ten in 2022. Maryland won the league’s regular-season title—its first championship in any conference since 1971—and hosted a regional for the first time in program history. 

Just below Maryland in the conference standings was Rutgers, which had far and away its best season as a member of the Big Ten and won 44 games overall, a program record. 

Outside of that, it wasn’t a banner season for the conference, a rare speed bump for a league that has been on a steady upward trajectory for the last decade. 

Rutgers, for all of its success, got left out of the NCAA Tournament, suggesting that had Michigan not won the Big Ten Tournament to secure the automatic bid, the conference very well might have been a one-bid league for the first time since 2011. Instead, it was simply a two-bid league for the first time since 2014. 

A perfect storm came together to deal the Big Ten a tough hand last season. Perennial conference title contenders like Indiana and Nebraska had tough seasons, which hurt the depth of the league. There also wasn’t much pitching to be found, with there being more teams with ERAs above 6.00 than below. And with just three players ranked among the top 250 2022 draft prospects, it wasn’t a standout year for individual talent in the league, either. 

Chances are that last season was nothing more than an inevitable dip in quality that just about every league deals with at one point or another, but it’s on certain programs taking steps forward and bouncing back in the coming years to make sure that ends up being the case. 

Breakout players: 

  1. Chris Alleyne, OF, Maryland – In his fifth season at Maryland, Alleyne blew away career-high marks in just about every offensive category as he hit .331/.422/.673 with 16 doubles, 24 home runs, 79 RBIs and 24 stolen bases to win Big Ten player of the year.
  2. Matt Wood, C, Penn State – Wood had as much to do with Penn State’s improvement in 2022 as any individual player. He batted .379/.480/.667 with 15 doubles, 12 home runs, 53 RBIs and more walks (36) than strikeouts (26). 
  3. Adam Mazur, RHP, Iowa – A transfer from South Dakota State, Mazur and his high-90s fastball took to the Big Ten well in his debut season at Iowa, going 7-3 with a 3.08 ERA, a 98-to-30 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a .178 opponent batting average in 93.2 innings. 

Most surprising team: Rutgers

A 21-23 record against a schedule made exclusively of Big Ten teams in 2021 suggested that Rutgers was on an upward trajectory, but few outside the program were prepared for the kind of leap the Scarlet Knights made last season. They won 44 games, a program record, and went 17-7 in Big Ten play, which is not only their best record since joining the league but is also the first time they’ve even been over .500 in Big Ten play. Not hearing its name called on Selection Monday was a disappointing end to the season, but the 2022 campaign should still put the rest of the Big Ten on notice that this Rutgers program is off and running. 

Most disappointing team: Nebraska

Nebraska won the Big Ten going away in 2021, and despite losing key pieces off of that team, was the preseason favorite to win the title again last season. Instead, the Cornhuskers got out of the gate slowly—they not only started 1-6 but also took a home series loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in March—and never really got back on track. They finished the season 23-30 overall and 10-14 in the Big Ten, which not only kept them out of the NCAA Tournament but also the Big Ten Tournament, a disappointing development both for the program and the conference, which would have loved to pack Charles Schwab Field in Omaha with Huskers fans all week. Already this offseason, Nebraska has been among the most aggressive teams in the transfer portal in an attempt to revamp the roster quickly. Suffice it to say that it’s a group motivated to get things turned around. 

Team-by-team stock watch

Illinois (31-22, 17-7), no postseason, ?? – Though it didn’t end with a postseason appearance, Illinois had its best regular season since its historic 2015 campaign, winning 17 games in Big Ten play and finishing in a three-way tie for second place in the standings. 

Indiana (27-32, 10-14), no postseason, ?? – It was an uncharacteristic down year for Indiana, as it finished eighth in the Big Ten with a 10-14 record, which was also the Hoosiers’ first season under .500 in league play since 2011. 

Iowa (36-19, 17-7), no postseason, ???? – Iowa put together its best Big Ten record since 2015 and played well down the stretch to push for a postseason appearance, but ultimately came up just short as it so often has in recent years. 

Maryland (47-14, 18-5), reached regionals, ?? – Tons of history was made at Maryland last season, as the Terrapins won a conference regular-season title for the first time since 1971 and hosted a regional for the first time in program history. 

Michigan (34-26, 12-12), reached regionals, ???? – It wasn’t an easy regular season for Michigan, but the Wolverines got hot at the right time to win the Big Ten Tournament and secure their third straight regional trip, after which coach Erik Bakich departed for Clemson and former Indiana and Arizona State coach Tracy Smith was hired to succeed him. 

Michigan State (24-30, 8-16), no postseason, ?? – Michigan State suffered its fifth straight losing season in Big Ten play, with its 8-16 league record its worst since 1998 and its 12th-place finish its worst since the Big Ten expanded to 13 members in baseball. 

Minnesota (16-36, 6-18), no postseason, ?? – In what Minnesota and legendary coach John Anderson were hoping would be a bounce-back season in 2022, the Gophers instead finished 6-18 in Big Ten play and in last place for the second straight season. 

Nebraska (23-30, 10-14), no postseason, ?? – The preseason Big Ten title favorites never got going in 2022, as the Huskers didn’t have any back-to-back winning weekends and won just two Big Ten series on the way to finishing 10-14 in conference and missing the Big Ten Tournament. 

Northwestern (24-27, 10-14), no postseason, ???? – Though it missed out on the Big Ten Tournament due to a tiebreaker, Northwestern’s tie for eighth place in the standings is its best finish since coming in seventh in 2017, and after the season, it made an inspired hire by bringing in former Army coach Jim Foster to lead the program. 

Ohio State (21-30, 8-14), no postseason, ?? – Ohio State bottomed out in 2022, coming in 11th in the standings with an 8-14 Big Ten record, the lowest finish in the Greg Beals era, and after the season, Beals was replaced with former Texas Christian assistant coach Bill Mosiello. 

Penn State (26-29, 11-13), no postseason, ?? – Penn State took a big step forward in 2022 by going 11-13 in conference play, which qualified the Nittany Lions for the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2012, and they went on to win a game in the tournament for the first time since 2008. 

Purdue (29-21, 9-12), no postseason, ???? – Purdue got off to a hot start, winning 15 straight games to begin the season, and while it cooled off as conference play got underway, it still qualified for the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2018. 

Rutgers (44-15, 17-7), no postseason, ?? – Though it was a surprise not to see it result in a regional bid, Rutgers’ season was nothing short of excellent, as it set a program record for wins and put together its best conference finish since joining the Big Ten. 

Offseason questions to answer: 

  1. What does Maryland do for an encore to its championship-winning season? And to what extent will righthander Jason Savacool and shortstop Matt Shaw be considered two of the best individual talents in all of college baseball?
  2. Can Rutgers build on its breakthrough 2022 season and this time take things a step further by getting to regionals?
  3. Will perennial top-half teams like Indiana, Nebraska and Ohio State bounce back in 2023 to give the conference better depth?

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