Big Ten baseball is far from a powerhouse in the sport. In fact, the conference has just 29 College World Series appearances all-time, the 5th-most of any conference.

The last time the B1G produced a trip to Omaha came in 2019 when Michigan rolled all the way to a national runner-up finish. Prior to that, it was Indiana reaching the CWS in 2013 with just a handful of other Super Regional appearances along the way.

This year, the B1G placed 3 teams into the NCAA Baseball Tournament though was unable to produce a regional host site. Nebraska reached the postseason as the B1G Tournament champions, and Indiana and Illinois reached the regionals with at-large bids.

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In fact, that trio had solid starts to the regional with Indiana and Illinois winning their openers. Nebraska fell to Florida in the first game but the Huskers also found their way within a game of the regional finals.

However, the wheels fell off for all 3 teams facing elimination on Sunday afternoon. In win-or-go-home situations, all 3 B1G teams ran out of steam and were blown out of the regionals.

In Lexington, the Illini ran through 6 pitchers as Indiana State scored 13 runs in a blowout. Offensively, Illinois managed just 8 hits and 2 runs.

Indiana did fare better in Knoxville. Southern Miss scored 5 runs in the 1st inning off Brayden Risedorph and racked up 15 runs across the first 4 frames while holding the Hoosiers to 3 runs on 6 hits.

Nebraska fared the best of all 3 and was able to ride efforts from Gabe Swansen (4 home runs at the regional) and Josh Overbeek to score 11 runs against Florida. Unfortunately, the Gators scored 10 runs across the 6th and 7th innings and 17 runs total with 7 extra-base hits in slugging their way into the regional finals.

None of the B1G teams were favorites to get out of the regional round, but that kind of conclusion paints a vivid picture of how far out of contention the top teams in the conference are from competing. With elimination on the line, they surrendered an average of 15 runs apiece and were largely lifeless against the competition.

Outlook for B1G baseball

The B1G has never been a truly elite baseball conference. Based on recent results — and the consistent trend of coaches leaving — it’s hard to see the conference immediately turning things around.

That might not sound optimistic for the league, but it’s hard to avoid pessimism considering the way coaches in the sport treat the B1G.

Erik Bakich, just a few years removed from Michigan’s CWS appearance, bolted the Wolverines to take the job at Clemson. The Tigers have since advanced to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, including the 2024 tournament as a host site, while Michigan has not been back in the postseason.

Maryland, a program that was a regional mainstay under Rob Vaughn, is still trying to find its footing since his departure. The Terrapins made it to 3 straight NCAA Tournaments with a pair of regular-season B1G titles from 2021-23 before Vaughn jumped to Alabama.

Indiana has experienced similar situations with Chris Lemonis riding 3 regional appearances from 2015-18 to take the Mississippi State coaching job. Now, the Hoosiers will try to hang onto head coach Jeff Mercer after back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, including 3 total trips to the postseason in 6 seasons.

The good news is the competition in the league is about to take a step up with the arrival of Oregon, USC, UCLA and Washington from the Pac-12. The Ducks have the best recent history of that group, advancing to a 2nd straight Super Regional this season while riding 4 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament.

Washington and USC have struggled in recent years (save for a 2023 NCAA Tournament appearance by the Huskies), but UCLA produced 5 straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 2017-22. The Bruins also made the Super Regionals in 2019.

However, that group is not going to fully improve the outlook for the conference when compared to the trend of coaching departures. Until the B1G can prove it is more than a training ground for baseball coaches to head elsewhere, the best fans can expect are occasional one-off runs, similar to Michigan in 2019.

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