I have been light in the coverage of Indiana baseball so far this spring but that does not mean that there isn't anything to cover. The Hoosiers have a very intriguing team that is capable of taking the Big Ten and finding its way into the College World Series Tournament for the first time since they lost in the Louisville Regional in 2009. With a revamped bullpen from last year and the growth of some of the younger guys, IU has the opportunity to do something special for the program this year.
In the pre-conference schedule IU has had some really good wins by toppling ranked teams like Texas A&M and UCONN to start off the season. They have also had some pretty glaringly bad losses as well in Bradley, Central Michigan and Bucknell. As a whole they're 18-10, including a 2-1 series victory over Michigan to kick off the start of conference season last weekend. Follow the jump to see what is in store for the Hoosiers this coming weekend when they open the home conference season against Ohio State and the season beyond...
The baseball team has been striving to pack their pre-conference schedule in order to be prepared to make a run at the Big Ten title this year. They open at home with Ohio State this weekend where we'll get to see how IU stacks up against a middle of the pack Big Ten competitor this year. Junior lefty and ace Blake Monar is expected to open the series and righty Chad Martin will follow him up in game two. The strength of IU's starting pitching is expected to help carry the Hoosiers through the conference schedule and be supplemented by a recently struggling offense.
Where the Hoosiers are still struggling this year is in the bullpen. They have had similar issues in the past and moving Martin to the starting rotation (where he has excelled) has only weakened an already strained bullpen. The pen was the Achilles heel of the team last year and it looks to be its weakness once again this year. The bright spot of the bullpen has been its late inning heroics. The middle relief has struggled but the Hoosiers have outscored their opponents from the eighth inning and beyond by a margin of 47-25.
Finally, who to look at to get some press this year look no further than draft prospects outfielder Alex Dickerson and first baseman Jerrud Sabourin. Both hitters are the big producers in the lineup. Sabourin after the weekend at Michigan is 15 hits away from becoming IU's all time hits leader and Alex Dickerson is in the top ten in the conference in both slugging percentage and RBIs. Both of these guys have definite major league potential and will most likely have their name called in the June draft.
On the season expectations for the Hoosiers should be pretty high. At a minimum a Big Ten top 3 finish should be expected and it wouldn't be considered ridiculous to ask them to win the whole conference. Getting into the NCAA Regionals should be a goal for the team and then competing within the regional is key. This should be an interesting season for the Hoosiers as the ingredients are there to do something IU hasn't done in a long time, but only time will tell if they can perform.