Tuesday and Wednesday, Indiana baseball's first two home games of the season were never in doubt. They jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the opener and a 6-0 lead in Game 2 before winning 5-3 and 9-1, respectively. By doing so, the Hoosiers extended their winning streak to seven games and improved their record to 10-4 before this weekend's looming showdown with Cal State Fullerton. Here's what we're taking away from the Eastern Michigan series:
1. The bats are hot. The biggest question coming into this season was whether Indiana could replace the hitting lost with the departures of Schwarber, Travis, and co. A few weeks ago, the struggle was real as the Hoosier offense was held in check against Stanford and struggled in bad losses to Furman and Presbyterian. But now, they've had 10 or more hits in each game during the current winning streak, and over that same span, are averaging more than 8.5 runs per game. If the offense continues to thrive, there is no limit on how far this team can go because...
2. The pitching is phenomenal. It seems that I write something along these lines in every recap, but it cannot be overstated. The Indiana pitching staff has been tremendous. Opponents are scoring only 3.2 runs per game, and only 2.49 of those are earned. And everyone who steps on the mound is giving Manager Chris Lemonis reason to be happy.
This week, it was Brian Hobbie and Kyle Hart whose performances do nothing but make you think it's not a fluke that this team is 10-4. Hobbie made his first career start on Tuesday and was brilliant in limited action, striking out seven and allowing just one hit in 4.0 IP. And Wednesday, Kyle Hart made his return from Tommy John surgery, and while he only threw two innings, there were flashes of excellence that suggest he will be a vital piece moving forward when he is able to go deeper into ballgames, or provide middle or long relief out of the bullpen. And if those performances weren't enough, Thomas Belcher, Evan Bell, Austin Foote, and Ryan Halstead combined over the two days for 9.0 IP and only one run allowed.
We'll learn more about the staff this weekend as they face a college baseball powerhouse, but it would be foolish to expect anything other than what we have seen all season from the Hoosier battery.
3. The defense still needs to improve. If there is an achilles heel for this club, it's the fielding. They have committed 25 errors in just 14 games, which makes it even more impressive that the pitching staff is still limiting opponents to 3.2 runs per game. In total, 12 of the 47 total runs scored by Indiana opponents have been unearned.
25 is an absurd number of errors in 14 games. But most have come from only three positions: Seven of the 25 errors have been credited to junior shortstop Nick Ramos, four more have been committed at third base (Isaiah Pasteur and Brian Wilhite with two each), and Brad Hartong has committed three behind the plate.
Giving teams like Eastern Michigan extra runners and extra bases won't hurt very often, but against teams like Stanford, Cal State Fullerton, and other top-notch opponents on the schedule, those kinds of mistakes could make the difference between hosting a regional and hitting the road or missing the dance altogether.
But if Indiana shores up these defensive blunders, there is no telling how many games they'll win and how easy it'll look day in and day out.