Iowa's baseball team provided a swift kick to the Hoosier groin this weekend. The only way things could have gone worse would have been if Adam Woodbury had stormed the field and poked a bunch of dudes in the eye.
We'll get to what we learned momentarily. First, here's a brief recap of how things went wrong this weekend:
Caleb Baragar was absolutely fantastic. He gave up a leadoff double in the first inning, and two sacrifices later, Iowa had the only run it would need. Baragar's final line was 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R and one undeserved loss. The Indiana offense managed only five hits, and threatened the Hawkeyes just once. In the Top of the 8th, still trailing just 1-0, Isaiah Pasteur singled and Laren Eustace moved him to third with another hit. But Casey Rodrigue hit a weak pop to first base and the inning ended the way they all ended for the Hoosiers, scoreless. Iowa tacked on one more and won 2-0.
The offense struggled again in Game 2. A Will Nolden single in the 5th was the lone Indiana hit through seven innings. By the time they scraped out their only run in the 8th, the game was already out of hand. Jake Kelzer gave up a run in the first, and then managed time after time to get out of messes to hand the game to the bullpen in the 7th, trailing only 1-0. Brian Hobbie and Austin Foote faced a combined five batters, gave up two runs a piece, and recorded no outs. Luke Harrison came in and retired every batter he faced, but the game was over. 5-1 Iowa.
At 2 p.m. on Sunday, it looked like Indiana had the perfect storm brewing for salvaging a game in this series. Scott Effross was going to make his first weekend start in a month against the Iowa No. 3 starter.
At 2:15 p.m., you had to feel good as you watched Effross take the mound with a 2-0 lead. Advantage Hoosiers.
By 2:30 p.m., that advantage, and all hope, had been obliterated. Effross faced nine batters, gave up five hits, and six runs. He recorded only one out before Lemonis was forced to turn to the bullpen. Evan Bell held it together for a couple innings, but allowed two more runs in the 3rd.
The Indiana offense came alive in the 8th, scoring three and making it 8-6. But Ryan Halstead's roller coaster season continued in the bottom half, where he allowed two runs on four hits.
By 6:04 p.m., the Hoosiers had fallen 10-6 and been swept for the first time since April 2013.
What did we learn?
1. It may not be a 4-team race in the Big Ten. Two weeks ago, it seemed like it was Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, and Nebraska who were fighting for the regular season title and that everyone else would be a pestering afterthought. After this weekend, I don't know if I am more inclined to call it a 3-team or a 5-team race, but it sure doesn't seem like a 4-team race anymore.
Iowa didn't get lucky this weekend. They thoroughly dominated Indiana. My guess is that it's a combination of IU being terrible away from Bloomington (see below) and Iowa being pretty good. We'll learn more about this over the next two or three weekends, but if you still want to say the Hoosiers are in the Big Ten race (1-4), you have to include Iowa (3-0) in the conversation.
2. Indiana is average away from home, and terrible in true road games. 9-8 away from Bloomington, 4-7 as a visitor. It's clear that pitching and defense have struggled away from home. But when you look at the season averages, they're lying to you. Two games played away from Bart Kaufman have skewed the numbers so drastically that you would think IU is a decent road team.
The 15-1 win over the College of Charleston and the 16-1 win over Ball State were clearly outliers. In the table below, I've provided the total averages, offensive and defensive, on the top rows, and have removed the CofC and Ball State wins on the bottom rows. When you take out those two wins, you start to understand the real story. And when you take those two wins away, the records away from Bloomington and in true road games fall to 7-8 and 3-7, respectively. (As a note: Yes, I know there have been a couple blowouts at home that would also skew numbers, the sample of only seven games is not enough to call anything an outlier.)
The red numbers lie. The blue and yellow numbers don't. Indiana has been bad away from home.
3. This could be a terrible week. Indiana plays the Kentucky Cousin-Lovers on Tuesday. If we have to suffer through a week where the Hoosiers lose to those mouthbreathers, they invade our capital city, and then they leave stains on perfection like Bill Clinton left on the Oval Office, I will be ready to declare this the worst week in the history of IU fandom. Who's with me?