By now, you all know the story of the 2015 version of Indiana baseball. Part of it goes like this: Occasionally, hope returns, whether in the form of a 9th-inning comeback against tournament-lock Notre Dame, a sweep of Rutgers, or a night where everything comes together like Friday against Michigan State. But it never lasts. By the middle of the afternoon on Sunday, the hope from the Michigan State win had been cast aside by a 13-inning stretch that saw just one Indiana hit.
You also know another part of the story: The bad moments -- losing four of the first five games in Big Ten play, the first series ever lost at Bart Kaufman, or losing three straight midweek games to (seemingly) inferior opponents -- linger. They have been like a mirror into which the team cannot stop looking. They have been like an evil mirror that not only showed the reflection of what this team has been, but also offered a glimpse into the near future where more heartbreak awaited.
And not even the good moments, not even the hope can suppress the bad moments. Take for example, the huge midweek wins at the end of March. After a complete collapse in the 2nd game at Penn State, the Hoosier came home and put together what was probably its best game of the season in a 3-0 win against Louisville.
After that? Swept at Iowa.
Then there was the comeback win at Kentucky, which should have lifted the weight off the Hoosiers' shoulders. It was dramatic. It was a team in a must-win situation getting the job done. And they were in a good spot to get on a roll with Michigan coming to Bloomington.
After that? Lost a series at BKF for the first time ever.
You also know what's happened since. Two losses to Evansville. Losses to Cincinnati, Indiana State (and perhaps another tonight), and Michigan State. All of which have drastically changed the expectations.
But what you may not know is How drastically. I didn't. At least not until late last night when for the first time all year, a once-crazy thought crossed my mind.
With 11 games left, it would be silly to talk about winning the Big Ten tournament and getting into the dance. It would seem crazy to even discuss them winning their remaining series (at Maryland, Long Beach State, Ohio State). Instead, it may be the case that all that's left to play for is pride and avoiding embarrassment.
11 games left. Five games above .500. Four wins would make the Hoosiers 27-25. But where are those four wins going to come? Hard tellin'.
Indiana State and Ball State, the remaining midweek games, should be wins on paper. But unfortunately for Indiana, these games haven't been played on paper.
At Maryland? Good luck.
Long Beach State? I'd give you pretty good odds if you wanted to place a bet on Indiana winning that series.
Ohio State? Doubtful. They're going to have something to play for that weekend. They're just 1.5 games out of first place in the Big Ten. IU will probably only be playing for win 27.
So, how drastically have expectations changed? I expect this team to be in need of at least one win against Ohio State to finish above .500. And I don't necessarily expect them to do it. Pretty far from articles from February and March where we talked about a Big Ten title, hosting a regional, and a return to Omaha.
Here's what you need to know about the Evansville loss:
1. After a bunch of terrible starts with no decision, Christian Morris was not terrible (although, not good) and picked his first loss. 3.0 IP, 4 hits, 3 ER. Another game where Morris doesn't get out of the 4th, but better. (That last sentence should tell you all you need to know about his season.) In all honesty, it's fitting that Morris picked up a loss. He's deserved more than one over the past few weeks.
2. Will Coursen-Carr was fantastic. He entered a 7-1 game in the Bottom of the 5th, and immediately gave up a single. Then, he retired nine straight batters and struck out four, getting the game into the 8th. In the 8th, he walked one and gave up one hit, leading to a run, but his 3.2 IP were everything that Indiana needs from its pitching. Perhaps long or middle relief is a role where WCC can thrive.
3. The 11 hits are misleading. Hartong, Rodigue, and Dedelow combined for seven of the team's 11 hits. The other six spots in the lineup registered just four hits. That will never get the job done when the pitching is suspect.