The red hot Hoosiers begin the defense of their back-to-back Big Ten championships on Wednesday, and they'll try to do it with an array of pitching. Senior Luke Harrison will make just his second start of the season (or of the last three years) on what Manager Chris Lemonis has called a "staff day." Last week in the series opener against Ohio State, Harrison made his other start and went 4+ innings. He was terrific through four, but Lemonis left him a few batters too long and the Buckeyes teed off on him in the 5th. That day, Thomas Belcher, Will Coursen-Carr, and Scott Effross all saw action in relief. Based on what Lemonis has said about the Michigan game, you can expect to see a similar approach today.
Michigan is taking a different approach, going with their best starter, Brett Adcock, an 8-4 sophomore with a 3.42 ERA. The Hoosiers will need to look for runs early, like other teams need to do with them, because Michigan has three relievers who have made at least 10 appearances with ERAs under 3.00.
The last time these clubs got together, Michigan handed Indiana its first series loss in the history of Bart Kaufman Field. That weekend, it was junior Jacob Cronenworth who did the damage for the Wolverines. Cronenworth went 6-for-12 from the plate and drove in four runs in the three contests, of which the Wolverines won two. Oh, and by the way, Cronenworth started the first game on the mound and went 6.0 IP, allowed just five hits and one run, and picked up the win.
Cronenworth was selected as a preseason All-American as a utility player by every major college baseball publication. His numbers back it up. He's hitting .333 with 42 RBIs, and has also made 15 pitching appearances, posting a 3.83 ERA in 42.1 IP. And playing his position, first base, he's recorded 238 putouts and 72 assists, and has a .963 fielding %.
For Indiana, it all starts with shutting him down in the leadoff spot. The Michigan offense, which scores 6.4 runs per game, is clearly at its best when Cronenworth is getting on base, something he does 41.5% of the time. If number-2 is on base for the Wolverines a lot on Wednesday morning, the Hoosiers could find themselves in a world of trouble.
But one thing that Indiana has going for them, and will have going for them throughout the entire Big Ten tournament, is experience. The Hoosiers have a roster full of contributors who have at least one Big Ten championship to their name, and a handful who have two and a College World Series appearance. No other team in the conference can say either of those things.
For Crimson Quarry's full Big Ten tournament preview and predictions, power rankings and more, click here.
WHAT: (6) Indiana Hoosiers vs. (3) Michigan Wolverines
WHERE: Target Field, Minneapolis, Minnesota (Home of the Minnesota Twins)
WHEN: Wednesday, 10 a.m. EST