MORRIS AND HARD-HITTING YOUNGSTERS BOUNCE IOWA FROM TOURNAMENT
After Wednesday's loss to Michigan, Chris Lemonis noted that his team was built to go through a loser's bracket. He was referencing his unbelievably deep pitching staff, which includes 12 players he could put on the mound and feel at least somewhat comfortable sending out there. On Friday, he sent out the one of those 12 that has struggled the most this season. And Christian Morris rewarded him with the best outing the junior has turned in all season.
Morris came into the Big Ten tournament with a deceiving 3-1 record. He also carried a 5.45 ERA that was far more representative of his season. Only one other good Morris outing comes to mind, and that was a very early season win at the College of Charleston.
But Friday, Morris was everything we thought he would be this season. On 99 pitches, he went 6.0 IP and allowed just two Iowa runs that both came after Indiana had already opened a 9-0 lead.
The Hoosiers were propelled to that big lead by two huge hits. In the second, Austin Cangelosi poked a line drive over the right fielder's head and tripled, scoring two runs. The Scatman was hit with an errant throw as he slid into 3rd and scored when the ball crept into the Hoosiers' dugout.
In honor of the knock, which was just the 3rd extra base hit for Cangelosi since Big Ten play started in March, I'll leave this here:
The next inning, Indiana extended the lead to 7-0. After Casey Rodrigue tripled, a Brad Hartong walk and catcher's interference on a Scott Donley swing loaded the bases. Then, SOWERS BOMB. The freshman cranked one into the second deck in left field for his second grand slam in seven days and IU never looked back.
Thomas Belcher and Austin Foote combined for three drama-less innings to end the game, and the Hoosiers advanced to Saturday's action with a 10-2 victory.
HOOSIERS TO FACE MARYLAND FOR CHANCE TO BATTLE FOR BIG TEN TITLE
The Maryland Terrapins have had a topsy turvy end to their season. After a struggling Indiana team swept them a few weekends ago, they rebounded with a series win against Ohio State, only to then drop two out of three to Northwestern in their regular season finale. But Mike Shawaryn got things going for them in Minneapolis with a win on Wednesday against Michigan State and on Thursday, they pulled off the tournament's first stunner, beating Illinois and ending the Illini's 27-game winning streak.
Their reward was getting Friday off.
But Saturday morning at 10 a.m., they'll face a red hot Indiana team that swept them just three weeks ago. And more than likely, they won't have Mike Shawaryn, the only pitcher who had even a decent outing against the Hoosiers.
Indiana put up 25 runs in three games that weekend in College Park and will hope to carry that, and Friday's outburst, over to Saturday. If they do, it'll be against Ryan Selmer in the morning game.
IU saw Selmer for a total of 3.0 innings over the course of two games the last time the teams got together, all in relief. Selmer boasts a 1.60 ERA in 28 appearances and 45.0 IP this season. Saturday will mark just his second start of the season. As Maryland has just two regular starters, and both of them have already gone this week, the entire day will presumably be a committee day for the Terps.
If Maryland wins the morning game, they'll advance to the Big Ten title game on Sunday and Indiana will be eliminated. But if the Hoosiers can take their fourth straight over Maryland, the two teams will play again at 6 p.m. on Saturday night.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Can the Indiana bats stay hot? With Maryland pitching by committee on Saturday, you have to like Indiana's chances to put up some runs in at least a spot or two. Maryland's pen isn't overly deep and so it wouldn't be a stretch to expect that they won't all be on on the same day. You would expect that the only way Maryland would really quiet the Hoosiers' bats would be if someone out of the pen gives them an inordinate number of innings.
2. How deep will Baragar go? The deeper the better, obviously. If you're looking for this team to win this tournament, it will be key for Baragar to go at least five or six innings. If he does, Lemonis can really limit the number of pitches that his bullpen guys throw, and keep most or all of them fresh enough to pitch on Sunday if IU can win two on Saturday. But if he has to throw a couple relievers two or three innings on Saturday, that may have an effect on their availability for a potential title game on Sunday.
3. Who starts the nightcap? Saturday night will be a committee game for IU if they can force it to be played. This is another reason Baragar's start is important. Evan Bell has not pitched yet, so if Lemonis can avoid throwing him on Saturday morning, he could start him Saturday night and presumably get four innings or so out of him. That would be huge for the same reasons Indiana needs Baragar to go deep. If Bell pitches during the morning game, however, it may be Will Coursen-Carr or Jake Kelzer in the nightcap.