Last season, Indiana traveled to Iowa City just as they began to play their worst baseball of the season. They were swept and fell all the way to the bottom of the Big Ten standings.
This year, the Hoosiers were powered to a series win and bolted near the top of the conference race behind their dual aces Kyle Hart and Caleb Baragar who turned in marvelous starts on Friday and Saturday, respectively, and led the club to a huge series win over the Hawkeyes.
Friday night, Hart was nearly untouchable as he struck out five and gave up just four hits and one unearned run in a complete game effort and 7-1 win. Iowa got its lone run in the Top of the 7th after Luke Miller committed an error at 3rd base and Mason McCoy was able to double home the runner. But aside from that inning, the Hawkeyes never threatened.
The Hoosier offense, on the other hand, was relentless. Indiana banged on Iowa's pitching for 12 hits and seven runs. Tony Butler, Ryan Fineman, and Luke Miller each homered, and Austin Cangelosi and Chris Lowe both added RBIs of their own.
On Saturday, Indiana added 11 more hits and won another easy one, 8-2. Craig Dedelow led the way for the offense, blasting a two-run shot in the Bottom of the 1st and adding another RBI in the 2nd. Miller, Fineman, Logan Sowers, and Scotty Bradley also joined in on the RBI parade. And the run support was more than enough for Caleb Baragar who continued his dominant season, locking up another quality start in allowing just two runs (one earned) in seven innings and grabbing his third win of the season. Paul Milto finished the game for the Hoosiers, pitching two scoreless innings in the 8th and 9th
Sunday was a different story, as Iowa snapped the home team's eight-game winning streak with a 6-5 win in extra innings.
For the first time all season, the Hoosiers gave Evan Bell the kind of run support they've given the other starters, scoring five runs in the first five innings. But Bell struggled tremendously, lasting just 3.2 innings, and allowing three runs on five hits. Still, the Hoosiers found themselves with a lead, six outs away from a sweep when Iowa's offense added two in the 8th to tie the game at five. And a two-out, three-single rally in the Top of the 10th pushed across the 6th Iowa run, for which the Hoosiers had no answer.
The weekend was still a success, however, as Indiana (6-3 in Big Ten play) pulled itself within 7-2 Michigan State who currently sits atop the conference standings. But in a conference muddled at the top, the Hoosiers are still in 5th despite being within a game as Michigan and Minnesota are both 6-2 and Penn State sits at 8-4, all 0.5 game clear of Indiana.
The Hoosiers will begin a span of five games away from home on Wednesday at Xavier and then will get a crack at the first place Spartans in East Lansing during a three-game set starting Friday.