Are any of you Crimson Quarry readers in the clergy? The Indiana baseball team needs to be read its last rites.
The Maryland Terrapins started fast on Wednesday, both offensively and defensively, en route to a 5-3 win over the Hoosiers in the opening game of the Big Ten Tournament. The Terps' offense pounded on Kyle Hart early, ripping three hits in the first inning, including a triple by Marty Costes and taking a 1-0 lead.
And to complement the Maryland bats, Mike Shawaryn showed that despite Hart's win-loss record and Cody Sedlock's Pitcher of the Year award, that when he's at his best, he's the Big Ten's best. Shawaryn opened the contest by striking out the first six Hoosiers, and ultimately he would run that number up to 16 in his complete game, 4-hit victory.
The Hoosiers tied the game up in the 3rd after Austin Cangelosi walked and a Maryland error allowed him to advance to 3rd base. Alex Krupa grounded up the middle for an RBI Fielder's Choice to knot the game at 1-1.
But Maryland would get the lead back in the 5th by tagging Hart for three runs, sparked by Costes' second of three extra-base hits and three other hits.
Indiana would get two in the bottom half of the inning on a walk and two of their four total hits, but that would be the end of the scoring for the Hoosiers.
Maryland would add one more in the 7th off of Jonathan Stiever, who spelled Hart after five innings.
The day was a microcosm for Indiana, a continuance of a season's worth of miserable offense. The Hoosiers were just 4-for-31 on the day and beyond just failing to get hits, simply looked silly against Shawaryn. And when an offense is as impotent as Indiana's, anything but a starter's best won't be good enough. And Kyle Hart just wasn't at his best today in what unfortunately looks like it will be his last start in the cream and crimson.
The Hoosiers are now just one loss from elimination and the end of what can only be described as a long and disappointing season. In order to avoid that, they'll now have to win five games in four days (two on Saturday) coming from the loser's bracket. The biggest problem with having to face that many potential games in that many days is trying to figure out what to do about the pitching.
Presumably, Caleb Baragar will pitch tomorrow's elimination game against either Nebraska or Michigan State, and then Evan Bell would go on Friday if they can survive. But that would leave you, potentially, with two games on Saturday without a good plan in place. Coming into the week, Jonathan Stiever and Luke Stephenson would have seemed like the obvious choices to Saturday starts, hoping that they can give you four or five innings and get the game to the bullpen. But as Kyle Hart was only able to go five innings, Stiever was used today and threw enough pitches that you would wonder how many innings he can go on Saturday.
But ultimately, it won't matter. Indiana's offense is a self-mutilating buzzsaw and Chris Lemonis seems to have no idea what to do about it. He pinch hit for starters twice today, once putting Laren Eustace in for Alex Krupa and once putting Isaiah Pasteur in for Scotty Bradley.
Eustace entered shortly after Krupa misplayed a ball in left field that ultimately led to a Maryland run, so perhaps that move had more to do with defense. But the Pasteur for Bradley move is mind-boggling. Bradley, who was 0-for-1 with a walk through his first two plate appearances, was replaced by Pasteur in the 6th. There were obviously no defensive reasons behind the change as Bradley was the DH today, and it's hard to fathom that Pasteur would spell anyone in the lineup for offensive purposes seeing as he sits south of the Mendoza line.
But even though that move makes no sense from the outside, it's hard to blame Lemonis for pushing different buttons and pulling different levers. His team can't hit and can't score. And because of that, they're 27 outs away from failing to qualify for an NCAA regional for the first time in four years and being left to wonder what could have been if they had ever played up to their potential.