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Indiana baseball set for critical series at Michigan

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Two wins this weekend could do wonders for Indiana’s NCAA Tournament hopes.

Who

Indiana Hoosiers (19-15-2, 6-5-1) at Michigan Wolverines (30-7, 6-3)

Where

Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan

When

Friday, April 21, 6:00 p.m. ET

Saturday, April 22, 2:00 p.m. ET

Sunday, April 23, 12:00 p.m. ET

Probable Starters

Friday: RHP Jonathan Stiever (1-2, 6.00) at LHP Oliver Jaskie (5-1, 3.96)

Saturday: RHP Brian Hobbie (2-3, 5.87) at RHP Ryan Nutoff (4-1, 4.78)

Sunday: RHP Pauly Milto (3-2, 3.38) at LHP Michael Hendrickson (5-1, 4.50)

Watch | Listen | Live Stats | @HoosierBaseball | @umichbaseball

Preview

Since losing their first two games in Big Ten play, the Michigan Wolverines have been the hottest team in the conference. Aside from winning six of their last seven league games to slide into 3rd place in the standings, wins over Michigan State (non-conference game) and Notre Dame, as well as a sweep over No. 18 Oklahoma, have the Wolverines in the Top-25 of the RPI and solidly in the NCAA Tournament field.

As for the Hoosiers, they hope that their two wins over Big Ten leading Minnesota last weekend snapped them out of what has become an annual swoon, this season’s version marked by a 3-6-1 record in 10 games against Indiana State, Nebraska, Ball State, Purdue, and the Gophers. But a midweek loss to Butler will send Indiana to Ann Arbor with a terrible taste in its collective mouth.

Still, though, the Hoosiers seem in fine shape when it comes to qualifying for the Big Ten Tournament, which will be hosted in Bloomington. They currently sit in 7th in the conference standings and two games clear of 9th-place Illinois and Northwestern. However, despite a Top-40 RPI, the Hoosiers are just outside of the tournament picture according to D1Baseball’s first Field of 64 Projections. But Indiana has certainly put itself in the conversation.

So long as this series is not a sweep by either club, both should benefit in the RPI from the three games being played and picking up at least one win.

But the scorching hot Wolverines will make it tough for Indiana to pick up a win or two. Five Michigan players (four of whom have started all 37 games, and one who has started 33 games) are hitting over .300. And at .296, Drew Lugbauer has a whopping 11 home runs and 48 RBIs. As a result, in their last 15 games, Michigan has scored 134 runs (8.9 per game).

Indiana’s offense, though, could match the Wolverines step for step. Though Michigan’s weekend starters are a combined 12-3, the offense has powered them to those records. Jaskie, Nutoff, and Hendrickson have ERAs of 3.12, 4.78, and 4.50, respectively, demonstrating that they are vulnerable to giving up runs.

What to expect

It has been feast or famine of late for the Indiana offense, with not much in between, save a 4-0 win at Minnesota last Sunday. They’ll need plenty of feast, though, this weekend as the numbers and box scores from throughout the entire season would suggest that Michigan will mash against the Hoosiers’ pitching staff.

If Indiana can’t get on the board early and often, Michigan could storm to a sweep. But it’s hard to imagine a staff with the ERAs that the Wolverines boast shutting down the Hoosiers for three games. If Stiever, Hobbie, and Milto can just limit the damage, Indiana will have a fighting chance to take two of three on the road and truly thrust itself into the NCAA conversation.