The opening weekend of Hoosier Baseball has come and gone. In four games played in South Carolina, Indiana finished with a record of 3-1, the lone loss coming to a good Oklahoma Sooners team. On the other hand, the Hoosiers chalked up victories against Kansas State, South Alabama, and Coastal Carolina. Those last two wins are big ones, as they came against a pair of teams that could be competing for NCAA Tournament bids and could be highly ranked in RPI later this season. Let’s take a look at some of the ups and downs of the weekend.
The Good: Late Game Heroics
When you come into a new season, one question that can be asked about many teams is whether or not they’ll have players that can step up late in games and make the plays that are needed to win a game. That applies to any sport, not just baseball. Over the course of this weekend, there were a few Hoosiers that showed that they can do just that.
On Sunday, South Alabama took at 4-3 lead in the top of the 6th and they held that lead until late in the game. In the bottom of the 8th inning, IU needed to get something going. With one out, Luke Miller answered the bell, mashing a home run over the left field to tie the game up. In the bottom of the 9th, the Hoosiers needed a run to win the game and they got it pretty easily. A hit by pitch, a sacrifice bunt, a pair of intentional walks, and a double steal set up Logan Kaletha for the biggest moment of his Indiana Baseball career thus far, a walk-off grand slam.
On Monday it was more of the same but on the other side of the ball. After starter Timmy Herrin gave up four runs in three innings, three of those earned, the bullpen combined for six innings of one-run baseball. Of course the offense was crucial too, as Luke Miller drove in a run in the 7th to put the Hoosiers ahead.
This is something that should be encouraging for Hoosier fans, as there’s no doubt this team knows how to close out a game.
The Good: The Bullpen
The big question mark for Indiana coming into this season, the bullpen put forth a very encouraging performance. Coming out of the bullpen, nine pitchers combined for 18 innings of work and gave up two runs. TWO! They only gave up 13 hits! And then the most impressive part: they didn’t blow a game. Four games is a small sample size, but it’s all we’ve got and the Hoosier bullpen looks to be much improved so far. Whether or not that continues, we’ll have to wait and see, but things are looking up for Indiana’s relievers.
The Bad: The Starting Rotation
Woof. Without the bullpen being as good as they were this could have been a rocky weekend for IU. Indiana’s starting pitchers combined to give up 12 runs and 19 hits over 17 innings. Then you take out Pauly Milto’s stats.
Milto was the lone bright spot in the IU rotation, pitching six innings of one-hit baseball and striking out five. Without Milto, the other three pitchers (Stiever, Saalfrank, and Herrin) combined to give up 12 runs and 18 hits in 11 innings. That looks way worse, right? If Indiana is going to compete at the level they’re expected to this season, the rotation is going to have to be more stable outside of Pauly Milto.
The Weird: Hoosiers Getting Plunked
Last season Indiana batters got hit by a pitch 65 times in 60 games, just barely over once per game. Over the weekend, a Hoosier got hit by a pitch eight times, in four games! Now that is inflated by the five (5) hit batters in Monday’s game against Coastal Carolina, but that might make this even weirder. On this same stream of thought, Logan Kaletha got pegged three times over the weekend. I doubt that this trend is one that will continue (if it does I’m going to assume that opposing pitchers have it out for the Hoosiers), but it was a weird thing that I noticed looking at the stats.
The Hoosiers’ road has just begun. They’ve gotten off to a good start, but they still have a few things that they need to straighten out if they hope to be competing with the best teams in the country. They’ll get back on the diamond this weekend in Port Charlotte, FL when they compete in the Snowbird Baseball Classic against the trio of rutger, Boston College, and Chicago State. We’ll preview that slate of games later in the week here on CQ.