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Hoosiers sweep Northern Illinois, win sixth straight

Indiana’s starting pitching has remained dominant as the club rounds into form for the approaching Big Ten season.

Weekend Recap

After a midweek letdown against Cincinnati and a series-opening loss to Pacific a week ago, the Indiana lineup looked lost, scraping out just four runs on 11 hits over the course of those two games, a dismal offensive output that only gets worse when you factor in the inability to come up with a clutch knock in either contest. But all along, the Hoosier pitching staff was still in stride, save a bad midweek start in that loss to the Bearcats.

The pitching staff was responsible for the last two wins against Pacific to take that series, and a in a midweek win over Western Illinois, the bats finally came alive for Indiana and the club stormed through a weekend sweep of Northern Illinois over the past few days to stretch its winning streak to six and position itself in the thick of the national conversation as the RPI begins to matter and conference play approaches.

On Friday, Indiana could do no wrong. The Hoosiers scored six in the Bottom of the 1st and tacked on 12 more runs in an 18-0 walloping of the Huskies. Jonathan Stiever gave up just two hits in 6.0 IP and picked up the win, improving to 2-1, while Andrew Saalfrank and Austin Long finished off the shutout with three terrific relief innings. Logan Kalehta and Matt Lloyd both went 4-for-6 on the day, combining for 6 RBIs and 5 runs scored.

Saturday, the Hoosiers found themselves in a bit of a dogfight. Pauly Milto was outstanding again, going 5.2 IP and allowing just three hits and one unearned run, brining his ERA under 2.00 for the season. The Indiana offense did just enough against Northern Illinois’s starter, Tanner Foster, to take a 2-1 lead into the 8th inning where Chris Lemonis gave Cal Krueger the ball. But Krueger was unable to hold the lead, as the Huskies got two runs in the Top of the 8th, including one unearned run.

But the Indiana offense came alive in the Bottom of the 8th when Luke Miller and Logan Sowers hit back-to-back jacks, both with two outs, to retake the lead, 4-3. Krueger then finished Northern Illinois off with a clean 9th inning to clinch the series. Krueger improved to 5-1, all decisions coming in relief.

Cameron Beauchamp took the bump for the Sunday finale and gave Indiana more outstanding starting pitching. Beauchamp, in his first start of the 2018 season, went 6.0 IP and allowed just 4 hits and no runs.

Indiana’s offense got started in the Bottom of the 4th when Jeremy Houston singled, was moved to second, and then brought around on a Lloyd RBI double. The Hoosiers added two more in the Bottom of the 6th when Matt Gorski doubled to start the inning, Ryan Fineman delivered a pinch-hit RBI, and Justin Walker ultimately brought Fineman home.

Things got shaky in the Top of the 8th, though, when the Indiana bullpen, for the second straight day, looked like the 2017 version of the unit. Kade Kryzsko gave up two doubles and a triple to start the inning, which allowed the Huskies to cut the lead to 3-2. Lloyd then entered in a save situation with a runner on 3rd and nobody out. After retiring the next two hitters, Lloyd surrendered a game-tying single.

Lloyd was able to keep Northern Illinois quiet in the Top of the 9th, though, just as Krueger had on Saturday, allowing the Hoosiers to walk-off in style. With two outs and no one on, Lloyd walked and was quickly moved to 3rd when Miller singled. An intentional walk of Sowers brought Scotty Bradley to the plate and the sophomore delivered with his biggest hit as a Hoosier, singling down the right field line to clinch the sweep.

Indiana (15-4) will be back in action on Tuesday against Wright State before they open Big Ten play against in Iowa City against the Hawkeyes on Friday.

RPI, the Schedule, and Hunting to Host a Regional’s RPI rankings are set to come out after the conclusion of Sunday’s games, which generally marks the point where the RPI conversation matters. The NCAA maintains RPI rankings throughout the entire season, but after this weekend, most clubs will have played around 20 games, a sufficient sample size to know how things shape up.

Coming into this weekend, Indiana was 26th in the NCAA’s RPI. The Hoosiers Indiana appear to be positioned at the start of Big Ten play right in the thick of the national conversation as a potential regional host. But moving forward, they’ll not only need wins, but for a few teams on their schedule to improve.

While Indiana’s wins over San Diego don’t look quite as good now that the Toreros have lost four of six, dropping series with both Houston and Santa Clara, since the Hoosiers left town, San Diego was 68th in the RPI before this weekend’s results.

Likewise, the win over South Alabama is not worth nearly as much as Indiana might have hoped. The Jags started 7-1, with the lone loss coming to the Hoosiers, but since then have gone just 4-7, being swept in a four-game set with Texas Tech. But South Alabama’s schedule, which has included four with Texas Tech and one with each of LSU, Auburn, and Oklahoma, has been sufficient to keep the Jags in the Top-30 to this point.

Even though it was a loss, the season opener with Oklahoma has been somewhat helpful to Indiana’s cause, just for strength of schedule purposes. The Sooners find themselves at 37th in the rankings as of today. However, the other big game from opening weekend, the win over Coastal Carolina, which would appear to be the best result on the schedule thus far, isn’t that. Coastal is 65th in the NCAA’s tabulation.

Rutger has been a nice surprise, and marks a Top-100 RPI win for now. But losses to Cincinnati and Pacific, ranked 143rd and 185th, respectively, won’t look good. And the wins over Pacific, the directional Illinois schools (Northern ranking 187th and Western ranking 293rd, fifth-worst in the country), Chicago State (240th), and Boston College (58th for now, but sure to drop once they get walloped in ACC play) will hold almost no value other than to hurt the strength of schedule.

A week or two into Big Ten play, barring disastrous results, Indiana should find themselves in the Top-20 or Top-25 of the rankings. But at this point, when it comes to the hunt for a regional at Bart Kaufman Field, there doesn’t appear to be much room for error as of now.

Around the Big Ten

Here’s how the rest of the Big Ten fared this weekend:

Illinois vs. Southern Illinois

Saturday, Won 16-6

Saturday. Lost 5-4

Sunday, Won 6-2

Iowa vs. Evansville

Saturday, Won 10-3

Saturday, Won 8-3

Sunday, In progress at time of publish

Maryland at No. 18 East Carolina

Friday, Lost 4-0

Saturday, Lost 18-4

Sunday, Lost 4-0

Michigan vs. Bowling Green

Friday, Won 8-6

Saturday, Won, 10-7

Sunday, Won 5-4

Michigan State vs. Niagara

Friday, Lost 3-2

Saturday, Won 5-1

Sunday, In progress at time of publish

Minnesota at No. 11 TCU

Friday, Won 6-3

Sunday, Lost 5-4 (F/13)

Sunday, In progress at time of publish

Nebraska vs. Northwestern State

Saturday, Lost 6-2

Sunday, Won 7-6

Northwestern at Central Michigan

Friday, Won 4-2

Saturday, Won 5-2

Saturday, Lost 7-3

Ohio State vs. Cal State Northridge

Friday, Won 2-1

Sunday, Lost 11-6

Sunday, In progress at time of publish

Penn State vs. New Jersey Tech

Saturday, Won 4-3

Saturday, Won 5-3

Sunday, Lost 8-6

Purdue at Saint Louis

Saturday, Lost 15-1

Saturday, Lost 11-9

Sunday, In progress at time of publish

Rutger at Florida Gulf Coast

Friday, Won 13-9

Saturday, Won 6-3

Sunday, Lost 9-8