Bart Kaufman Field, Bloomington, Indiana
Friday, March 9, 3:05 p.m.
Saturday, March 10, 2:05 p.m.
Sunday, March 11, 1:05 p.m.
This weekend’s opening series at the Bart features two clubs whose starts to the 2018 season could not have been any different, but who will come into the 3-game set with opposite feelings thanks to their most recent weekday results.
The Hoosiers were flat against an average-at-best Cincinnati team, falling 8-3. Chris Lemonis said his hitters “chased early” and “couldn’t get the big hit,” noting that those in attendance on Tuesday “got to see [Indiana’s] worst.”
As for the Tigers, they stole one from the Nevada Wolf Pack on Tuesday in a win that was thrilling enough that it might just turn Pacific’s season around. The clubs went to extra innings tied at 6-6, and when Nevada scored three runs in the Top of the 11th all hope looked lost for the Tigers. But Pacific hung their own crooked number, scoring four in the bottom half of the inning to walk-off against UNR.
Offensively, Pacific struggles, scoring just four runs per game and having only one hitter, Kevin Sandri, batting over .300. Take away their last two games (win in which they scored eight and 10, respectively) and that runs per game number comes down to 3.16, which certainly won’t get it done over the course of a weekend against Indiana. And with just seven everyday players batting over the Mendoza line, there is no reason to imagine that those numbers will improve this weekend against a talented Hoosier pitching staff.
If the Tigers do score enough to hang with Indiana, they’ll get the ball to Ryan Shreve and Cooper Cesad. Shreve, who has made five appearances and has a 0.84 ERA over 10.2 IP. Shreve has a WHIP under 1.00, allowing just 10 hits and having yet to walk a batter. He also has 12 strikeouts. Cesad has two saves and a 1.26 ERA in 14.1 IP.
Getting the ball to those two on the back end may not be all that tough, at least a couple days this weekend. Pacific has a solid front-end to put on the bump on Friday and Sunday in Shelby Lackey and Ricky Reynoso. The two come into the weekend with 2.40 and 3.12 ERAs, respectively, and are a combined 3-0. But in six combined starts, they’ve gone just 32.1 IP, or about 5.1 IP per game. That means that on Friday and Sunday, if things go to plan for the Tigers, they could go from their starters to some combination of Shreve and Cesad.
Saturday could be a different story, though, as starter Lucas Sweany has struggled, going 0-3 in three starts, and posting a 6.57 ERA. In those three starts, he’s lasted just 12.1 IP. And assuming that he can’t get the ball to Shreve and Cesad (if they were available), the rest of the Pacific bullpen has been dreadful, with no other pitcher with an ERA under 4.70.
What to Expect
A focused Indiana club. Forget how the team played on Tuesday. Whether you blame it on a bad start by a midweek pitcher, a bit of a hangover after returning late on Sunday from the San Diego road trip, or the surprise of playing on Tuesday when the game was originally scheduled for Wednesday, it was a one-off — we think.
Jonathan Stiever seemed to find his stride last weekend and Pauly Milto has been nothing short of tremendous as a starter at the Bart. Matt Gorski and Logan Kaletha have been on fire offensively as of late and three Hoosiers — Elijah Dunham, Logan Sowers, and Ryan Fineman — are all batting over .375. All those things considered, an Indiana sweep is the thing to expect this weekend, especially given the urgency the club will have after the midweek loss.
Make no mistake, Indiana has aspirations to host an NCAA regional, and the margin of error is paper thin. Sweeps of struggling teams like Pacific are wholly necessary. Lemonis and co. know that. And that’s why they’ll trounce the Tigers this weekend.
NOTE: With an early-season series at Bart Kaufman Field, keep an eye out for schedule changes due to impending weather. Also, be aware that there is almost certainly a travel curfew for Sunday’s contest and that game could be called early, regardless of score.