Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium, Columbus, Indiana
Friday, April 20, 6:35 p.m.
Saturday, April 21, 3:05 p.m.
Sunday, April 22, 1:05 p.m.
Sunday: TBD vs Adam Niemeyer (3-2, 5.53 ERA)
It’s tough to remember a midweek with more excitement than the one Chris Lemonis’s club had on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday night, the Hoosiers rode a dominant Timmy Herrin and a Ryan Fineman shot that might have broken a window at the JW Marriott to shutout Notre Dame in front of a crowd where Indiana fans outnumbered leprechauns 10-to-1 at Victory Field. On Wednesday, after falling behind early against lowly Ball State, Indiana stormed back to force extra innings and then got three terrific innings from Andrew Saalfrank to keep the Cards off the board until Jeremy Houston could win it in the Bottom of the 14th.
But the Hoosiers will simply need to be better this weekend, as they take a big step up in competition in Columbus against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Like Indiana, the Buckeyes are fresh off a sweep of a Big Ten bottom-dweller (Penn State) and are positioned to make a run at the Big Ten regular season crown. And Ohio State will be looking to surge toward the top of the standings, and make a statement that will be recognized nationally, as they welcome Indiana and Minnesota to Nick Swisher Field on back-to-back weekends.
Ohio State has three hitters in the Top-10 in the conference in batting average - Noah McGowan is hitting .396, while Dominic Canzone and Tyler Cowles are batting .349 and .346, respectively. Greg Beals, in his eighth season as skipper in Columbus, also has a quality pitching staff, including starters that are a combined 12-5 and Seth Kinker, the Buckeyes’ closer who is 4-1 with a 1.44 ERA and eight saves in 16 appearances. When Kinker pitches, Ohio State wins.
Of note for Indiana this weekend, Pauly Milto is not slated to make his normal Saturday start. Instead, Lemonis is prepared to go with Cameron Beauchamp after Friday night ace Jonathan Stiever. It is unclear whether Milto is injured, suspended, or has any other status preventing him from playing this weekend, but as of now, the Hoosiers have not announced their third starter. If Milto can’t or won’t go, Herrin is a possibility to go on Sunday on four-days rest.
What to Expect
Without Milto scheduled to go on Saturday, it’s tough to know what to expect. That’s not to knock Beauchamp, who has been outstanding this season. But if Ohio State were to take the Friday night opener from Jonathan Stiever, you could potentially be looking at an Ohio State sweep that would end Indiana’s Big Ten title hopes and severely damage the Hoosiers’ NCAA regional chances.
On the other hand, if Beauchamp continues to throw well, and Herrin does get the ball on Sunday, the Hoosiers may be just fine. Herrin has been dominant in midweek starts lately and there’s no reason to think he can’t give Lemonis five quality innings in a Sunday start. The key, then, may be Stiever and Beauchamp each going six or more in their outings, as Stiever and Milto have done almost every weekend this season. If they can, the deep Indiana bullpen should be just fine, even if the Sunday starter can’t go five or so.
Ultimately, this is the first weekend all season where it’s not clear what to expect. Ohio State is a quality ball club, worthy of an NCAA bid, playing at home with a real opportunity to make some noise in the Big Ten and beyond. Are the Hoosiers better? Certainly. But in no way does that mean a series win is a lock for the cream and crimson.