The Jeff Mercer era started off on the right foot over the weekend as his Indiana Hoosiers took two out of three games from the Memphis Tigers in the season’s opening series. Mercer had a particularly good weekend, finding success with unexpected lineups that included potential Big Ten Player of the Year Matt Gorski leading off for the cream and crimson and getting three hits out of the nine-hole in the lineup thanks to Jeremy Houston’s big day on Sunday.
But the story of the weekend was the Indiana starting rotation. On Friday night, ace Pauly Milto picked up where he left off in 2018 facing just two above the minimum in 7.0 IP, allowing just two hits, no walks, and striking out seven en route to a 6-1 Indiana win. That was plenty good for the Hoosiers, who hung a crooked number in the 5th inning, powering four runs across the plate behind big knocks by Matt Lloyd, Justin Walker, and Gorski. The Hoosiers added two insurance runs later in the game but Memphis was only able to scratch out one run off of Cal Krueger and Conner Manous over the final two frames.
On Saturday, the great starting pitching continued as Tanner Gordon, making his first Division-I appearance, escaped some trouble in his 4.0 IP and allowed just one run to keep the Hoosiers in line for a weekend sweep. But the game slipped away from the visitors when Andrew Saalfrank, one of Indiana’s most talented and most inconsistent pitchers, failed to record a single out in the 6th inning, giving up two runs on two hits and one walk. The Hoosiers fared no better in the 7th when freshman Braydon Tucker, from Brazil, Indiana, was roughed up in his collegiate debut, and gave up three unearned runs on a bases clearing triple that put the game out of reach and ultimately led to a 6-3 loss for the Hoosiers.
On Sunday, though, Indiana rebounded with more starting pitching. After Gorski knocked a leadoff home run, Sophomore Tommy Sommer looked like prepared to hold onto the Sunday spot in the rotation for good as he hurled 6.0 scoreless IP, allowing just five hits and walking only one. Manous threw two more relief innings to get the game to closer Matt Lloyd in the 9th who never broke a sweat thanks to a 6-0 lead.
In all, the Hoosiers gave up just four earned runs over the weekend, with the starters allowing just one in 17.0 IP. Moving forward, if the offense finds the consistency that Mercer seeks, that kind of pitching prowess could take the Hoosiers deep into a postseason run.
This weekend Indiana (2-1) will return to the Volunteer State to take on Tennessee (3-0), who swept Appalachian State this weekend, shutting the Mountaineers out in all three contests.