Tuesday, February 26, 3 p.m.
Wednesday, February 27, 3 p.m.
Bart Kaufman Field, Bloomington, Indiana
This week Indiana returns to the friendly confines of Bart Kaufman Field for the first time under first year head coach Jeff Mercer, and the Hoosiers will look to create some home cooking to gain some momentum after getting swept in Knoxville against Tennessee over the weekend. Pretty much everything went wrong for the Hoosiers over the weekend, as they struggled mightily in all three areas of the game.
Even if IU doesn’t get preseason All-American Matt Gorski back this week, they should be able to rebound against Cincinnati and Butler, two teams that have combined to win a total of three games in the young season. Last season Indiana won three of the four matchups with the two schools, as IU lost to the Bearcats in a midweek game at UC but swept Butler in late March.
Not only will the next two days be Indiana’s first two home games, but they will also be IU’s first two midweek games of the season as well. Which means we will get our first glance at who could develop into Mercer’s go to mid-week starter, who could likely start key non-conference games against the likes of Purdue, Kentucky and Louisville later in the season.
A pair of freshman will get the first crack at earning the midweek gig, as Hoosier natives Alex Franklin (Bloomington) and Gabe Bierman (Jeffersonville) will each make their first collegiate starts this week. Each man has made one appearance this season. Franklin tossed a perfect inning against Memphis a couple of weekends ago while Bierman gave up one run on two hits against the Volunteers on Friday.
Indiana should be able to handle both the Bearcats and the Bulldogs, but what will be more intriguing is how the Hoosiers bounce back from their first real adversity in the Jeff Mercer era. Look for Indiana to be more crisp at the plate. The Hoosiers were too reliant on the home run against Tennessee, as all four runs scored in the series were via solo long balls. Mercer wants Indiana to rely less on homers than they did during the Lemonis era, and it looks like it is taking the Hoosiers some time to adjust. Of course, Indiana won’t be able to manufacture runs if they aren’t on base, and Indiana owns an abysmal .169 batting average through six games. Yes, it is a small sample size, but something to look for against Butler and Cincinnati, and moving forward long term.