After having Friday night’s game against Northeastern postponed, the Hoosiers were forced to play a doubleheader on Saturday against the Huskies and UConn. Indiana jumped all over Northeastern early, as they scored a trio of runs in each of the first two innings. Logan Kaletha led the way as the senior blasted a two run bomb in the first inning and added a RBI single in the second. Hoosier ace Pauly Milto was his usual inning eating self, as he kept the Huskies at bay most of the game. The senior was in shutdown mode for most of the game, at one point retiring 12 straight batters between the third and seventh innings, and kept Northeastern off the board until giving up a three run home run in the bottom of the eighth. In all, it was Milto’s 18th quality start in his career as he went a full eight innings, giving up just six hits and a pair of walks to go along with seven strikeouts. Connor Manous gave up a single run in the ninth, but the early offense was enough to give IU a 6-4 win.
Where the Hoosiers were front runners against Northeastern, they were closers in the night cap against UConn. After falling behind 3-0 after three innings, the Hoosier offense exploded to put up crooked numbers in each of the middle innings. After scoring a pair of runs in the fourth, Wyatt Cross hit his second career home run to tie the game and Kaletha gave the Hoosiers the lead for good with a RBI double. Matt Gorski broke the game open in the sixth as he blasted his first career grand slam to give Indiana a commanding 9-3 lead. UConn would get a pair of unearned runs off of Matt Lloyd in the ninth, but the Hoosiers would win 9-6.
Indiana closed the weekend against No. 20 Coastal Carolina in a true road game and had a great chance to win. IU struck first in the third on a Drew Ashley sac fly and then an unearned run on a fielding error, but the Chanticleers battled back in the bottom of the 4th when Mike Koenig tagged Hoosier starter Tommy Sommer with an RBI double. CCU took the lead later in the frame on a Justin Walker fielding error. The Hoosiers reclaimed the lead in the seventh on a pair of RBI singles from Ashley and Lloyd, and tacked on an insurance run in the eighth on a Cole Barr long ball. However, the Hoosiers were their own worst enemies in the ninth as a hit batter and a walk helped Coastal Carolina load the bases with one out. After Grant Sloan replaced Manous on the mound he walked in a run before Jared Johnson smacked a two RBI walk off single to hand the Hoosiers a crushing 6-5 loss.
1. Indiana is finding it’s offensive groove
After four solo home runs represented all of Indiana’s offense when they got swept in Knoxville last weekend, the Hoosier bats have woken up in a big way. After scoring 16 runs in a pair of midweek wins over Cincinnati and Butler, IU averaged 6.67 runs per game over the weekend against the stiffest competition it has faced to date. Of course getting preseason All-American Matt Gorski helped—the outfielder did not play against Tennessee—but Indiana got production from a lot of different faces in Carolina as Gorski, Kaletha, Lloyd, Barr and Ashley all gave Jeff Mercer’s squad major contributions in the trio of games.
It’s known that Jeff Mercer and his staff have emphasized defensive play since arriving in Bloomington, but recently the Hoosiers haven’t shown that. In the Tennessee series they committed five errors and that trend has gotten worse since as the Hoosiers committed EIGHT errors in the three games over the weekend, including five against UConn alone. IU’s defensive mishaps have been as ill-timed as they are consistent, as the eight miscues led to five unearned runs. The errors put extra pressure on Indiana pitchers to get extra outs. For example, Hoosier closer Matt Lloyd battled through two innings of work to close out UConn on Saturday. Lloyd was not his normal sharp self, as he gave up a pair of hits and walks, but the Hoosier defense committed two errors that led to a pair of unearned runs. If IU plays clean defense, Lloyd would not have been forced to throw 47 pitches in just two innings, and possibly could have been available on Sunday to try to close out Coastal Carolina. Instead Mercer had to go to Manous and Sloan and the Hoosiers blew a chance for a marquee victory.
Even though Indiana was not able to close out the Chanticleers, it was a positive weekend for Indiana when it comes to their long term NCAA Tournament hopes. Playing a borderline top ten team in Coastal Carolina will help IU’s RPI and getting a win over a borderline top 25 UConn team will help even more. Because Indiana will play a weaker Big Ten slate due to unbalanced scheduling, as well as the lack of strength of the conference as a whole, the Hoosiers will have to rely on their non-conference slate to build up the majority of their resumé building wins.
The Hoosiers will get more chances to build up their profile next weekend in the Safeco Field Tournament as they will face a trio of quality opponents in Washington, Oregon State and San Diego. Before Indiana heads out west though they are scheduled to host in-state foe Indiana State at Bart Kaufman Field on Tuesday. With the current weather in Bloomington being snowy, cold and all around miserable in this first week of March the status of ISU tilt might be iffy at best. First pitch is scheduled for 4 pm should the two teams play.