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Underachieving Gophers are IU’s next test

The most talented sub-.500 team in the country comes to Bloomington for a three-game set this weekend

The Hoosiers are red hot. They’ve won 11 of their last 12 games.
Auston Matricardi

Who

#23 Indiana Hoosiers (28-13, 9-3 B1G) vs Minnesota Golden Gophers (17-20, 7-5 B1G)

Where

Bart Kaufman Field, Bloomington, Indiana

When

Friday, March 22, 6:05 p.m.

Saturday, March 23, 2:05 p.m.

Sunday, March 24, Noon

Probable Starters

RHP Pauly Milto (6-3, 2.29 ERA) vs RHP Max Meyer (3-3, 1.93 ERA)

RHP Tanner Gordon (4-3, 3.02 ERA) vs RHP Sam Thoresen (3-3, 6.61 ERA)

LHP Andrew Saalfrank (5-1, 2.40 ERA) vs RHP Joshua Culliver (2-3, 4.42 ERA)

Watch | Listen | Live Stats | @IndianaBase | @GopherBaseball

Preview

The toughest stretch of IU’s schedule begins this weekend as Minnesota comes to town. The Gophers might not look like much if you only look at their record, but John Anderson’s team might be the most talented sub-.500 squad in the country. They’ve played the 28th toughest schedule in the country with matchups against some pretty good teams like Oregon State, Washington, NC State, and Dallas Baptist during the non-conference and now IU will round out Minnesota’s tour against the four best teams in the Big Ten as the Gophers have already seen Nebraska, Michigan, and Illinois this season. This was a team that hosted a regional and swept its way to a super regional berth last year, then returned some key players for 2019. They have certainly underachieved this year, but they were picked by many to win the Big Ten during the preseason so don’t write them off in this series.

Sunday’s game will be nationally televised on ESPNU, but it’ll be Friday night’s game that should receive national attention. The table is set for a clash of titans to open the series as we’ll see two of the best pitchers in the Big Ten if not the country go head to head as Pauly Milto will be on the bump for the Hoosiers and Max Meyer will lead the way for Minnesota. Both hurlers have sub-2.30 earned run averages and at least 60 strikeouts on the season. If both of these guys are on—and it’s rare that they aren’t—this could very well be a quick, low-scoring pitchers’ duel where every baserunner matters and whoever makes a mistake first loses.

As for the weekend overall, the Hoosiers need at least a pair of wins to keep pace in the Big Ten title race. IU sits just a half-game ahead of Nebraska in the conference standings, but the Huskers have played three more games in the conference than the Hoosiers and they’ll take on a tough Illinois team this weekend. All IU needs to do to take the series and stave off Nebraska for another weekend is get solid performances from its starting pitchers, something that hasn’t been an issue for much of the season, and find a way to produce on offense whether it be slugging home runs or stringing together hits to produce runs, both things that the Hoosiers have shown they can do in recent weeks.