Over the weekend IU baseball hosted one of the more talented teams in the Big Ten for a three-game set.
The series opener was a matchup between two of the top pitchers in the conference, Max Meyer and Pauly Milto, and the Gophers got the edge. Meyer, who could ultimately end up as a first round pick in 2020, was electric. The right-hander threw seven innings, giving up just two runs on six hits, more or less silencing a typically potent Hoosier lineup while striking out 12. A big three-run seventh inning put the game out of reach for IU, giving Minnesota the 7-3 win.
On Saturday it looked like the Hoosiers had turned things around. Drew Ashley led off the bottom of the first with a single which led to IU manufacturing a run and taking an early lead. That didn’t last long. The Hoosiers didn’t manage to squeak out another hit until the sixth inning and by that time they were down 6-1. It seemed like IU would lose a conference series for the first time this season, but then the momentum changed. Ryan Fineman clubbed a home run in the seventh. Then Grant Richardson led off the bottom of the ninth with a solo shot. Finally the Hoosier comeback was capped off with a full count and two outs in the bottom of the ninth as Matt Lloyd smacked a no-doubt, three-run bomb over the fence in right field to win the game 7-6.
The feeling in the ballpark had changed on Sunday and it was all in favor of Indiana. The Hoosiers hit the ground running, scoring a trio of runs in the first inning and then a pair of runs in the second. Scotty Bradley starred for the Hoosiers, picking up a pair of hits and a pair of RBI on the afternoon. Andrew Saalfrank continued his run of good performances as IU’s Sunday starter—he threw 5.2 innings, striking out six and giving up the lone run of the game as the Hoosiers won 7-1.
1. Matt Lloyd
It’s hard to beat smoking a walk-off shot to save the series for your team. It’s even harder to top it when your coach refers to you as the baddest man alive afterward. If you’re up to date on Game of Thrones this is a simple enough explanation of Lloyd’s role in the series:
2. B1G Implications
The Hoosiers entered the weekend at the top of the conference standings. They aren’t there anymore however. Michigan took advantage of IU’s loss to Minnesota, taking a half-game lead in the conference by manhandling rutger at home. Shocking I know.
The Hoosiers did remain in front of Nebraska though. They lead the Huskers by a full game after Darin Erstad’s crew dropped its second Big Ten series in a row, this time to Illinois.
Things will get interesting soon as Michigan plays Maryland, IU, and Nebraska over the next three weekends, Nebraska plays weekends against Northwestern and Michigan to close out its conference slate, and the Hoosiers take on Illinois, Michigan, and rutger down the stretch. At this point, it seems like any of these three teams could take the regular season title and it’ll be pretty tight. Also, don’t sleep on Iowa. The Hawkeyes currently sit two games behind Michigan and close out their season with series against Michigan State and Maryland, both of which could be sweeps for Iowa.
3. Poll Jumping
After the big series win IU got some love in the national rankings. D1Baseball had the Hoosiers hop from 23rd to 19th in its poll, Baseball America boosted them three spots to number 22 nationally, and Perfect Game had the Hoosiers making the largest leap, going from 24 to 19. With the tough schedule that IU has remaining we could see an even bigger rise in the poll with a few key wins, possibly putting the Hoosiers in the regional host conversation.