After dropping a series to Illinois last weekend and then losing in Lexington on Tuesday the Hoosiers played possibly their biggest series of the weekend on the road against Big Ten leader Michigan and came away with a pair of wins.
Friday’s game saw a solid start from Pauly Milto that paired with an offensive explosion to give IU a 10-4 win. True freshman Gabe Bierman pitched well out of the bullpen. He got his first career save by pitching three perfect innings to end the game, striking out the final eight batters he faced.
On Saturday it was more of the same for Indiana offensively. A trio of homers from Matt Lloyd, Elijah Dunham, and Cole Barr led to another 10-run outburst. On top of that Tanner Gordon threw five innings of two-run baseball to start the game. The Wolverines made a comeback attempt, but Grant Sloan and Lloyd combined to close out the game with the latter earning the save in the 10-8 Hoosier victory.
In the final game of the series runs were a bit harder to come by. IU took a lead in the middle stages of the game and from there a see-saw battle commenced. The Wolverines tied it up quickly and then took a lead of their own. Matt Gorski leveled things up for IU in the seventh with a two-run bloop single and then Cole Barr drew a bases-loaded walk to take the lead. In the bottom of the seventh back-to-back two-out doubles tied the game up and things wouldn’t be settled until extra innings. In the bottom of the eleventh the Wolverines strung together a walk, a single, a hit by pitch, and a fielder’s choice to score the winning run, taking the series finale 6-5.
1. Elijah Dunham
The Hoosier cleanup man produced in Ann Arbor. He didn’t have a three-hit game yet this season, but now he has two as he picked up a trio of hits in each of Friday and Saturday’s games. Four of those hits were doubles, one was a home run, and he drove in a pair of runs in those games. On Sunday he didn’t put up the same kind of numbers because Michigan wouldn’t really pitch to him. The left fielder drew three walks on the afternoon, struck out once, and stole a base. Dunham also extended his on-base streak to nine games.
2. Offensive Outburst
Over the course of the season the Hoosier lineup has struggled to produce against top-level pitching. Whether it was Dante Biasi, Max Meyer, or Andy Fisher producing runs was like pulling teeth for IU. Michigan’s pitching staff is regarded as the best in the Big Ten and one of the best in the nation. Between Karl Kauffmann, Tommy Henry, and Jeff Criswell the Wolverine rotation has had a very good season. Coming into the weekend each one of those guys had a sub-3.00 earned run average and a winning record to go along with the strikeouts that they’ve collected in spades. If the trend that’s been established over the course of the season held true the Hoosiers should have struggled to score this weekend but then something crazy happened—they didn’t.
IU had 27 hits in the series, scoring 25 runs to boot. There were multi-hit games had left and right, doubles upon doubles, and a trio of homers too. This is the kind of offensive production that the Hoosiers will need to have in the postseason when they’re seeing top-level arms in nearly every game if they want to make a run.
3. So you’re saying there’s a chance?
With everything settled between these two teams the picture at the top of the Big Ten standings is clear. Michigan leads IU by a game and a half, the half coming from its canceled game against Michigan State. This will make things interesting during the final conference weekend of the season as IU hosts rutger for three games in Bloomington and Michigan travels to Lincoln for a trio of games against Nebraska. If the Hoosiers can sweep the Scarlet Knights, which isn’t unlikely, they’d need the Huskers to take two games against the Wolverines, which also isn’t unlikely.
Up next the Hoosiers will play host to No. 6 Louisville on Tuesday night. It’ll be the final midweek game for IU, the final non-conference game for IU, and will kick off IU’s final homestand of the regular season. The game will also be the final chance for the Hoosiers to bolster their resume during the regular season. A win against the Cardinals would be the best of the season for them. First pitch is set 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPNU.