It was another solid weekend for the Hoosier baseball team as it hosted Purdue for a three-game set, taking the series 2-1. IU opened the weekend with a 2-1 win over the Boilermakers, but on Saturday the Hoosiers fell to their rivals, 8-5. On Sunday, they wrapped things up nicely, taking a 9-4 win to finish the weekend on top.
Here are three things from the weekend:
1. Role Players Stepping Up
Usually, we’re all talking about Grant Richardson or Cole Barr or Drew Ashley after a series and those guys did play at their usual level, but the guys around them really stepped up at times this weekend, as well.
On Friday, Jacob Southern was the hero, knocking a single into right field in the eighth inning and driving in what would prove to be the game-winning run, even though he’s been hanging out around the Mendoza line for a good chunk of the season thus far.
On Saturday, we saw Grant Macciochi drive in a run as the Hoosiers tried to get back into the game. Shortly after that, Kip Fougerousse entered the game as a pinch hitter and in his first at-bat as a Hoosier, the freshman doubled to right center, bringing a runner around to score and helping to cut the Boilermaker lead to 5-4.
In Sunday’s rubber match Jeremy Houston was big with the bat. The defensive-minded shortstop punched a grounder through the infield to drive in a pair of runs, tying the score at 2-2 after IU had fallen behind early. Fougerousse got his first career start on Sunday, filling the designated hitter spot in the lineup, and delivered by going 1-2 with another RBI. It was also a great day for Collin Hopkins. The veteran catcher hadn’t recorded a hit prior to the series finale against Purdue, but managed a single up the middle in the sixth inning, ultimately coming around to score, and then blew the game open with a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning.
In order for this team to operate at full capacity those guys — Southern, Macciochi, Houston, Hopkins, Fougerousse— and similar players have to be able to fill in the gaps around the production of the big names like Richardson and Barr and Ashley. That they were able to do that this weekend was a good sign.
The IU bullpen was handed just one lead this weekend, but still managed to help produce a pair of wins. On Friday, Nathan Stahl relieved Tommy Sommer down 1-0 in the top of the seventh inning and went on to get the W by pitching 1.1 innings of no-hit baseball, striking out one batter. Matt Litwicki pitched the final frame for the Hoosiers, picking up his third save of the season after a pair of walks, a pair of strikeouts and no hits allowed.
On Saturday, the relievers weren’t quite as good. IU went to the ‘pen down 5-4 with John Modugno taking over for McCade Brown in the sixth inning. He combined with Braden Scott and Connor Manous to throw the final four innings of the game, giving up six hits and three runs while striking out four, walking two and hitting a batter. Could’ve been better, could’ve been worse.
Sunday saw a much better performance from IU’s back-end guys. Ty Bothwell came out of the bullpen for his first relief appearance of the season, having been a starter the two weekends prior, and pitched very well. He took over for Gabe Bierman in the seventh inning and threw a pair of frames, striking out three batters and not allowing a baserunner. Litwicki took over for Bothwell in the ninth and threw a perfect inning of his own to close out the win.
IU’s relief corps has been really good this season, and despite that so-so outing on Saturday, there’s plenty of reason to be excited about this group. It seems like Litwicki has taken over closing duties, Stahl has become a choice middle reliever/set-up man and if Bothwell isn’t in the rotation, he can be a weapon in relief as well.
3. Self-inflicted wounds
Though the Hoosiers ultimately won the series, they could’ve swept the series if not for a handful of mistakes they made. On Saturday things were all knotted up at 1-1 when McCade Brown gave up a single. Then, however, he walked a batter. Then the Hoosiers committed a throwing error, then the Boilers got another hit, then there was another walk, then there was a wild pitch that allowed a run to score. By the end of the ugly inning, Purdue led 5-1. Purdue would go on to win 8-5.
The Hoosiers ended the weekend with four errors, 18 free passes issued via the walk or a hit batter (including 15 in the first two games), five wild pitches (including two that directly led to runs being scored), and 29 runners left on base. It wasn’t exactly a clean weekend, but it’s still early in the season, so these things shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise. The Hoosiers have things to work on moving forward.
Next, the Hoosiers will travel to East Lansing, where they’ll play a three-game set against a middling Michigan State team. The Spartans were 5-5 entering their Sunday matchup with Michigan and could very easily be 5-7 after their Monday matchup with the Wolverines. They’re more than capable of competing, though, as they took three out of four games against Maryland in the season’s opening weekend and also beat Illinois on Saturday.