A three-day trip to Evanston produced two victories and a series win for Indiana. The Hoosiers won Friday’s opener, 5-4, before dropping Saturday’s second meeting, 8-5. With the series on the line in Sunday’s rubber game, Gabe Bierman pitched a gem to lead IU to a 4-0 victory.
Here are Three Things from the weekend:
Bierman has been outstanding of late
The season didn’t start exactly how the sophomore right-hander would’ve liked, but there has been nothing to frown upon during Bierman’s last two starting assignments.
Sunday was the best start of the season for Bierman, who blanked Northwestern over 7.2 innings while holding the Wildcats to just two hits. He struck out six, walked only one, recorded 13 outs on ground balls and, at one point, retired 13 in a row.
It was especially impressive considering that Bierman hadn’t pitched since April 4 due to last weekend’s rainout. Although the sour weather in Bloomington last Sunday forced him to skip a turn, Bierman picked up right where he left off. Over his last 15.2 innings of work dating to March 28, the Jeffersonville native has allowed just one unearned run on six hits with 12 strikeouts and three walks.
It’s encouraging stuff from Bierman, who looks very much like a pitcher the Hoosiers can trust in rubber game scenarios during the second half of the season.
We missed you, Matt Litwicki
Seriously! It’s been a while!
Friday’s save appearance was Litwicki’s first action since March 21. IU coach Jeff Mercer said he would’ve liked to have used Litwicki in the meantime, but cold weather in recent weeks made Mercer hesitant to turn to the max-effort closer.
The long layoff didn’t seem to slow Litwicki, who worked the final inning on both Friday and Sunday, allowing just one hit over two combined innings. Best of all, in striking out three batters across both outings, Litwicki had excellent command while peppering the zone.
The hit he yielded on Friday — a leadoff single to start the ninth — was the first base knock Litwicki has allowed all season. He’s struck out 11 and walked just two over 7.2 innings of sterling work.
The bottom of the order did its job
Mercer trotted out the same players in his lineup in all three games. Although he tinkered with the top of the order late in the weekend, Mercer slotted the same group of guys — first baseman Kip Fougerousse, right fielder Morgan Colopy, designated hitter Tyler Van Pelt, catcher Collin Hopkins and shortstop James Espalin — in spots five through nine.
Those five players combined for 11 of the team’s 22 hits on the weekend and eight of the Hoosiers’ 13 runs batted in.
Of note: Van Pelt and Colopy each mashed two-run homers, Fougerousse recorded a two-run single and Espalin notched his first career hit with a double on Friday night. Folks know about the Hoosiers’ big bats — Grant Richardson, Cole Barr, etc., etc. — but the other guys are pulling some weight, too.
One more thing!
The Wildcats entered the weekend leading the nation with an average of 2.1 home runs per game. But against Hoosier hurlers, Northwestern managed only two homers in three games — both of them of the solo variety.