We’re not pressing the panic button just yet — at least, not until Indiana’s run through the four-game Bloomington pod is done. But two games in, it’s awfully tempting to start smashing said panic button. Repeatedly.
That’s because IU’s first two games of the weekend against first-place Nebraska went ... well ... pretty freakin’ poorly. The Hoosiers lost the opener to the Huskers, 8-5, before dropping Saturday’s game, 3-1.
Ugh. It’s getting ugly out there. Let’s talk about it.
Here are Three Things:
IU played its way out of the Big Ten title conversation and now we’re starting to worry about the NCAA Tournament
It wasn’t just a bad start to the weekend. For the Hoosiers, it was the continuation of a tough run against the teeth of the schedule. IU has now dropped four straight and five of six entering the back end of the pod, with games against Ohio State on deck for Sunday evening and Monday night.
Indiana starts Sunday in fourth place — four games back of the Huskers, who have a 2.5 game lead over second-place Michigan. With a win over Ohio State on Sunday afternoon and a Maryland win over Michigan, Nebraska can wrap up the league before it even leaves Bloomington.
OK, so forget the conference title race. That’s no longer within the Hoosiers’ reach. At this point, the focus is on doing enough to get back on track over the final five games. With two upcoming games against Ohio State this weekend, followed by a three-game set at third-place Maryland next weekend, it feels like it’s going to take back-to-back wins over the Buckeyes and a series win in College Park for IU to feel good about its postseason positioning. At least that. There is no Big Ten Tournament this year, so the Hoosiers only have the remaining five games to make their final case.
Although we’re not panicking just yet, we are concerned. Very concerned. And if Sunday doesn’t go well, you can trust we’ll be smashing that panic button over and over again.
Tommy Sommer’s fingernail thing is a big problem
The cracked fingernail that Sommer dealt with last week at Michigan once again caused the left-hander some issues in Friday’s start against the Huskers. And now, it’s fair to wonder if Sommer will be good to go again before the end of the season.
Sommer lasted just 2.1 innings, yielding six runs on four hits with three walks and five strikeouts during another abbreviated outing. Per The Daily Hoosier’s Dustin Dopirak, the blister underneath Sommer’s nail broke early in his start, and even a detailed glue job couldn’t get his finger in good enough shape for him to throw how he’s capable of pitching.
It had to be extremely frustrating for Sommer, who was terrific before his finger let him down, striking out two of the first three batters he faced during a clean and easy first inning. But things unraveled in the second when Sommer yielded a pair of walks and a pair of doubles during a four-run frame for Nebraska. From there, it became pretty clear that things weren’t going to work out for him this week, either.
When healthy, Sommer has been a solid, dependable starter at the front end of IU’s rotation. Problem is, he’s not healthy right now. And in a weekend-opening game where the Hoosiers actually did a bunch of things well, a tough start put IU in a hole from which it couldn’t climb out.
There were some good things
OK, so this is testing the definition of “Three Things,” but we’re going to highlight a few items of note as a sort of catch-all for the first two games.
We’ll start with Jeremy Houston, who slotted into the leadoff role against Nebraska and rewarded his coach with a 3-for-5 performance on Friday that included two run-scoring singles. You love to see it.
Grant Macciocchi, too, turned in a strong relief effort on Friday, striking out six, walking two and yielding two hits over four scoreless innings during the back half of the game. Macciocchi has yet to allow an earned run in five appearances since making his season pitching debut on April 21. During that span, he’s struck out 13 batters in 11 innings.
And Grant Richardson continues to mash. The All-American has supplied offense in all three games this week, going 5-for-12 with four RBIs in the middle of the order. Against the Huskers, Richardson hit a solo home run and supplied a run-scoring triple on Friday before posting IU’s only run on a ninth-inning solo shot on Saturday.
We’ll see how the rest of the weekend goes and return to chat about it on Monday.