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Three Things: IU opens pod with sweep of Scarlet Knights

The Scarlet Knights, winners of five in a row, entered the weekend as arguably the hottest team in the Big Ten. But the Hoosiers had something to say about that.

IU’s Collin Hopkins slides home during a game against Iowa on May 2.
Missy Minear/Indiana Athletics

Indiana is participating in a four-game pod at Rutgers this weekend, playing two games apiece against the Scarlet Knights and Nebraska.

So far, so good for the No. 23 Hoosiers.

IU opened the trip with two wins over the surging hosts, taking Friday afternoon’s opener, 8-3, before holding on for a 5-3 extra-inning victory on Saturday morning. Here are Three Things from the first half of the pod, which continues with games against the Cornhuskers on Saturday and Sunday:

Collin Hopkins is on a tear

The Indiana catcher closed the Rutgers portion of the pod with a .247 batting average — nothing special at first glance. But give Hopkins some credit. Only two weeks ago, he was riding on a .065 average.

Yeah, things have changed — and changed quickly.

Hopkins’ fortunes at the plate turned around midway through the Minnesota series and he’s been hot as hell ever since, collecting at least one hit in each of the past seven games while going 15-for-27 with nine doubles and nine RBIs in that span.

He supplied a two-run single in Friday’s weekend opener, then came back with a clutch, game-tying RBI single with two outs in the top of the ninth on Saturday morning.

McCade Brown dazzled

The IU right-hander has already been a part of one Indiana no-hitter this season. On Saturday morning, he tried to do it again.

Brown was perfect through the first six innings of Game 2 against Rutgers, racking up 11 strikeouts in the process. It wasn’t until he yielded a leadoff homer in the bottom of the seventh that his line picked up a smudge. Prior to that dinger, Brown had struck each of the previous seven batters faced.

Ultimately, it was still a darn good day for Brown, who walked three — one was intentional — and otherwise yielded just the one home run on 90 pitches over seven innings. Saturday also marked the third time this season that Brown has posted 10 or more strikeouts in a start. His season ERA sits at 3.06 and he has 77 punch outs in 47 innings.

There was a lot to like in extras on Saturday

Until this weekend, Indiana had not played an extra-inning game all season. And then they came out and scored in both of the extra frames in which they played on Saturday morning.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

After Hopkins’ big base hit in the ninth tied the game, IU came out and scored twice in the top of the 10th. With runners in scoring position and one out, Jeremy Houston took a 1-2 pitch and poked it into centerfield to score Hunter Jessee from third. Moments later, Grant Richardson was able to bring home Drew Ashley on a grounder to shortstop that pushed IU’s lead to 3-1.

Things got a little hairy in the bottom half when IU reliever Braden Scott loaded the bases with no outs. Scott bounced back with two quick strikeouts, but gave up a two-run single on a 2-2 pitch before he could escape the jam.

Luckily for Indiana, it had Jordan Fucci at the plate in the 11th.

After Morgan Colopy led off with a single, Fucci put together the kind of plate appearance that would make head coach Jeff Mercer proud. Fucci fouled off five straight pitches during an eight-pitch at-bat with one out before mashing a two-run homer over the centerfield fence to put the Hoosiers in position to sweep their two-game run against the Scarlet Knights.

We’ll recap the action against Nebraska on Sunday.