On Februrary 16 Andrew Saalfrank gave up two runs on two hits and a walk without getting a single out against Memphis in a game that IU eventually lost 6-3. The lefthander didn’t get on the mound again until February 27 at home against Butler. When his stats flashed up on the jumbotron at Bart Kaufman Field they weren’t pretty—his WHIP was Infinity and his ERA was 99.00. At that moment it might’ve seemed as if the Hoagland, Indiana native was a bit of a longshot to be named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year. There was stiff competition with stars like Minnesota’s Max Meyer, Penn State’s Dante Biasi, and Illinois’s Andy Fisher all putting up great numbers, but ultimately despite all odds it was the IU lefthander that was named the Big Ten’s best on Tuesday.
After starting the season in the bullpen Saalfrank moved into the Sunday starter role following an injury to sophomore Tommy Sommer and he never looked back. He amassed an 8-1 record, going undefeated in the conference, while also posting a 2.58 ERA—the fifth-best in the conference—and striking out 96 batters—the third-most in the conference. His six wins during conference play were tied for the most in the Big Ten.
Despite being the Sunday starter for the Hoosiers Saalfrank pitched in plenty of big games this season. He started rubber matches against Maryland, Penn State, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Michigan. He won the first four and didn’t receive credit for the loss against Michigan. He also started IU’s championship-clinching game on Saturday. In the big spot he threw six innings, giving up three runs and striking out six on the way to a win.
He also had a tremendous run from mid-March to late-April in which he struck out more than 10 batters in five of six appearances, including setting a career-high in strikeouts in a single game (14) against Canisius and then matching it a few weeks later against Evansville.
The southpaw and his big curveball will undoubtedly be a huge part of IU’s upcoming postseason run, which begins on Wednesday in the Big Ten Tournament against Iowa.