Another big conference test awaits the IU baseball team this weekend.
The Big Ten-leading Maryland Terrapins, No. 20 in the country at 28-11 overall and 12-3 in the conference, are coming to Bloomington for three games beginning Friday against the Hoosiers, 22-16-2, 8-6-1.
Both teams enter the weekend playing sound baseball. Maryland has been victorious in all of its previous seven games, and IU has won five of its last seven.
It took the Hoosiers an extra inning to finish off Ball State in their matchup Tuesday night at Victory Field in Indianapolis. Freshman first baseman Matt Gorski delivered with a two-out walk-off single to plate junior center fielder Laren Eustace and avoid a potentially costly blow to IU’s NCAA Tournament hopes.
The midweek victory followed huge series wins against conference opponents Minnesota, No. 2 in the Big Ten at 8-4, and No. 17 Michigan, which was No. 13 in the country at the time and is now 7-5 in the conference. The wins strengthened IU’s résumé enough for the Hoosiers to be projected as a recipient of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
In d1baseball.com’s April 26th update of its NCAA Tournament bracket, IU is now a 3-seed in the Lexington, Kentucky, region after being listed as one of the first four out last week. Maryland is predicted to be a 2-seed in the Charlottesville, Virginia, region.
In the last week, IU has also been trending upward in the RPI rankings. The Hoosiers jumped from No. 41 to No. 33 and then to their current spot at No. 26.
Freshman pitcher Cal Krueger made the second start of his college career in Tuesday's game, but IU Coach Chris Lemonis would like to reserve his talents for the bullpen.
“I need him out of the pen,” Lemonis said. “He’s really good out of that pen. He won one of the games last weekend out there in Michigan, bridging that game together.”
IU will need strong performances from its pitching staff and bullpen this weekend to counter Maryland’s production from the mound. The Terrapins have the third-lowest ERA in the Big Ten at 3.45, compared to IU’s 4.70 average, seventh-best in the conference.
Both teams have similar offensive attacks and are among the conference leaders in long balls. The Hoosiers lead the Big Ten with 45 home runs, while Maryland is tied with Michigan State for third-most with 38.
Maryland’s main weakness lies with its play away from home, and IU must exploit the Terrapins’ road woes. Maryland is 6-8 on the road while IU is 7-6-1 at Bart Kaufman Field.
The first meeting between the two teams is set for 6:05 p.m. Friday.
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