IU Baseball Coach Chris Lemonis used the words depth and experience to describe the 2018 edition of his team.
Looking at the IU roster, it is easy to see why the fourth-year IU coach feels this way.
The Hoosiers return significant production both on the mound and on offense this season.
Of 541 total innings pitched last season, IU returns pitchers who combined to throw 494 of those innings. This means the Hoosiers return 91 percent of last year’s innings thrown, compared to the 19 percent the Hoosiers returned between the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
“It was awful last year,” Lemonis said. “Because we didn’t know where guys fell into roles and everything else. This year it does give you a little bit of a sense of what a guy can do and where he fits best.”
Sophomores Cameron Beauchamp and Andrew Saalfrank, along with juniors Tim Herrin, Pauly Milto and Jonathan Stiever, were among the potential starting pitchers named by Lemonis.
Those five potential starters combined for 87 appearances, 270 innings and an ERA just under five last season.
Regardless of who starts, IU’s pitchers will benefit from the return of junior catcher Ryan Fineman.
Fineman appeared in 52 of the team’s 60 games last season and said he wants to be able to handle the team’s pitching staff, including the freshman pitchers, again this season.
“A lot of veteran leaders, very mature pitching staff,” Fineman said. “Almost every single freshman I feel like can do something for us.”
Freshman players are expected to make less of a mark on IU's offense, although the Hoosiers will still need returning players to step into new roles.
Former infielder Tony Butler and former outfielder Craig Dedelow are the most significant losses at the plate for IU.
Butler graduated following a season in which he made 59 starts and recorded 65 hits for the Hoosiers, all while playing reliable defense at second base.
Dedelow was also a senior in 2017, and started each of IU’s 60 games while recording 19 home runs in his final collegiate season before being drafted by the Chicago White Sox.
The loss of Butler not only removes a consistent offensive threat for IU, but it also takes away a player who was comfortable hitting at the top of the IU lineup.
Junior infielder Matt Lloyd is a strong candidate to take over for Butler in the field and in the lineup. Lloyd served as IU’s designated hitter last season and finished with a batting average of .301. He also brought power to the IU lineup with 11 home runs.
As a team, IU returns 56 percent of its home run production from last season, an area Lloyd is expected to help contribute to in 2018.
“I think last year I kinda had a little slow start at the beginning,” Lloyd said. “But this year I think I can learn from that and start off strong.”
Lloyd was the team’s closer near the end of last season, amassing nine saves in 20 appearances.
Between his possible switch to second base, his new spot in the batting order and his role on the mound, Lloyd’s performance this season could go a long way in dictating how far the No. 23-ranked Hoosiers will go.
“I feel confident,” Lloyd said. “I feel ready to go.”
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