Indiana Daily Student

IU to face Big Ten’s best in 3-game series

Sophomore outfielder Brian Lambert jumps onto second base after a steal in the rain against Chicago State on Tuesday afternoon at Sembower Field. The Hoosiers face Illinois at 7:05 p.m. Friday on the road.
Sophomore outfielder Brian Lambert jumps onto second base after a steal in the rain against Chicago State on Tuesday afternoon at Sembower Field. The Hoosiers face Illinois at 7:05 p.m. Friday on the road.

A tough three-game road trip begins Friday for the IU baseball team, as the Hoosiers face conference-leading Illinois at 7:05 p.m. in Champaign, Ill.

The Fighting Illini boast a 17-5 record this season and are a perfect 8-0 at home. They have won their last five matchups, including a three-game sweep of Big Ten opponent Michigan State.  

While Illinois has been playing well as of late, so has IU. In their last three games, all victories, the Hoosiers have outscored their opponents by a three-to-one margin.  

“It’s been a long time coming,” said senior outfielder Chris Hervey about his team’s recent offensive production. “We are a better hitting team than we have shown this year."

Last week, IU coach Tracy Smith changed part of the starting lineup and certain field positions, hoping a new look would revitalize the then-slumping Hoosiers. The biggest difference has been a move from third base to shortstop for junior Jake Dunning.  

Not only has Dunning played well defensively since the move last Saturday against Minnesota, but the Orange Park, Fla., native has also contributed greatly to the Hoosiers’ run support.  

In the last two games, Dunning has had seven hits, five RBI and four runs scored. He is currently on a 12-game hit streak.  

IU junior catcher Josh Phegley said the team is confident Smith’s changes are for the better.

“(Smith) has made a few changes here and there, but I think some injuries kind of set us back,” he said. “We trust that what he is doing is right for the team and gives us the best possibility to win.”

In the Fighting Illini, IU will take on a team that has eight players with batting averages higher than .300. Hitting will be a challenge as well, with the Illinois starting rotation having a combined record of 13-1.

IU will start freshman pitcher Blake Monar on Friday. He is coming off of a tough 12-5 loss to Minnesota on March 27, and is 2-2 on the season with a 4.88 ERA.

Junior pitchers Eric Arnett (5-1) and Matt Bashore (1-3) will take the mound Saturday and Sunday, respectively.    
 
“Right now we just need to believe that we’re going to win every time we step on the field,” Smith said. “Rolling into the Illinois game with some wins under our belt isn’t going to hurt.”

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