Heading into the weekend Big Ten series at Minnesota, IU coach Tracy Smith noted the conference schedule was entering a pivotal phase for each club in the 10-team league.
Instead, Smith’s Hoosiers (20-18, 6-6) dropped two of three to the Golden Gophers (16-24, 6-6) and didn’t capitalize like he had hoped.
With an even Big Ten record, IU now sits in a three-way tie for fifth in the conference — albeit just one win back of first place.
“We’ve got to put ourselves in position where we won’t be giving up series against teams that will be in it in the end,” Smith said.
Unexpectedly, the lone Hoosiers win of the weekend didn’t come when they could have most expected it: with sophomore starting pitcher Drew Leininger on the mound.
Leininger brought his 6-1 record and 1.20 ERA to Friday night’s contest to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, but gave up 12 hits and seven earned runs before leaving after just 3.1 innings pitched.
“It wasn’t like he was being knocked all over the yard. A lot of those balls were just climbing through the infield,” Smith said.
The final tally wasn’t pretty — the Hoosiers dropped the lopsided affair, 14-0 — and it marked the first time IU has been shut out since a 10-0 loss at the hands of Vanderbilt in last year’s NCAA Regionals.
“I didn’t really have the velocity or the sharpness that I’ve had with my fastball and with locating it,” Leininger said. “That led to me getting hit up a little bit and the balls getting hit a little harder.”
Leininger’s ERA now stands at 2.13, still a team-best.
The Hoosier bats finally came to life in Saturday night’s contest, with one home run in particular helping IU to a 7-2 win behind the arm of freshman Jonny Hoffman.
Sophomore outfielder Alex Dickerson, already leading the Big Ten in home runs, belted his 17th long ball of the year an estimated 500 feet into deep left field of the
Minnesota Twins’ former stadium.
The offense, though, wouldn’t continue into Sunday afternoon’s series finale. The Hoosiers managed only a single hit off Minnesota pitcher Phil Isaakson in the 10-0 loss.
“With the way we swing the bat, to be one-hit on a Sunday is disappointing to say the least,” Smith said.
The first four batters in the Hoosier batting orderwent 0-12 Sunday in official at-bats with four strike outs and no walks.
Of note for the Hoosiers, though, was Sunday’s starting pitcher. Matt Carr, a junior who had yet to see the mound in 2010 due to an arm injury, made his first appearance of 2010 in a Hoosier uniform.
“To get him back out there will be a boost for us this week and into the second half of the Big Ten,” Smith said.