Indiana Daily Student

Pitching biggest concern as IU faces Valparaiso

The IU baseball team faces an early mid-week non conference test as it travels to Gary to face Valparaiso (11-18). The Hoosiers (15-15) were only able to take one of three from Ohio State, the preseason Big Ten favorites, last weekend. Valparaiso is coming off a weekend in which it took two out of three on the road against Youngstown State.

Last year, the Hoosiers defeated the Crusaders in Bloomington, 9-5. Sophomore outfielder Alex Dickerson went 3-5 with one home run and the bullpen only allowed one run in six innings of work. Indiana has won four of the past five matchups against Valparaiso dating back to 2004.

Senior outfielder Michael Earley is coming off one of his best weekends at the plate this season. The co-captain went 5-12 with two home runs, one of which was the eventual game-winner on Saturday, and three RBI. Earley has improved his on-base percentage to .415 on the season.

After seeing a 21-game hitting streak end Friday, Dickerson looks to continue a new streak tonight against the Crusaders. The slugging outfielder leads the Big Ten with 13 HR and 42 RBI, and he is only trailing his own teammate — junior first baseman Jerrud Sabourin — by 24 points in batting average for the conference’s triple crown.

The Hoosiers are likely to go with another bullpen effort on the mound tonight. Being a mid-week game against a non-conference opponent, there isn’t much need to use a weekend starter, especially any of the three that started this past weekend. Senior closer Chris Squires isn’t likely to play tonight.

Sophomore pitcher Blake Monar played for the first time since an early injury Sunday, walking the only batter he faced. He was the Hoosiers’ ace coming into the season, but experienced discomfort in his rotator cuff and hadn’t thrown in more than a month.

If the Hoosiers can get Monar back and healthy, they will have a much more formidable and set rotation going down the final stretch of conference play. With the continued dominance of sophomore pitchers Drew Leininger and Matt Igel stepping up in the past couple of weeks, the Hoosier’s pitching is starting to shape up.

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