After the Hoosiers lost 7-3 to the Indiana State Sycamores on Wednesday night, IU Coach Chris Lemonis made a point to call on his starting rotation.
IU’s starting pitchers in its last five games have pitched 18 innings and allowed a total of 19 runs, which forced the Hoosiers to rely on their batters to score runs. The bats have been reliable, as IU has gone 4-1 in the last five games.
But Wednesday, the bats failed to come through after freshmen pitchers Andrew Saalfrank and Cameron Beauchamp allowed five runs in the first two innings. The Hoosiers only scored three runs and lost in dominating fashion to the Sycamores.
Lemonis said IU has been “pitching scared,” as the Hoosiers have scraped by with eight wins but a run differential of just 70-60 in the last 10 games. The coach said the starting pitchers need to improve quickly before the three-game series against a 13-10 Nebraska.
“It’s a new day,” Lemonis said about game one Friday. “Last night didn’t affect today, and tonight shouldn’t affect Friday. Hopefully we get a great start from Jonathan Stiever and play a really solid game.”
Before the season, sophomore starting pitcher Jonathan Stiever was announced as the Friday starter for the Hoosiers, and the young pitcher started strong by pitching 11.2 innings and allowing just 10 hits and three earned runs in his first two starts.
After his second start though, the ace woke up with soreness in his arm, and Lemonis and the coaching staff shut him down for three series.
Stiever pitched one perfect inning to start IU’s second mid-week matchup against Cincinnati on March 22. Then, in his first Friday start since Feb. 24, Stiever was ousted after 2.2 innings against Northwestern. The sophomore allowed eight runs on nine hits and struck out just one batter.
Now Stiever anchors a rotation that features junior pitcher Brian Hobbie and a third pitcher to be determined, as IU welcomes in a Nebraska team that lost to Oregon State twice in Surprise, Arizona, at the beginning of the season. The Hoosiers also lost to the Beavers twice in Surprise, Arizona, and while IU had won eight of its last 10 games, so had Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers are coming off of a blowout victory against the Kansas State Wildcats that featured hits from nine different Huskers.
The Nebraska lineup is beginning to click, as three Huskers batters — sophomore infielder Angelo Altavilla, freshman outfielder Mojo Hagge and junior outfielder Scott Schreiber — have all pushed their averages above .300.
IU ended its 2016 regular season with a series sweep at the hands of Nebraska, three losses that dropped IU to the No. 3 seed for the Big Ten Tournament at the end of the season. Senior outfielder Craig Dedelow, who hit his sixth home run Wednesday against Indiana State, said the Hoosiers will have a chip on their shoulders going into the home series versus the Cornhuskers.
“We’re really excited, especially bringing in a really good opponent that is Nebraska,” Dedelow said. “We’ve kind of got a chip on our shoulders from last year, knocking us out of the Big Ten Championship outright. It’ll be nice to play well against these guys.”
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