IU ace and sophomore starting pitcher Jonathan Stiever hadn’t pitched since he went six innings in a win against Florida Atlantic on Feb. 24.
That’s why it may have come as a surprise to see sophomore starter Tim Herrin replace Stiever after just one inning of work against Cincinnati on Wednesday. Stiever hadn’t pitched in nearly a month but retired the top of the first inning in just 10 pitches and was finished for the day.
Herrin would go on to pitch four innings and earn the win, and the Hoosiers defeated the Bearcats in revenge fashion, 3-2, after losing to them earlier in the season.
As for Stiever’s outing, IU Coach Chris Lemonis said it was a scripted 1-inning start.
“We were just getting him out there,” Lemonis said. “He’ll start this weekend. He’ll be ready to go.”
Stiever’s one-inning appearance came on a day when the Hoosiers needed their pitching the most. IU batters were only able to put six hits on the board against strong Cincinnati pitching.
Lemonis said he told his team its offense was keyed entirely by four at-bats in the fourth inning, which included runs batted in by freshman catcher Jake Matheny and sophomore infielder Luke Miller.
Much like IU’s most recent series in Honolulu, Hawaii, the pitchers needed to tame the opponent as much as possible. Four of IU’s last five games have been decided by one run.
With a lackluster Hawaii series from IU starting pitchers — only one of the four pitchers lasted longer than three innings — there is a looming need for an ace like Stiever to anchor the staff.
That’s why Lemonis and the IU coaching staff are taking their time with the sophomore pitcher and the soreness in his arm, the coach said.
With so many tight games, Lemonis said he and his staff are looking to develop more arms for back halves of games. Junior infielder Matt Lloyd made two appearances in Hawaii, and Miller found his way to the mound as well.
“He’s talented,” Lemonis said of Miller. “He throws hard. He hasn’t pitched a lot. We’re just trying to find some keys at the end. I wish we would have had a little bigger of a lead to run him out there.”
After senior Luke Stephenson and junior B.J. Sabol both pitched in relief, Miller entered the game with a 3-1 lead in the top of the eighth inning. The third baseman surrendered two hits and an earned run and neared 90 miles per hour on the radar.
Miller said he knew he would possibly pitch against Cincinnati and added he needs to pitch more to become more effective.
Lloyd continued to prove that he can also perform on the mound by getting out of Miller’s jam in the eighth with a one-run lead and then finishing off the Bearcats in the top of the ninth.
“He’s our guy at the end right now,” Lemonis said of Lloyd. “We’ve got a couple other guys too, but we’ve never closed with just one guy.”
At one point in the eighth inning, Lemonis moved Miller from third to the mound, placed junior pitcher Kade Kryzsko at third base and inserted Lloyd into the designated hitter spot in order to keep him in the game to pitch later.
While the bullpen continues to be a puzzle for the manager and his coaching staff, Lemonis said he knew Wednesday’s game would be a battle, especially because Cincinnati was coming off a victory against previously undefeated No. 1 Louisville.
“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Lemonis said. “It’s kind of become a rivalry here. We’ve played some really tough, close games over the last couple of years. Anytime you can win and put that on your résumé, it’s huge.”
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