IU baseball is 10-8-1 with wins in six of its last seven games, but it hasn’t been easy for the Hoosiers lately.
Four of the Hoosiers’ last five games have concluded with slim one-run margins.
As his team prepares to play its 2017 Big Ten opener Friday in Evanston, Illinois, during a weekend series against 5-14 Northwestern, IU Coach Chris Lemonis faces the challenge of trying to create lineups and pitching opportunities for his versatile roster.
Three IU players – sophomore Luke Miller, and juniors Matt Lloyd and Kade Kryszko – have the necessary skill sets to play their spots on the field, succeed in the batter’s box and get guys out on the mound when pitching.
“It’s confusing when you’re doing the lineup cards, I don’t know if you see me out there talking,” Lemonis said with a laugh. “But it’s nice to have position players out there because there’s a real competitiveness to them.”
Lloyd, who is listed as an infielder, has gotten the most work in different spots this year. He has struggled a bit at the plate and is hitting just .200 through 35 at-bats, but he has made up for it with his performance when handed the ball on the bump.
In his four pitching appearances, Lloyd is 2-0 with a save and a 2.25 earned-run average.
He was credited with a save Wednesday after being called upon with two outs in the eighth inning and recording the final four outs in IU’s 3-2 victory against Cincinnati.
Lemonis said Lloyd is his guy at the end of games right now.
“He’s not hitting right now — not because of his pitching, but because we’ve been hot in other areas,” Lemonis said. “But I need him to hit. He started the year as my 3-hole hitter, so he can DH and close the game.”
Lloyd entered the game in relief of Miller, who started the game at third base and got the nod from Lemonis to take over pitching duties at the beginning of the eighth inning.
When Miller slid over to the rubber, Kryszko entered the game to cover third-base responsibilities.
Kryszko is listed as a pitcher and sees more action there, while Miller is listed as an infielder and spends most of his time at third base.
Miller went 2-3 with a run batted in and a run scored at the plate but struggled a bit in the first pitching experience of his college career.
He tossed 12 pitches and gave up one run on two hits in two-thirds of an inning pitched.
When Lloyd came in to relieve Miller, the then-pitcher returned to third base to finish off the game where he started. Miller said switching between third base and pitching is obviously different.
“I haven’t done it at all for the Hoosiers, but back in high school I did it all the time,” Miller said. “I had time to go warm up in the pen beforehand, so it’s not like my arm wasn’t fresh at all.”
On the injury front, freshman shortstop Jeremy Houston is day-to-day with a hamstring injury.
Sophomore pitcher Jonathan Stiever will see more action this weekend after rehabbing from an upper body injury, Lemonis said.
Northwestern has had a less-than-impressive beginning to the season overall and has fared even worse at home with a 1-5 record at Rocky and Berenice Miller Park.
Due to inclement weather in the forecast for the end of the weekend, IU and Northwestern will play a doubleheader Friday and wrap up the series Saturday afternoon.
The Hoosiers are currently an even .500 on the road, with a record of 5-5-1.
Winning outside of Bart Kaufman Field has been an issue for IU in recent years, as it hasn’t finished a season with a winning record on the road since 2014.
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