Starting pitching remains a sore spot for IU.
Despite the team’s 9-3 start to the season, the Hoosiers have lacked reliable performances from their starters on the mound all season.
IU’s 8-3 loss to Cincinnati on Tuesday at Bart Kaufman Field was the latest example of a lackluster performance from a Hoosier starter.
Sophomore starting pitcher Andrew Saalfrank lasted just two innings against the Bearcats while allowing three hits and three runs.
Aside from IU’s two confirmed starting pitchers, juniors Jonathan Stiever and Pauly Milto, no other Hoosier pitcher has lasted five innings in a start.
In comparison, Stiever, the Friday game starter, and Milto, the Saturday game starter, have each lasted at least 4.2 innings in each of their six combined starts.
“I know our Friday and Saturday,” IU Coach Chris Lemonis said. “We’re still figuring out Sunday.”
Although it wasn’t able to do so Tuesday, the IU bullpen has often made up for the lack of longevity from starting pitchers this season.
Sophomore Cal Krueger has not allowed a run in six bullpen appearances this season. Freshman pitchers Austin Long and Nick Eaton have each started their college careers with three bullpen appearances each while allowing no earned runs.
The depth and reliable nature of the bullpen has allowed Lemonis to plan for shorter starts when looking for a Sunday starter to join Stiever as the Friday starter and Milto as the Saturday starter.
“With our bullpen, that Sunday is probably a four to five inning start,” Lemonis said.
Lemonis has a variety of different pitchers at his disposal from the bullpen. Left-handed options include senior B.J. Sabol, who also hasn’t allowed a run in four appearances, along with Eaton.
Sophomore Cameron Beauchamp and junior Tim Herrin are left-handed pitchers who have also been used as starters already this season, as has freshman Tommy Sommer.
Among right-handed pitchers, senior Kade Kryzsko and junior utility player Matt Lloyd have established themselves as IU’s late-inning pitchers, although Kryzsko allowed two runs in the eighth inning against Cincinnati.
“We have a lot of different pieces,” Lemonis said. “We’ve been able to match them up pretty good and put them in there.”
With nine games remaining before IU travels to Iowa to begin Big Ten Conference play, Lemonis has time to find a third starter to accompany Stiever and Milto.
All nine games prior to conference play will come at Bart Kaufman Field against nonconference opponents Pacific, Western Illinois, Northern Illinois and Wright State.
Those four teams currently have a combined record of 14-30.
The upcoming stretch will not only allow IU to remain at home after 11 straight games outside of the state, but it also gives Lemonis the freedom to toggle with starting pitching options.
“We want wins,” Lemonis said. “We’ve been road warriors for the first three weeks, but we’re just trying to get back home and play good baseball.”
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