Throughout the season, No. 10 IU baseball has had the highest rankings among Big Ten teams.
With a 23-6 overall record, the Hoosiers own the best record in the conference. However, a 3-2 conference record has IU standing in the middle of the pack.
The IU schedule is very conference-heavy toward the end, hence why the Hoosiers have played less Big Ten games than every conference rival.
IU will now face Northwestern at Bart Kaufman Field as part of the second home Big Ten series of the season.
Northwestern made a run to the Big Ten title game the last time they played in Bloomington. However, the Wildcats come into the series with a 1-8 record in conference and a 9-17 record overall.
Despite struggling this season, the Wildcats have shown signs of potential highlighted by their victory on Wednesday against Notre Dame.
With IU starting a stretch of 18 Big Ten games in its next 23 outings, here are three things to expect in the upcoming series.
Friday night lights
Junior Jonathan Stiever is in his second season of being the Friday-night starter for IU, and he has proven his value to the team this season.
After a up and down start to the season, Stiever has settled down to throw six or more innings in each of his last five starts while giving up two runs or less in each.
Stiever also leads IU with 55 strikeouts, but instead, he will have a tough test against Northwestern ranks fourth in the conference in terms of not striking out.
“I’ve been getting two strike counts pretty quick,” Stiever said. “Once you get to two strikes, that just opens up a lot more to be able to get some swing and misses.”
Stiever will go up against Northwestern’s top starter, freshman Quinn Lavelle at 6:05 p.m. on Friday.
Lavelle leads the team with a 2.75 earned run average while posting a 3-3 record.
‘Cats on the bases
Northwestern ranks seventh in the nation in steals per game and will pose a tough test for junior catcher Ryan Fineman.
IU has caught 50 percent of opponents stealing this season, however, the Hoosiers have not played a team ranked in the top 30 for steals per game.
Sophomore infielder Alex Erro and junior infielder Jack Dunn lead the Wildcats with 12 steals each and rank second in the Big Ten.
IU ranks outside the top-100 nationally in steals per game.
Match-up up the middle
In a 13-inning victory against Purdue on Sunday, IU Coach Chris Lemonis made a switch in the ninth inning and played sophomore infielder Jeremy Houston at shortstop and freshman Justin Walker at second base.
Lemonis decided to keep the two in the lineup in a midweek win against Indiana State. The two combined to go three-for-seven with two extra-base hits and four runs batted in.
No announcement in terms of who will be starting Friday has been given. However, Lemonis had high praise for the duo after the matchup with the Sycamores.
Dunn and Erro are hitting .274 and .283 this season. The two have combined three home runs and 27 runs batted in while playing up the middle for the Wildcats.
Houston and Walker have combined for 12 errors this season, while Dunn and Erro have combined for seven.