In late April, IU was in a bit of a funk. The Hoosiers had just lost a series for the first time in more than a year at Ohio State, then they lost a midweek matchup against rival Purdue, before losing the first game of a weekend series against Illinois at Bart Kaufman Field.
The Saturday game of the Illinois series went to extra innings. IU won that game after a solo home run from freshman utility player Drew Ashley in the bottom of the 12th inning. That homer would be a turning point in the series, breaking IU's losing streak and giving the Hoosiers some momentum heading to the Sunday game, which IU won 9-2.
As the Hoosiers head to Omaha, Nebraska, for the Big Ten Tournament, they will once again face the Fighting Illini, this time with direct NCAA Tournament implications on the line.
Here's what you need to know for Wednesday's matchup against Illinois.
One Man Army
On Tuesday, the Big Ten Conference announced its regular season honors and it was no surprise when Illinois junior Bren Spillane was named the Conference Player of the Year.
Spillane has been one of the top players in all of college baseball in 2018. He was named the winner of both the D1Baseball.com and Rawlings/Perfect Game Midseason National Player of the Year awards in early April and won the Big Ten Regular Season Triple Crown. He led the Big Ten in batting average (.407), home runs (22) and RBI (57).
As one of the most dangerous hitters in the country, Spillane will be a player to watch in Wednesday's game.
The complexion of Wednesday’s game could change with one swing of the bat, as both teams have shown their ability to hit the longball so far in 2018. IU leads the conference with 60 home runs as a team, but Illinois trails it by just one with 59 homers on the season.
This is due in part to Spillane leading the conference with 22 homers, but others have contributed with some power at the plate as well.
Nine other Illini batters have hit at least one home run this season. Junior outfielders Zac Taylor and Doran Turchin have hit 10 and nine homers on the season, respectively.
When Illinois and IU take the field, fans should expect to see a pair of strong fielding teams. The Illini currently lead the Big Ten in fielding percentage, posting a mark of .980 after committing just 39 errors on the season. The Hoosiers are tied with Minnesota for the second-best mark in the conference with a .976 fielding percentage, as the Hoosiers have committed 49 errors in 2018.
Between the two teams there are three players who have yet to make an error on the season with more than 40 games played: IU outfielder Matt Gorski, Illinois infielder Michael Michalak and Turchin.
The Hoosiers and Fighting Illini will square off at 10 p.m. on Wednesday at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska. Fans can catch the action on the Big Ten Network.