Since junior pitcher Pauly Milto returned to his usual starting role for IU on May 12, the Hoosiers' fortunes have changed for the better.
Milto failed to pitch for nearly a month due to arm soreness before returning to throw one inning May 5 at Minnesota. It was his start against the Nebraska Cornhuskers a week later, a 6-3 IU win, that sparked IU's current winning streak.
The streak is now at five consecutive victories after IU defeated Maryland 5-1 on Friday afternoon at Bart Kaufman Field.
"We went through a rough stretch, but we're playing really good baseball right now," senior outfielder Logan Sowers said. "It's a really good time to be heating up."
While players like Sowers will be the focus Saturday afternoon when IU honors its seniors in their final regular season game in Bloomington, it was a pair of juniors who played a major part in Friday's win.
Milto allowed just one run in six innings pitched against the Terrapins. He allowed seven hits, but was able to force double plays and strand Maryland runners on base following the hits.
"He pitches good in jams," IU Coach Chris Lemonis said. "He's just a tough kid who doesn't give in with runners out there. It's kind of his thing, he'll give up some hits, but he won't give up many runs."
IU, (36-15, 13-9), had the lead for almost the entire game Friday. An RBI groundout by sophomore outfielder Matt Gorski provided IU with a run in the first inning. While the Hoosier bats then went quiet until the sixth, Milto fought his way through the Maryland lineup.
The Terrapins had a runner reach base in eight of the game's nine innings. However, only once, in the sixth on an RBI double by senior outfielder Will Watson, did a Maryland runner cross home plate.
"Pauly's given us just some tremendous starts," Lemonis said.
While Milto, along with sophomore Andrew Saalfrank and senior B.J. Sabol, worked their way in and out of dicey situations against the Maryland offense, IU's offense used three at-bats to put the game out of reach.
With the game tied 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth, Sowers bounced a two-RBI single into center field for the game's go-ahead runs.
In the eighth, Gorski and junior infielder Luke Miller each hit solo home runs to give IU a 5-1 lead.
Similarly to Milto, Miller's return to the IU lineup has helped the Hoosiers get back in the win column. Miller has a hit in each of IU's last five games, including three home runs during the Maryland series.
"We've been getting hits with runners on base," Sowers said. "RBIs, doubles, hard-hit balls, home runs. Luke has really found his stride swinging the bat really well, again. So that's been big for us."
The past two weeks have seen the IU offense put up impressive power numbers as well. IU has hit a home run in each of its last eight games, and a total of nine Hoosier homers have come during the five-game winning streak.
With Minnesota having clinched the Big Ten Regular Season Championship on Friday, IU will likely be seeded between fifth and seventh for next week's Big Ten Tournament in Omaha, Nebraska. Conversely, Maryland, (21-26, 9-13), has to win Saturday against IU and also have Michigan State lose in order to qualify for the postseason.
These circumstances, combined with senior day ceremonies for IU players, mean the finale to the three-game series will be meaningful for both teams.
"I think we got some guys playing well and just getting some clutch hits and making some clutch plays," Lemonis said. "I think the mojo of the team is pretty good right now."