Pitching was the strength of the IU baseball team in 2018.
The Hoosiers ranked seventh in the nation for team earned run average while producing eight shutouts on the season.
A great pitching staff comes with great potential in the MLB, however. In the 2018 draft, IU lost its ace and Friday night starter Jonathan Stiever.
Stiever, who was drafted in the fifth round by the Chicago White Sox, led the team in strikeouts while producing a 3.41 ERA. Joining Stiever in the MLB system was left-handed starter Tim Herrin, who was drafted in the 29th round.
Now as the 2019 season is less than a month away, it's uncertain who will fill those voids.
Stepping into Stiever’s role will be senior Pauly Milto. One of the team captains last season, Milto had the best ERA among starters at 2.03 and was second on the team in strikeouts.
Behind Milto is where the real concern could be. Last season, IU struggled to find consistent Sunday and midweek starters. Without Stiever and with Milto moving to Friday, the Saturday slot is left wide open as well.
Junior Cam Beauchamp split time with Herrin in the Sunday role and was second in innings pitched among returning pitchers. Beauchamp also saw quality time in the postseason as he started and threw 4.2 innings against Texas A&M University in regional play.
Sophomore Tommy Sommer saw his playing time fluctuate throughout the season but showed spurts of how good he could be. Sommer made 13 appearances for the Hoosiers, but only three were starts and none were longer than 4.1 innings. However, he did maintain an ERA below four and could see an increased role this season.
After showing signs of potential in his freshman season, junior Andrew Saalfrank struggled to find consistency in his breaking ball during his sophomore campaign. While still managing to rank fourth on the team in strikeouts, Saalfrank saw his innings pitched decrease while walks increased. If he is able to get better control of his pitches, Saalfrank could step in and take a weekend starting role, which he had but lost last season.
Sophomore Connor Manous saw his role as a midweek starter fluctuate last season but had the innings pitched to be considered a starter going into 2019. Junior transfer Tanner Gordon is a potential piece that could surprise some fans and take a starting role after coming from John A. Logan College.
Between Beauchamp, Sommer, Saalfrank, Manous and Gordon, there will be strong competition for the weekend and starter roles that new coach Jeff Mercer could experiment with in the nonconference slate.
Behind the starters comes a bullpen that returns most of its key pieces. Junior Cal Krueger was the go-to reliever for IU last season, especially early in the year. While picking up three saves, Krueger was usually the guy to come in during the eighth inning and put Matt Lloyd in a comfortable position to close the game in the ninth.
Llyod, a senior utility player, led the team with seven saves while posting an impressive sub-two ERA. His use out of the bullpen was limited throughout parts of the season to save his arm for the field, but he showed his value to the team when given the opportunity.
In a 13-inning duel with Purdue last season, Lloyd picked up the win after pitching five innings.
Behind Lloyd and Krueger, the bullpen will benefit from multiple pitchers competing for starting roles. Manous, Saalfrank, Beauchamp and Sommer all showed an ability to come in as relievers along with the potential to start.
IU will also have sophomore Austin Long, who saw less than 10 innings pitched last season. He will be joined by Matt Litwicki who redshirted his freshman season due to Tommy John surgery and freshmen Braydon Tucker, Alex Franklin, McCade Brown, Michael Dunkelberger, Gabe Bierman, Ty Bothwell and Nathan Kappers.
Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.
More in Sports
Two teams have dropped out due to positive coronavirus tests.
The team is operating in groups that increase in size every two weeks.
Mullen led the Big Ten in pass breakups last season.