Indiana Daily Student

IU baseball's five series to watch

<p>Sophomore catcher Ryan Fineman tries to tag out Minnesota’s Terrin Vavra at home plate on May 24, 2017. Vavra scored one of Minnesota’s 5 runs in their 5-4 win over the Hoosiers.</p>

Sophomore catcher Ryan Fineman tries to tag out Minnesota’s Terrin Vavra at home plate on May 24, 2017. Vavra scored one of Minnesota’s 5 runs in their 5-4 win over the Hoosiers.

As IU baseball's season is underway, the team will travel from Washington to Tennessee, battling some of the best teams in the nations. 

Here are five series to watch as the Hoosiers go for their third consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. 

IU at University of Tennessee — February 22-24

After opening the season against the University of Memphis, IU will return to back to Tennessee to play the University of Tennessee. While the Volunteers went 29-27 a season ago and finished last in the SEC East, the team figures to be much improved this year. 

Led by junior infielder Andre Lipcius, a .315 hitter last year, Tennessee will provide an early season road challenge for IU. Any wins against SEC teams will help the rating percentage index come NCAA Tournament time. The Hoosiers have a chance to sweep the Volunteers and earn back-to-back road series wins early in the season. 

Safeco Tournament — March 8-10

While it isn’t a three-game series against one team, the Safeco Tournament in Seattle will pit IU against some of the nation’s top teams in a round-robin style tournament in early March. IU will play two teams that made the College World Series a year ago in the University of Washington and defending champion Oregon State University. IU will also play a game against the University of San Diego, a team it took three of four from last year on the road. 

Oregon State is No. 8 in the preseason D1 Baseball poll while San Diego and Washington are consistent powers. The Hoosiers get three chances for résumé-building wins, but the west-coast trip will wear on IU. This trip to Washington will show fans a lot about the leadership and talent of this baseball club. 

IU vs. Iowa — March 22-24

IU will start with Iowa to open the conference season after closing out a difficult nonconference slate. The Hawkeyes struggled to find consistency last season but figured things out near the end of the season, finishing 13-9 in conference play and making the Big Ten Tournament. 

Iowa loses its top two hitters but will look to build on the momentum that they ended with last year. Iowa and IU opened up with each other in conference play last year, splitting a pair in Iowa City in a rain-shortened series. The Hoosiers will need a strong start to conference play as a trip to Maryland follows the opener with Iowa. 

IU vs. Minnesota — April 26-28

As classes start to wind down for the year, IU will play arguably its toughest home series of the season. Minnesota comes in as the defending conference champions. 

After a NCAA Super Regional appearance a year ago, the Golden Gophers appear to have the pitching staff to take them far again. Led by 6-foot-7-inch sophomore Patrick Fredrickson, who was 9-0 with a 1.86 ERA a year ago, Minnesota has one of the deepest rotations in the league. Minnesota embarrassed IU in a three game sweep last year. So, expect IU to come out with a sense of purpose in a series that will have major implications for NCAA tournament chances and the conference title race. 

IU at Michigan — May 10-12

IU’s second-to-last conference series will have a huge impact on the season as it heads to Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the middle of May. Michigan has made a constant appearance in preseason polls and returns a host of talent from a team that just missed the NCAA tournament a season ago. Michigan returns junior Dominic Clementi, a .368 hitter last season. IU and Michigan didn’t play last year but will get a shot at each other this year as they battle for postseason positioning. 

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