Jeff Mercer’s tenure as IU baseball head coach began later than expected as Friday’s season opener at the University of Memphis was postponed due to rain.
With a doubleheader slated Saturday to make up for the missed game, IU and Memphis split the two contests.
Here is how each game played out:
Game one: IU 6, Memphis 1
Senior Pauly Milto got the nod on the mound for IU in its season opener and picked up right where he left off last year.
After being named to the All-Big Ten Second Team in 2018, Milto dominated against the Tigers. The right-hander tossed seven innings while striking out seven batters and walking none to earn the win.
Milto gave up just two hits, none of which came after the third inning.
IU’s offense struggled in the first four innings but came to life in the fifth. After sophomore Cole Barr walked to lead off the inning, IU used Mercer’s message of aggressive base running along with the help of poor fielding from Memphis to put runs on the board.
Junior outfielder Matt Gorski, who has made numerous MLB draft projection boards this offseason, got things going with a two-run single. He was later brought in by a double from sophomore infielder Justin Walker. Senior utility player Matt Lloyd then brought Walker home with a double of his own.
The Hoosiers tacked on a couple more runs with an RBI double from senior outfielder Logan Kaletha in the seventh and another RBI from Lloyd in the ninth.
IU’s lone blemish came in the eighth inning after junior reliever Cal Krueger allowed a leadoff walk and wild pitch to come around and score.
Sophomore Connor Manous sealed the win with a perfect ninth inning.
Game two: IU 3, Memphis 6
While Milto dominated game one, it was the opposite in game two. IU struggled to muster up any offense against the Memphis pitching staff.
Senior Alex Hicks got the start and rolled past the Hoosiers in five innings, throwing eight strikeouts and allowing just three hits and one walk.
On the mound for IU was junior transfer Tanner Gordon who got his first career start with the team. In four innings, Gordon struck out six batters and allowed just one run.
IU was able to limit the damage until junior reliever Andrew Saalfrank ran into some trouble in the sixth. Saalfrank gave up two runs before recording an out and needed freshman pitcher Braydon Tucker to come in and hold the Tigers to just those two runs in the inning.
Tucker faced some trouble in the seventh. Just as he looked to get out of the jam, a fielding error from Lloyd extended the inning. The Tigers would capitalize on the opportunity as freshman Hunter Goodman doubled to left-center to bring in three runs.
Hicks was relieved by junior Danny Denz who cruised through the next three innings before running into trouble in the ninth.
Down to their final out, the Hoosiers attempted to start a rally. With two runners on, Barr stepped up to the plate and launched his first-career home run to cut the deficit in half.
But that’s all IU would get.
Both teams now sit at 1-1 on the season with the series decider scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday.