Jake Burlingame went down looking, Conner Morro struck out swinging and Jacob Victor followed Morro in the same fashion.
Those were the first three names on the Canisius College lineup card, and they had no St. Patrick’s Day luck against IU junior pitcher Andrew Saalfrank in the first inning. The trend would continue for the team throughout the afternoon.
The southpaw struck out a career-high 14 batters in seven innings, en route to a 12-1 IU victory.
Saalfrank has showed flashes of dominance with his breaking ball throughout his three seasons at IU, but he said his fastball command got him in favorable positions Sunday.
“In the times that I haven’t done well, it’s just because I can’t throw the fastball when and where I want to,” Saalfrank said. “Fastball command makes the curveball better, just because they have to respect both pitches.”
Saalfrank continued to attack the strike zone against Canisius, throwing just 37 balls on 103 pitches.
The seven innings pitched marked Saalfrank’s longest outing of the season, his only one longer than three.
“He can reach back for 93, but he didn’t because he didn’t need to,” IU Coach Jeff Mercer said. “When we try to throw through our stuff and over power the game, everything becomes more difficult. Today, he didn’t.”
Similar to last season, Saalfrank has struggled to earn a starting role with the Hoosiers. With sophomore Tommy Sommer out for a few weeks with a non-throwing-arm injury, Saalfrank was given the start last Sunday against the University of San Diego and struggled by giving up three runs in three innings.
“We had the confidence in him to do it,” Mercer said. “You know it’s in there, so to have the ability to bounce back this week was really good.”
Saalfrank showed up against Canisius for his first impressive start since last season’s NCAA Regional loss against the University of Texas when he gave up two runs in 5.1 innings pitched.
“The mechanical issues are a pretty big thing,” Saalfrank said. “Moving forward, the consistency comes with the mechanics.”
With a pitching staff that has been inconsistent behind senior Pauly Milto, Saalfrank stringing together quality outings could go a long way for IU heading into Big Ten play.
IU will have a midweek game Tuesday at Indiana State University before returning to Bart Kaufman Field for a weekend series with Iowa.