IU baseball continued its success in conference games this season with its fifth straight Big Ten series win of 2019.
Sunday’s 7-1 home win against Minnesota, coupled with Saturday’s dramatic 7-6 walk-off win, earned IU the series win after a Friday night loss.
IU is now in second place in the Big Ten Conference standings, behind Michigan by just half of a game. The Hoosiers have also won 23 of their last 29 games.
Here are three takeaways from this weekend’s performance by the Hoosiers and how it sets the team up with nine conference games left in the season.
1. IU showed composure by rebounding well after another Friday night loss.
For the third time in their last four conference series, the Hoosiers lost the opening game of the series Friday night.
IU’s inability to earn a win with senior pitcher Pauly Milto on the mound could have deflated Coach Jeff Mercer’s team but instead the opposite happened.
The Hoosiers have recovered on each occasion to earn a series win, and Sunday’s comprehensive win came after they were outplayed by the Golden Gophers for the majority of the first two games of the series.
“You just have to be able to continue to compete,” Mercer said. “You could kind of feel the energy was back. You could feel that the confidence was back.”
IU is now one of only four teams in the Big Ten with double-digit conference wins.
“We just responded in a terrific way,” Mercer said. “We looked inward for the solution, and not outward for a solution.”
2. Sunday’s game was IU’s last at Bart Kaufman Field for more than two weeks.
With final exams this week for IU students, the team will not play a midweek game for the first time since early March.
Once play resumes for the Hoosiers, their next seven games will be away from Bloomington.
Next weekend’s series will be at Illinois, followed by a midweek game in Lexington, Kentucky, against the University of Kentucky, then a three-game conference weekend series at Michigan.
“What we have to do the next several weekends is what we did recovering this weekend,” Mercer said. “We just have to keep it inward. That’s the only way to do it.”
IU’s next home game will be May 14 against the University of Louisville, part of a stretch of four straight home games to close the regular season.
The Michigan series, which will take place place from May 10 to May 12, will likely loom large in the race for the Big Ten regular season championship.
“We’ve talked about it from the very beginning,” Mercer said. “Find a way to win each series, you’re going to have a chance to win a Big Ten championship.”
3. IU can score runs without being overly reliant on the long ball.
The pivotal moment from this weekend’s series came with the Hoosiers down to their final strike and final out in Saturday’s game.
Senior utility player Matt Lloyd crushed a three-run home run to right field to give IU a comeback win and set up Sunday’s series-deciding game.
IU homered twice in Friday’s loss, three times in Saturday’s win, but not once during Sunday’s game.
Minnesota errors, along with a shockingly short outing from sophomore pitcher Joshua Culliver, helped the Hoosiers race out to a 5-0 lead in the first two innings.
But singles and doubles were used along with aggressive base running to help the Hoosiers brush aside the Golden Gophers and give junior pitcher Andrew Saalfrank his sixth win of the season, one that also brings the conference regular season title into better focus for the Hoosiers.
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