The 2019 Big Ten regular season champions won’t travel far to begin NCAA Tournament play.
IU was selected as the No. 2 seed in the Louisville regional during Monday’s NCAA Tournament selection.
The University of Louisville is the number one seed, Illinois State University is the three seed and the University of Illinois at Chicago is the fourth seed. Louisville is the No. 7 overall national seed.
This is IU’s sixth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last seven seasons and ninth overall. Jeff Mercer is the third first-year head coach in IU history to lead the lead the team to a regional berth.
IU’s first matchup will be against Illinois State. IU is expected to maintain its same pitching rotation from the regular season with senior Pauly Milto likely to pitch Friday.
Illinois State is 34-24 overall this season and No. 26 in RPI. It has played the 19th toughest strength of schedule in the nation this season. Illinois State has wins over No. 2 overall seed Vanderbilt University, Dallas Baptist University, Indiana State University and Illinois, all teams that made the 2019 NCAA field.
Illinois State junior Joe Aeilts was named the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, and junior pitcher Brent Headrick was named the MVC Pitcher of the Year.
IU already has played the regional host, Louisville, once this season. IU lost that matchup in Bloomington 8-7 in 12 innings. Louisville has the 15th best offense in the nation, scoring 7.6 runs per game this season. In addition, Louisville sophomore pitcher Reid Detmers was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year.
The Cardinals enter the NCAA Tournament in the midst of its worst stretch of the season. Like IU, Louisville went 0-2 at the ACC Tournament. Louisville has lost three of its last four games and four of its last eight.
But Louisville has been tough to beat at home this season with a 25-6 record at Jim Patterson Stadium. This is both the eighth time in the last 10 years and the eighth time overall Louisville will host an NCAA regional.
IU closed the season with consecutive losses to Iowa and Minnesota respectively in the Big Ten tournament just five days after clinching the Big Ten regular season title on its home field. IU’s RPI dropped to 36 as a result of the two defeats, and IU finished with the 56th toughest schedule. It also finished ranked 21st in the nation by D1 Baseball.
The Hoosiers finished second in the nation with 90 home runs this season, often taking advantage of Bart Kaufman Field's favorability to hitters. Jim Patterson Stadium has similar dimensions. It is 330 feet down both the left and right field lines in Louisville, the same length as IU's home field. The 402 foot wall in center field is just two feet further from home plate than at Bart Kaufman Field.
By virtue of being the higher seed, IU will be the home team in its opening game against Illinois State. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday.