IU baseball reportedly will be losing two players from its 2019 team, both of whom saw the field during IU’s Regional appearance in Louisville, Kentucky.
Junior infielder Justin Walker and junior outfielder Sam Crail will both leave after Head Coach Jeff Mercer’s first season. Walker will transfer to Purdue. Crail’s destination is still yet to be determined.
Walker played in 46 games this spring and started 38 of them. He became IU’s starter at shortstop during the latter half of the 2019 season. Walker had his best stretch of the season in IU’s final six Big Ten regular season games as the team came back to win the conference championship. Walker drove in six runs during those six games and had a hit in all six.
Walker finished his sophomore season with a .210 batting average, two home runs and 18 RBIs.
Crail started 18 games for IU in 2019 and played in 26. His starts often came in place on an injured player or one in need of an off day. Crail hit .224 with one home run and 10 RBIs during the 2019 season.
What does this mean for the Hoosiers?
Walker played a much bigger role than Crail during the 2019 season, but both losses will affect the way Mercer’s lineup will look in 2020.
Walker seemed like a lock to be a starter at shortstop next season, also having the potential to start at second base. Junior Drew Ashley played second base for IU in 2019, but moved to the outfield when Matt Gorski was injured against Illinois State University to open the Louisville regional. Gorski has since signed a pro contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and it seemed like Ashley could take the open outfield spot.
With Walker’s departure, Ashley will likely stay at second base, and Jeremy Houston would appear to be the clear option at shortstop.
With 18 starts in the outfield, Crail would have had a chance to take Gorski's spot, if he wasn't leaving.
Sophomore Grant Richardson may move from right field over to center field, and there is the potential for Logan Kaletha to return if given a medical redshirt for the 2019 season. This all may leave an open spot for incoming freshman Ethan Vecrumba. The outfield spots seem much more uncertain than the infield at this point. Especially if junior Elijah Dunham becomes a first baseman in place of Matt Lloyd, a position he has played in Bloomington.
Of the 10 IU players drafted, eight have signed. IU will now lose another starter in Walker, and a potential one in Sam Crail. It’s a page turn as Mercer brings in more of his own players and Chris Lemonis’ players leave. With a recruiting class featuring Vecrumba, Reese Sharp, Brant Voth and recent commit A.J. Hacker, the 2019 Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year, Mercer is stocking the team with young players he recruited to fill the holes left by the 2019 departures.
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