Heading into the season, there was a lot of buzz surrounding the strong bats in IU baseball’s lineup. The Hoosiers returned some of their most impactful hitters from last season in sophomore outfielder Grant Richardson and redshirt senior infielder Jordan Fucci.
But in IU’s first four games over the weekend, it was the pitching staff that shined brightest. In total, the Hoosiers allowed only seven runs across all four games, capped off by an 8-1 blowout victory over Minnesota on Sunday night. These strong performances came after what was a difficult offseason to navigate for the IU pitching staff.
“Not having innings last year hurt the ([pitching]) staff in the fall,” IU head coach Jeff Mercer said leading up to the games last week. “The hitters were much further ahead than our pitchers this past fall. About a month ago, you could see that three or four months of real investment start to go, and the pitching staff has been terrific. The roles have kind of reversed.”
IU’s starting pitching staff was a unit that had strong potential going into the season, but it retained some question marks relating to youth and inexperience, with the number of underclassmen pitchers. This weekend, a lot of those questions were answered.
Three of IU’s starting pitchers over the weekend were underclassmen, headlined by sophomore right-hander Gabe Bierman, who was handed the ball in IU’s season-opener against Rutgers. Bierman struggled, allowing two earned runs and five walks in four innings of work. But from the moment freshman reliever John Modugno replaced him, it became a weekend defined by lights out pitching from the Hoosiers.
Modugno went on to pitch four scoreless innings, keeping IU in striking distance in a 2-1 loss to Rutgers on Friday afternoon. On Friday night against Minnesota, junior left-hander Tommy Sommer had his best outing from the mound as a Hoosier, pitching eight scoreless innings on only two hits. IU won that game 5-2.
Sophomore right-hander McCade Brown backed up Sommer’s career-best performance with one of his own on Saturday night against Rutgers. Brown gave up only one run in seven innings on the mound thanks to 12 strikeouts and no walks. IU went on to win 4-2.
Redshirt freshman left-hander Ty Bothwell got the start in IU’s final game of the weekend against Minnesota. He gave up one run and struck out 10 batters in five innings of work. IU’s bullpen blanked Minnesota the rest of the way, resulting in an 8-1 win for IU.
For a young pitching staff with a lot to prove heading into the season, IU’s arms came out and made a statement this weekend.