Less than a month ago, IU baseball was firmly in the race for a Big Ten title, a quest that it controlled its own destiny for.
With some of the conference’s top teams like Nebraska and Michigan remaining on the schedule, the Hoosiers knew they had one job to do if the conference title was going to be theirs: win.
Things haven’t gone as planned for IU since then. Dating back to its first matchup of the season against conference-leading Nebraska on May 8, IU has lost seven of 10 games and is now eliminated from Big Ten title contention.
IU hasn’t won a series since it swept Rutgers on May 8. Since then, it’s lost three times to Nebraska, twice to Michigan and once each to Illinois and Ohio State.
While the name of the game is still to win, the end goal is now different from what it used to be: The Hoosiers' focus is on securing the chance to play in the postseason tournament.
“I would take a bid in Anchorage, Alaska and I would coach in shorts and no shirt,” head coach Jeff Mercer said when asked about where he prefers to play in the postseason if his team gets in. “I don’t care where we go. I just want to go and I want to try and compete.”
With 30 teams scheduled to receive automatic bids to the Division I baseball tournament, it leaves 34 at-large bids up for grabs. IU hopes to be one of the 34 teams announced May 31.
The main struggle for the Hoosiers recently has come at the plate as there hasn’t been steady run support to close the season. In its last six games, IU has scored only 12 runs.
The good news for IU is it will carry at least some momentum heading into its three-game series against Maryland this weekend, the final series of the regular season.
IU blanked Ohio State 2-0 Monday behind a combined two-hitter from freshman John Modugno, redshirt freshman Ty Bothwell and senior Grant Macciocchi. The win ended what a five-game losing streak for the Hoosiers dating back to May 16.
“We know what we’re up against,” Mercer said about his team’s postseason hopes. “It [the win against Ohio State] was big. It was a really fun locker room after the game. It was a great sense of relief to be honest.”
The upcoming series against Maryland will be a crucial one for an IU team on the postseason bubble. According to D1Baseball.com, IU is currently projected as one of the last five teams in.
Maryland comes into the series a game ahead of IU, sitting at 26-15. Friday evening’s series opener will mark the first meeting for the two clubs all season.