With the departure of several players from the 2021 season, Indiana baseball’s core has become filled with underclassmen this season. With youth comes inexperience and inconsistency, and the Hoosiers have seen struggles from both the offense and defense in the first half of the season.
After winning their opening game of a three-game home series against the Northwestern Wildcats, the Hoosiers dropped the final two games to lose the series 1-2.
“We had some youthful mistakes,” Mercer said. “It is a talented group and it's a young group, so yeah, we broke some of the cardinal rules the last two days. You just got to keep setting them down and explain.”
In the first game Friday, Indiana recorded just three hits in the first six innings. In the seventh inning and after, though, Indiana brought in five hits and five runs. Although Indiana won the game 5-4, run production came later than Mercer said he would have liked.
“Anytime that you go out and you win the first game and a close game like that, you have to be really proud of the toughness and especially the come from behind win,” Mercer said. “I would like us to make an adjustment faster, to be able to at least be more competitive on the starter, but I'll give us a pass for tonight.”
In game two on Saturday, Indiana once again saw late production, but this time it came too late for the Hoosiers and they were not able to pull out the win. The team went scoreless through eight innings and recorded five hits on the day. All of the Hoosiers six runs came in the ninth inning, but they came just short in a 7-6 defeat.
Indiana bounced back from its early-game struggles and got on the scoreboard quickly in game three on Sunday, but inconsistency followed as the Hoosiers came shy of a win in the series finale.
Northwestern scored 10 of its 13 runs with two outs while also adding 10 hits. The Wildcats scored at least one run in six different innings, while scoring two or more in five.
“You look at eight runs we essentially handed away between the walks — where we walked the bases loaded and the inning where we hit three guys —and then some poor decisions on relays in the outfield,” Mercer said. “If you eliminate those it's not necessarily like we got our bug stomped on the mound. You just can't hemorrhage runs like that.”
Indiana struggled to bring in the production this weekend and was outscored 24-17 by Northwestern. The Hoosiers had their chances to clinch the series but left a total of 28 runners stranded on bases during the three-game series.
With the first Big Ten series under Indiana’s belt, the team now sits at an overall record of 11-15 and is 1-2 in conference play. Indiana will now look toward a midweek game Tuesday against the University of Evansville before a weekend series against Purdue.