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Thursday, May 30
The Indiana Daily Student

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Indiana baseball faces Maryland in weekend battle for top spot in Big Ten

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The top spot in the Big Ten is up for grabs this weekend at Bart Kaufman Field as Indiana baseball hosts Maryland in a three-game tilt.  

Indiana is at the top of the Big Ten with a 9-3 conference record, and it is 31-11 overall. The Hoosiers are riding the coattails of an eight-game winning streak that includes a one-run victory over Ball State University on Tuesday and a sweep of Ohio last weekend, April 21-23. Indiana has lost just one home game this season, faltering versus Iowa on April 7.  

Maryland is second in the Big Ten with an 8-4 conference record. Its season ledger improved to 27-15 after a victory at Georgetown University on Wednesday. The Terrapins’ road winning percentage is above .500, their record away from home sitting at 13-6 entering this weekend.   

Common opponents between the two teams include Iowa, Georgetown and Ohio State. Indiana and Maryland both took two out of three against Iowa. The Hoosiers defeated Georgetown on March 4 for their lone victory at the Keith LeClair Classic while Maryland took two out of three in its season series against the Hoyas, including Wednesday’s game in the nation’s capital. Indiana swept Ohio State at home to open Big Ten play, and the Terrapins stole two out of three from the Buckeyes in Columbus.  

The last time Indiana and Maryland met was in the 2022 Big Ten Tournament. The No. 8-seeded Hoosiers lost their first game of the tournament to No. 1-seeded Maryland 6-5 on May 26, 2022, and then faced off in an elimination-game grudge match two days later. Indiana defeated the heavily favored Terps on May 28 by a score of 6-4, becoming the first No. 8 seed in tournament history to eliminate the No. 1 seed.  

This time, things are different. Twelve months ago, Indiana was fighting just to make the conference tournament. Now, the Hoosiers are in the conversation to host a NCAA Regional.

Maryland is a perennial contender; its pitching staff is led by the three-headed monster of starters that contains junior righty Jason Savacool, senior right-hander Nick Dean and freshman southpaw Kyle McCoy. Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer said Wednesday that the Terrapins rely heavily on their starting pitching and struggle with bullpen depth.

“(Nick Dean) has been there for what feels like forever,” Mercer said Wednesday. “He’s kicked our butt several times.” McCoy is a projected first-round pick in the 2025 MLB Draft.  

Mercer said that to limit the success of Maryland’s pitching staff this weekend, Indiana will have to avoid being trigger-happy early in counts. At times, undisciplined aggression can cause the Hoosiers to find themselves behind the eight-ball.  

“We're going to have to get pitch counts up,” Mercer said.  

Savacool, Dean and McCoy all have numbers that justify Mercer’s praise. All three hurlers have a walks plus hits per innings pitched under 1.5, meaning they are proficient at limiting baserunners. The trio also boasts a batting average against under .275. Baserunners may be hard to come by for Indiana if these starters are able to keep their pitch counts down.  

The home nine enter this series with four players batting north of .300. Leading the pack is sophomore first baseman Brock Tibbitts, who is batting at a .385 clip. Along with Tibbitts, senior shortstop Phillip Glasser and freshman outfielder Devin Taylor all hold on-base plus slugging percentages of over 1.000. Taylor leads the team with a 1.229 OPS and 11 home runs. Mercer attributes Indiana’s offensive success to the level of competition they have faced throughout the season.  

“We faced really good pitching. Once you see really good pitching, your eyes get adjusted. You usually see an uptick in offensive production after that,” Mercer said.  

The Hoosiers struggled against pitchers Trey Yesavage of East Carolina University and Brody Brecht of Iowa, both of whom are top arms in upcoming MLB Drafts. Indiana lost to ECU 17-4 on March 3.  

“It looks like hell, but (afterwards) you’re able to go beat Louisville because you played East Carolina,” Mercer said.  

Indiana fell to Iowa 7-1 with Brecht on the bump, its only home loss so far this season. 

“You get your butt kicked a little bit,” Mercer said. “You’re a little bit embarrassed. When you get beat like that, it hardens you and then you go out and have more success afterwards.”  

Indiana's pitching staff has been spearheaded by a young core as of late. Sophomore right-hander Luke Sinnard has emerged as the Hoosiers’ ace, while fellow sophomore Ryan Kraft has been a shutdown arm at the back end of the bullpen alongside redshirt senior Craig Yoho. Reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Week freshman Ethan Phillips has blossomed along with fellow freshmen Brayden Risedorph and Connor Foley.  

[Related: Indiana baseball’s underclassmen spark five-win week

With a plethora of dependable options at his disposal, Mercer said he has yet to decide on a pitching rotation for this weekend. The only guarantee is that Sinnard will start Saturday’s game. 

This indecision comes down to Maryland being an offensive juggernaut. Like Indiana, they have four players batting over .300 and three with an OPS north of 1.000.  

“They're going to handle pitches,” Mercer said. “If (we can hit our) spots and do what we need to do, we should be able to mitigate (Maryland’s offense). If we don’t, they’re going to clobber ten homers.”  

Four Maryland players have accumulated double-digit home runs, compared to just one Indiana Hoosier. Senior infielder Nick Lorusso and junior Matt Shaw are tied for the team lead with 15. Lorusso and Shaw are also the team leaders in hits, batting average and OPS. On Wednesday at Georgetown, Shaw hit the 44th home run of his collegiate career, claiming the top spot in program history at Maryland.  

Lorusso, Shaw, junior catcher Luke Shliger and sophomore infielder Eddie Hacopian are all formidable threats for the Terrapins, who have a team batting average of .300 and a team OPS of .990. Indiana’s batting average is in line with Maryland’s, but their OPS is 100 points lower.  

Maryland has hit a Big Ten-best 90 home runs this season while Indiana has clubbed just 44. The Terrapins’ crooked home run total is over 20 more than the second-place Nebraska Cornhuskers, and it is among the highest in the country.  

This weekend, fans will find out whether Indiana can contain Maryland’s bats. The series-opener is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday and will be followed by afternoon games at 1 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday. All three games will be streamed on B1G+.  

Follow reporters Matthew Byrne (@MatthewByrne1) and Nick Rodecap (@nickrodecap) for updates throughout the Indiana baseball season. 
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