Indiana baseball head coach Jeff Mercer was putting his children to bed Sunday night when his phone dinged. The text was from pitching coach Dustin Glant — sent to the team's group chat of student-athlete pitchers. Mercer paused reading the book and bursted out laughing.
Earlier that afternoon, Maryland completed the sweep over Indiana in three games, scoring 43 runs total — the most runs by far the Hoosiers have allowed in any weekend this season. That snapped Indiana's seven-series win streak that began on March 12.
Glant texted the group chat his stat line from one of his collegiate outings March 30, 2003 — seven runs allowed joined by three walks, having recorded just one out. Glant was roughly midway through his junior-year season pitching for Purdue’s baseball team. Later that year, the Arizona Diamondbacks selected Glant in the seventh round of the MLB Draft.
"(Glant) was like, ‘this was my draft year; it happens to the best of us,’" Mercer described Wednesday. "(Glant is) somebody that's able to be in the boat with you rowing the same direction that has been their voice that's it's going to be okay. You're going into the weekend leading the Big Ten in earned run average in conference play and have a bad weekend."
Following this past weekend's sweep April 30, Indiana relinquished the first-place spot in the conference standings to Maryland. Now two games behind the Terrapins, the Hoosiers will travel to Northwestern this weekend to play a three-game series, still in the hunt for first.
Mercer said sophomore right-hander Luke Sinnard will start Friday's series-opener. Sinnard pitched last Saturday — but Mercer is moving the ace up one day this weekend — timing Sinnard's starts to be well-rested for one of Indiana's first two midweek games in the Big Ten Tournament later this May. The team's Saturday and Sunday starters are to be determined.
Indiana is 1-4 in Big Ten series-openers. Aside from that sole 14-run victory March 25, the Hoosiers scored just 10 combined in the other four losses. Mercer recently tweaked players' swings to be more adjustable in-game to the anticipated repertoire of opposing pitchers.
“We've got to be able to adjust more quickly to what's happening, whether it's the 4-seam fastball or the sinker,” Mercer said. “It just can't take us two or three times through the lineup. I've tried to show more sinkers and things like that on the spinball machine.”
Indiana and Northwestern most recently played one another last season in April. Indiana won the series-opener, yet dropped the final two contests. Northwestern went 24-27 in 2022. This year, the Wildcats are 8-31 overall, having played 28 road games this season, and 3-12 in the Big Ten. The last-place Wildcats have been swept by three fellow Big Ten teams this season.
Following Northwestern’s 2021 season, head coach Spencer Allen announced he would not return after six seasons. Interim coach Josh Reynolds was instated in 2022. Northwestern failed to qualify for that year's Big Ten Tournament. In 2023, the Wildcats are led by first-year head coach Jim Foster, the 2022 Patriot League Coach of the Year at Army West Point.
Amidst the new hire, the only four Northwestern players to post .300-plus batting averages in 75% of games played in 2022 — Patrick Herrera, Jay Beshears, Anthony Calarco and Ethan O'Donnell — transferred to Atlantic Coast or Southeastern Conference schools. Left-handed pitcher Sean Sullivan, who tossed six shutout innings at Indiana last year, transferred too.
So far in 2023, Northwestern is tied for last place in team batting average in the conference and last overall in team earned run average. On Tuesday, the team most recently run-ruled the University of Illinois Chicago 17-7. Indiana did not compete in any midweek game.
After falling two games behind first-place Maryland, Indiana’s three-game series at Northwestern begins at 4 p.m. Friday. Saturday’s first pitch will be at 2 p.m., and the series will conclude Sunday at the same time. All three games will be broadcast on Big Ten Plus.