With three games remaining in Indiana baseball's regular-season schedule, the Hoosiers will play at Michigan State from Thursday to Saturday. Indiana is tied for first place atop the Big Ten Conference with No. 20 Maryland at 15-6 in the standings. The three-game sprint for both contenders will determine the Big Ten regular-season title winner, with the chance to share.
Since getting swept by Maryland April 28-30, Indiana has won eight consecutive contests – six of them in-conference – sweeping Northwestern and Purdue. Since Michigan State swept Northwestern in three games April 29-30, the Spartans have been swept each by Illinois and Iowa on the road, losing their past six conference games to decline to 10-11 in the Big Ten.
Michigan State rebounded from the winless six-game road trip by beating Central Michigan University 9-2 Tuesday. That same day, the Hoosiers defeated the University of Evansville 6-2 for their 26th home victory – a new single-season record at Indiana’s Bart Kaufman Field.
Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer announced Tuesday that right-handed sophomore Luke Sinnard would start Thursday's series-opener. Friday and Saturday's starters are to be determined. Michigan State freshman left-hander Joseph Dzierwa has started 12 of 13 outings, while senior right-hander Wyatt Rush has eight saves, tied for first in the Big Ten.
Five Michigan State starters post .300-plus batting averages this season, led by junior infielder Brock Vradenburg – the only Spartan to have a .400-plus average. Vradenburg leads the team with 13 home runs. Juniors infielder Mitch Jebb and outfielder Jack Frank — one of the five batting above .300 – have also stolen 30 bases combined in 39 attempts.
Four Hoosiers post .300-plus batting averages – sophomore outfielder Carter Mathison is just below that benchmark, but leads the team in walks with 35. Freshman outfielder Devin Taylor leads Indiana with 14 home runs, while reigning Big Ten Player of the Week Josh Pyne tallied 14 runs batted in through the sophomore infielder’s past five games.
The Spartans are 15-3 at McLane Baseball Stadium this season, already tying the program’s most number of home wins since the 2012 season. While Indiana will play for the Big Ten title, the Spartans are trying to contend for the top-eight-only Big Ten Tournament. Michigan State ranks tied for eighth with Purdue in the Big Ten Standings out of 13 teams.
Big Ten Network will not only air all three contests between Indiana and Michigan State, but also all three games between fellow contender Maryland and Penn State. The Terrapins will play three hours earlier than Indiana from Thursday to Saturday, potentially forming drama on Saturday. Indiana plays at 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and 3 p.m. on Saturday.