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Friday, May 24
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

Following midweek no-show, Indiana baseball visits Minnesota


Looking to rebound from a poor offensive showing versus the University of Evansville on Tuesday, Indiana baseball heads to Minnesota’s Siebert Field for the first time under head coach Jeff Mercer.  

The Hoosiers (20-17, 5-4 Big Ten) are currently tied with Ohio State for fifth in the conference standings after winning their last two series, while the Golden Gophers (15-16, 3-6 Big Ten) find themselves in a three-way tie for 10th in the league standings.  

In 2021, the teams met at U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings, but have not played at Minnesota’s home ballpark since 2018. Indiana was then coached by Chris Lemonis, who is now at Mississippi State University. Indiana is 9-3 against Minnesota under Mercer, winning two out of three games when the teams met at Bart Kaufman Field in 2022 and sweeping the five-game season series in 2021.  

Sitting well below 64th in the RPI after falling 10 spots in the last week, every conference series from now until the end of the regular season is a must-win for Indiana. The 19-game stretch between Friday and May 18 will decide Indiana’s chances at an at-large NCAA Tournament bid.  

Barring a miracle, Minnesota is out of postseason contention. Although it is coming off a mercy-rule win over South Dakota State University on Wednesday, John Anderson’s squad has won just two of its last six games against Big Ten opponents. The Golden Gophers hold the third-worst batting average in the conference (.268) and the second-worst on-base percentage (.376) but their pitching staff is one of three in the Big Ten with a sub-five ERA.  

The weekend’s only confirmed pitching matchup sees sixth-year Indiana lefty Ty Bothwell (4-2, 6.00 ERA) square off against redshirt junior righty Will Semb (1-4, 8.49 ERA) in the series opener. In three career appearances versus Minnesota, Bothwell holds a 2-0 record across 13 innings, pitching to the tune of a 0.69 ERA and 19 strikeouts.  

Starters for both games on Sunday are to be determined for both teams. Notably, sophomore Indiana right-hander Connor Foley experienced muscle tightness in his April 13 outing versus Penn State, a season-worst performance in which the Hoosiers' ace recorded just five outs and gave up eight runs.  

Indiana’s bullpen was crucial in its series win over Penn State, and right-handers like redshirt freshman Jacob Vogel (10.2 IP, 0.84 ERA), sophomore Brayden Risedorph (28.1 IP, 8.26 ERA) and graduates Drew Buhr (18.2 IP, 3.86 ERA) and Ty Rybarczyk (14.1 IP, 4.40 ERA) will again be called upon for relief duties this weekend.  

Junior lefties Connor Wietgrefe (4-2, 3.40 ERA) and Tucker Novotny (0-4, 6.08 ERA) have started a total of 18 games for Minnesota, while five different relief pitchers have appeared in at least10 games, top among them being senior southpaw Justin Thorsteinson (25.2 IP, 2.48 ERA). Minnesota pitchers have allowed just 18 home runs this season, by far the fewest in the conference — Rutgers is second-best with 28 home runs allowed. 

By comparison, Indiana hurlers have allowed a conference-worst 66 homers. Sluggers like redshirt junior outfielder Josh Fitzgerald, junior infielder Brady Counsell — the son of Chicago Cubs manager Craig Counsell — and sophomore infielder Weber Neels lead an otherwise pedestrian Minnesota offense.  

No other Golden Gophers hold a batting average north of .300 and Fitzgerald is the only player with an OPS over 1.000. Indiana has five players batting over .300 and four players with an OPS within 50 points of 1.000. After outscoring Penn State 22-4 in 16 innings of play April 13-14, the Hoosiers will look to restart their offensive momentum on the road.  

Redshirt freshman Joey Brenczewski has found his footing in the batter’s box, batting .333 with two home runs, 13 RBI and 13 runs scored in his last 10 games. He has cemented himself as a dependable option at first base without junior Brock Tibbitts, who is still sidelined with a lower body injury sustained April 2.  

Junior outfielder Nick Mitchell (.350 AVG, 1.005 OPS, 33 RBI) and sophomore shortstop Tyler Cerny (.346 AVG, .954 OPS, 41 RBI) have shown extended consistency while sophomore outfielder Devin Taylor (.329 AVG, .943 OPS, 28 RBI) is in a slump. The unanimous Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year is just 5-for-32 (.156) with two walks and seven strikeouts in seven games over the last two weeks.  

Indiana’s second road series in Big Ten play begins at 3 p.m. Saturday will be followed by a doubleheader beginning at 12 p.m. Sunday (all times Eastern). The Sunday doubleheader will be played with the 10-run mercy rule and a travel curfew in effect. All three games will be streamed on Big Ten Plus.  

Follow reporters Matt Press (@MattPress23) and Nick Rodecap (@nickrodecap) for updates throughout the Indiana baseball season.

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