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The Indiana Daily Student

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Indiana baseball heads to Big Ten Tournament as No. 3 seed

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For the first time since the 2012 London Olympics, Indiana baseball will face Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska. The Hoosiers finished 30-22-1, 15-9 in the Big Ten and the Boilermakers finished 33-22, 13-11 in the Big Ten. 

The Hoosiers last faced the Boilermakers in the 2012 conference tournament, one in which the top-seeded Boilers defeated second-seeded Indiana in consecutive days to claim the conference title. Indiana followed by winning the tournament in 2013 and 2014, but neither squad has hoisted the trophy since then.

No. 3 Indiana and No. 6 Purdue will play the first game of the tournament at 11 a.m. EST on Tuesday, with the winner being off until 2 p.m. Thursday and the loser being sent to an elimination game at 8 p.m. EST on Wednesday. Sitting in the high 60s in the RPI with a 19-10-1 record in Quad 3-4 games, Indiana is most likely on the wrong side of the at-large bubble, needing to win the conference tournament to secure an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.  

Indiana shares the top half of the bracket with No. 2 Nebraska and No. 7 Ohio State. The bottom sees regular-season champion and No. 1 seed Illinois face No. 8 Penn State at 6 p.m. Tuesday and No. 4 Michigan square off against No. 5 Iowa at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Indiana won regular-season series against Penn State, Purdue and Michigan while losing series against Nebraska and Illinois. It did not face Ohio State or Iowa in the regular season but won series against both in 2023 and lost to the Hawkeyes in last year’s conference tournament.   

After being in the regular-season title race, Purdue slogged through the first half of May, dropping seven of nine conference games and closing the season on a five-game losing streak. While starting pitchers Jordan Morales (7-5, 4.26 ERA) and Luke Wagner (7-1, 4.94 ERA) have pulled their weight, the pitching staff at large has been the Boilermakers’ Achilles heel. The rest of Purdue’s pitching staff has amassed a 5.79 ERA across 330.2 innings, and it blew multiple late leads in games versus Indiana, Michigan and Illinois in the final three weeks of the regular season.  

The Boilers have a two-headed monster leading their offense — catcher Connor Caskenette and infielder Luke Gaffney lead the Big Ten in RBIs with 69 and 63, respectively. Caskenette (13), Gaffney (12) and outfielder Keenan Spence (11) lead Purdue in home runs, while Gaffney’s .368 batting average leads the team by 30 points over infielder Camden Gasser, whose .512 on-base percentage leads the Big Ten and ranks 18th nationally.  

If Indiana defeats Purdue, it will face the winner of No. 2 Nebraska (34-19, 16-8 Big Ten) and No. 7 Ohio State (28-24, 12-12 Big Ten), who square off in the following game Tuesday. The Huskers took two out of three games versus the Buckeyes on April 5-7, with righty Brett Sears (8-0, 2.05 ERA) striking out 10 Ohio State batters in a two-hit, complete game shutout in the series opener en route to receiving National Pitcher of the Week honors.  

Righty Mason McConnaughey (7-3, 3.10 ERA) delivered 6.1 innings of two-run ball to lock up the weekend victory April 5-7 for the Huskers. Sears and McConnaughey rank No. 1 and No. 3 among Big Ten pitchers in ERA and Sears holds a Big Ten-best 0.83 WHIP.  

Nebraska pitchers were dominant in the series victory over Indiana on May 10-12 — Sears allowed one earned run on three hits over seven innings in the series opener while McConnaughey allowed two earned runs on five hits, striking out 10 Hoosiers in 7.1 innings. 

The Huskers allowed just four runs in the final two games of the series as Indiana failed to pile on with a big inning as it did versus the Nebraska bullpen in its May 10 victory. Nebraska is second in the conference with 17 saves (Maryland: 18, Indiana: 9), meaning the Hoosiers will be hard-pressed to stage another late rally against the best pitching staff in Omaha.  

All eight teams in the conference tournament won between 26 and 34 regular-season games and top-seeded Illinois won the regular-season title, its first since 2015, after not even being picked to finish in the top six in the preseason poll.  

With so much parity and Illinois and Nebraska being the only Big Ten teams projected to receive at-large bids, the tournament is wide open, and the tension will be palpable throughout the week at Charles Schwab Field. Indiana begins its quest for its first Big Ten Tournament title since 2014 at 11 a.m. EST on Tuesday, and all tournament games will be aired on Big Ten Network, the IU Sports Radio Network and WIUX Sports with Ben Haller and Nick Rodecap on the call. 

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

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