Series Preview: Indiana Hoosiers

Maryland (24-27, 9-11 Big Ten) swept Rutgers last weekend in College Park to move into eighth place in the conference, the last spot that qualifies for the tournament. The Terps now control their own destiny, knowing they’ll clinch a postseason opportunity if it wins all three games on the road against Indiana.

Anything short of a second straight sweep will require help to get in. MBN’s Justin Gallanty and Connor Newcomb broke down every scenario going into the final week of the regular season in the latest podcast. But simply put, Maryland likely needs to mirror whatever Michigan State does against Ohio State. Because Maryland took two of three against the Spartans, it owns a tiebreakers right now despite having the same exact conference record.

Nebraska is the only other team that has a realistic chance of catching the Terps. If Maryland only wins one game and Nebraska sweeps Illinois, then the Cornhuskers jump the Terps by half of a game. Rutgers, technically, isn’t out, but the Terps pretty much ended the Scarlet Knights’ season last weekend.

Scenarios can be described over and over but at the end of the day, Maryland doesn’t need to worry about them as long as it continues to win in Bloomington. The series will begin on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. and end Saturday, instead of the typical Friday-Sunday.

Maryland is riding a four-game winning streak, its longest in over a month. The offense took full advantage of a weak Rutgers pitching staff, outscoring the Scarlet Knights 30-10 in the three games. Nick Dunn continues to lead the Terps with a .335 average, but it was Maryland’s senior bats that stood out last weekend. Will Watson hit two home runs in one inning, Kevin Biondic’s batting average inches closer to .300, Zach Jancarski made two more highlight-reel catches and Justin Morris provided a much-needed boost at first base and at the bottom of the order.

While the Terps might be playing their best baseball at the right time, the Hoosiers have lost five of their last eight games. Indiana was the only Big Ten team ranked to begin the season, tabbed as the favorite to win the conference. However, the Hoosiers head into the final weekend ranked sixth in the Big Ten, and no longer included in the national top-25 polls.

Indiana (34-15, 11-9) has been average on the road with a 10-9 record, but 18-5 in Bloomington. The Hoosiers are 6-0 against Maryland during the regular season since the Terps joined the Big Ten, but 0-3 in the postseason. Indiana swept Maryland in Bloomington last season.

Indiana hits .287 as a team — third in the conference — with four starters batting above .300 and seven players with at least six home runs. Sophomore infielder Matt Gorski leads the team with 68 hits, 13 doubles and 19 stolen bases. Senior outfielder Logan Sowers — a 2017 Big Ten All Second Team selection — is hitting over .300 with seven home runs in the middle of Indiana’s lineup.

Juniors Matt Lloyd and Luke Miller are both hitting below .300, but each lead the team with eight home runs this season. Indiana’s 54 team home runs lead the Big Ten, but the Hoosiers also strike out the second-most times. Only Maryland has more strikeouts as a team.

Indiana’s 2.88 team ERA is the lowest in the conference. All of its most-used starters have an ERA below 4.00 and every player who has started in at least one game has an ERA below 5.00. Sophomore right-handed reliever Cal Krueger has a 3.13 ERA in a team-leading 37.1 innings out of the bullpen, while senior lefty B.J. Sabol has a 1.05 ERA and a .198 batting average against in 25 innings this season.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Thursday, 7:05 p.m. EST

Jr. RHP Hunter Parsons (5-2, 3.47 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Jonathan Stiever (5-4, 2.98 ERA)

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Parsons made his first-career Friday night start last weekend and will take the ball for Game 1 against the Hoosiers. The right-hander allowed just one earned run over seven innings, walking three and striking out seven in the win against Rutgers. The late-season injuries have shifted the weekend rotation, and Parsons rose to the occasion last weekend and he’ll need a similar appearance Thursday against the Hoosiers. He’s allowed just three homers all season — the fewest among Maryland’s starters — which will come into play against a power-heavy Indiana team.

Stiever has by far pitched the most innings for the Hoosiers this season, tossing 84.2 innings in 13 starts this season. No other Hoosier has pitched more than 61 innings this year. The right-hander holds hitters to a .244 average, striking out more than one batter per inning and walking only 25. In his last start against Nebraska, he allowed five runs (three earned) in six innings. He’s conceded at least three runs in each of his last three starts, receiving a loss in all of them.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Friday, 6:05 p.m. EST

Sr. RHP Taylor Bloom (3-7, 4.92) vs. Jr. RHP Pauly Milto (6-2, 2.04 ERA)

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Bloom pitched last Saturday as he continues to work back from his concussion last month. He matched the performance of Parsons, allowing just one earned run over seven innings. He didn’t walk anyone, hit just one batter and struck out six. Bloom hasn’t had the season many expected him to have, but as someone who has pitched in big games since his freshman year, Friday’s could certainly be up there as one of the biggest and definitely one of, if not the last opportunity for the senior.

Milto has the best ERA of any Indiana starting, also holding opposing hitter’s to the lowest batting average. The junior has also only allowed one home run the entire season. His best performance came early in the season against Boston College, throwing a complete-game shutout. In his last start against Nebraska, he earned the win by allowing two runs over 6.2 innings. He walked one and struck out five.

Starting Pitching Matchup 

Sunday, 2:05 p.m. EST

Fr. RHP Mark DiLuia (3-4, 5.17 ERA) vs. Jr. LHP Tim Herrin (4-0, 3.00 ERA)

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After starting on several straight Fridays, DiLuia’s permanent role for the rest of the season appears to be on Sundays. With Tyler Blohm’s status looking improbable, the freshman will remain in the weekend starting rotation. He started for the first Sunday last weekend against Rutgers, tossing six solid innings. He allowed two runs on six hits, walked one and struck out four. His start may very well end up deciding whether or not the Terps will make the Big Ten Tournament.

Herrin has made a lot his early-season appearances out of the bullpen, but has transitioned into a weekend starter. He’s now made eight stands and, on the season, has an 3.00 ERA in 51.0 innings. He’s not an overpowering thrower, striking out just 29 batters this year. He earned a win in his last start against Nebraska, allowing one run on five hits while striking out three. He has yet to allow more than three runs in an appearance the entire season.