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Indiana Baseball Position Preview: Corner Infield and DH

Luke Miller bats vs. Maryland at Bart Kaufman Field in 2017. Miller is back in Bloomington for the 2018 season and plans to start at third base.

Coming into 2018, the corner infielders, along with the designated hitter spot, will be counted on to produce for Indiana.

A season ago, the three returners in Luke Miller, Matt Gorski and Matt Lloyd combined to hit .287 with 25 home runs, 110 RBIs and 36 doubles. As the numbers show, they were very effective for the Hoosiers at the plate. Behind outfielders, the corner infielders and designated hitters were the most productive group for the Hoosiers.

But coming into 2018, one of the biggest bats in Craig Dedelow is gone. That puts more of an emphasis on this position group to help make up for what Dedelow did last year with his 19 home runs.

There will be some subtractions to the corner infield group this year, as well. Austin Cangelosi graduated while Jake Matheny, who played some at DH, transferred from the program.

Even with those two pieces departed, this group is still strong. Let’s break it down.

FIRST BASE:

A season ago, only three Hoosiers manned first base. Coming into last year, it was the expectation that Austin Cangelosi would take hold of that spot. That however wasn’t the case. Instead, it was upstart freshman Matt Gorski who played there for most of the season.

Now in 2018, it is the expectation that Gorski will man that position again. The 6-foot-4 sophomore from Fishers, Indiana was a Freshman All-Big Ten selection and named IU’s Rookie of the Year last season.

Along with his .288 batting average, four home runs and 22 RBIs, Gorski also was able to swipe 15 bases, good for 10th in the Big Ten. He was a letter-winner in soccer while in high school at Hamilton Southeastern, which might be the reason why he is so fleet of foot as a first baseman.

Gorski is one player who will get considerable time at first base. Another could be sophomore Scotty Bradley. He played just two games there in 2017, but without a true backup at the position, Bradley could get a few starts at first base in the future.

Bradley appeared in just five games last season because of an injury. He was able to apply for a redshirt.

THIRD BASE:

Hoosier fans were happy to hear that junior Luke Miller would be returning to Bloomington after saying no to the pros. Miller was drafted in the 31st round by the Twins. Instead of going pro, Miller headed out to the Cape Cod League this past summer and played for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox.

Last season Miller was one of the big bats for the Hoosiers. He hit .272 with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs. He also was tied for third in the Big Ten in runs (52), tied for eighth in home runs (10), and was 11th in total bases (109). Miller even had IU’s longest reached base streak for an individual player in 2017 with 23.

Coming into 2018, Indiana should expect similar numbers. He started 56 games last season manning the hot corner in most of his starts. Miller had a few starts at first base, so don’t be surprised if he plays a little bit of first base this season. The corner infielder also played a bit of corner outfield this summer in the Cape Cod League, so don’t be alarmed if Miller grabs an outfield glove at some point.

Aside from Miller at third base, Matt Lloyd could be a candidate for a backup role. Lloyd started six games there last season. However with the uncertainty with the second base spot, coach Chris Lemonis said he could be a candidate there.

DESIGNATED HITTER:

The designated hitter spot could be one that sees some rotation in 2018. Seven different players started at DH in 2017. It’s a spot where players can get a half-day off. If Lemonis wants Fineman to take a game off from catching, but has been hitting well, the designated hitter spot could be taken advantage of it that way.

But in 2017, it was Matt Lloyd who played the majority of time there. Because he comes into 2018 as the team’s closer, this gives him some versatility to pitch and hit in the same game.

The Alberta, Canada native thrived in his first season in Bloomington. He hit .301 with 11 home runs, 46 RBIs and 16 doubles. Lloyd also got on base at a .393 clip, good for second on the team. He also led the team in saves with nine.

There’s no doubt the DH spot will be rotated quite a bit. Lloyd could be at second base one game, third base another and DH the next. He could also throw an inning or two. But one thing is for certain, he is a bat that is needed in the lineup and will get his fair share of time all around the field.

Josh Eastern

I am a senior from Seattle, Washington majoring in Media. I am formerly of the Indiana Daily Student where I covered Indiana men’s soccer team and women’s basketball. You still can find me broadcasting for WIUX Student Radio and on BTN Student U outside of The Hoosier Network. Former intern at 710 ESPN Seattle and broadcaster for the Falmouth Commodores. Email: jeastern@thehoosiernetwork.com. Follow me on Twitter: @JoshEastern.

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