At the start of last year, Indiana baseball’s pitching rotation was a major question mark.
The Hoosiers had to replace all three of their weekend starters due to graduation causing a few bumps in the staff to start 2017. But in 2018, all seven players who made starts for Indiana last season are returning.
Indiana’s staff was average in the Big Ten last season. They finished seventh in the conference with a 4.58 team ERA and seventh in strikeouts with 407.
This season there’s some major strides to be taken in certain categories. IU allowed the most total hits in the conference last season (596), the most doubles (124) and the second most home runs (50).
If there’s one thing Hoosier pitching prides itself on, it’s control. Indiana had the fewest walks (161) and hit batters (36) allowed in the Big Ten last season, which is something they can build off of this year.
Here’s how the pitching staff looks to lineup for Indiana in 2018.
Friday: Jonathan Stiever – 2017 stats: 4-4, 14 games/14 starts, 4.31 ERA, 77.1 IP, 57 K, 9 BB, opp avg .275
Stiever was thrown into the Friday night starting role as just a sophomore last season. After all, three of Indiana’s weekend starters departed due to graduation.
He was the lone staple in the Indiana starting rotation for the entire 2017 season. His tremendous upside forced IU coach Chris Lemonis to continue to put Stiever on the bump every Friday.
His Big Ten season got off to a rocky start. He allowed eight runs in just 2.2 innings pitched in the conference opener against Northwestern. It wasn’t until after his first four conference outings when he finally started to settle down.
In his final seven starts of the season, Stiever threw 44.1 innings with an ERA of 3.05. That included a complete game, two-run, 119 pitch performance in the NCAA Regional against Ohio in his final game of the year.
This summer, Stiever continued to improve his game by playing for the Brewster Whitecaps in the Cape Cod league facing some of the best competition in all of college baseball. He threw 30.1 innings this summer with an ERA of 4.75 and a K/BB ratio of 25 to 2.
Look for Stiever to continue to improve during his junior season and excel in the Friday night role after having a full season under his belt.
? @JonathanStiever so far tonight:
He hasn't allowed a run in his last 17 innings. pic.twitter.com/JCypg1AHoP
— Indiana Baseball (@IndianaBase) May 5, 2017
Saturday: Pauly Milto – 2017 stats: 6-3, 20 games/10 starts, 3.92 ERA, 78 IP, 65 K, 20 BB, opp avg .264
Milto didn’t begin last season in the starting rotation for the Hoosiers. But after freshman Andrew Saalfrank was unable to get through the first inning for the Hoosiers on March 26 vs. Northwestern, Milto asserted himself as a starter.
Milto pitched 6.1 innings of shutout relief against the Wildcats that day. For the rest of the season, he was inserted into the Hoosier starting rotation. He got his first start against Nebraska on April 2.
He pitched 57.2 innings as a starter a season ago with an ERA of 3.90 and turned out to be the most reliable option for Indiana down the stretch. Milto finished with a record of 5-1 as a starter and went at least six innings or more in seven of his 10 starts.
Milto isn’t a guy who will blow hitters away with his heater, but instead will keep his fastball in the high 80s to low 90s and will keep hitters off balance with his change up.
He also pitched in the Cape Cod league this summer with the Whitecaps where he started four games finishing with an ERA of 4.45 with 22 strikeouts and 11 walks.
— Indiana Baseball (@IndianaBase) April 9, 2017
Sunday: Cal Krueger – 2017 stats: 5-2, 22 games/6 starts, 2.82 ERA, 60.2 IP, 37 K, 21 BB, opp avg .255
As a freshman, Krueger was used predominately out of the bullpen as a long reliever. As the season went on, he pushed his way into the starting rotation.
Krueger earned his first start of the season in a mid-week matchup on March 1, a 6-1 loss at Cincinnati. He pitched three innings and allowed two runs, but both were unearned.
He moved back to the bullpen after his lone start until April 25 against Ball State when Lemonis gave him the nod to start another mid-week game, this time against Ball State. Once again, Krueger went three innings, allowing two runs, but this was the turning point in his season.
On April 28, Maryland came to Bloomington for a weekend series. As per usual, Stiever got the start Friday night, but the game was postponed to Saturday after three innings because of rain.
That’s when Krueger took over. Lemonis gave his true freshman the ball when play resumed Saturday against No. 15 Maryland and he delivered. Krueger pitched all six innings, allowing just five hits, two runs and striking out five in a 9-2 IU win.
Krueger recorded three straight weekend starts after his Maryland outing to end the season. Indiana won each of those games he started.
In the Big Ten tournament, Krueger was slated to start the third game of the tournament. After an extra inning affair against Michigan with elimination on the line in game two, it forced Krueger into action. Three solid shutout relief innings from Krueger got the job done for Indiana in a 5-4, 13-inning win. It showed he could perform in the big moments.
He also started the final game of the season in the NCAA Regional against Kentucky when things didn’t go his way. He threw just 3.1 innings and allowed four runs in the loss.
Krueger was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team and finished with a team best 2.82 ERA. This summer, he also saw some time in the Cape Cod League with the Harwich Mariners. Expect him to be a major piece for the Hoosier pitching staff moving forward.
— Indiana Baseball (@IndianaBase) May 15, 2017
Closer: Matt Lloyd – 2017 stats: 3-2, 2.23 ERA, 20 appearances, 9 saves, 32.1 IP, 20 K, 6 BB, opp. avg .241
Not only is Lloyd a force in the batters box, but he’s also a key piece for Indiana late in games on the mound. Last season, Lloyd would DH and then, if needed, would come in and close out the game for the Hoosiers.
In 13 of his 20 appearances last season, he held opponents scoreless showcasing a plus fastball sitting in the mid-90s. The Hoosiers would prefer Lloyd to go just one inning in an outing, but he showed last year that he could stretch it out if needed pitching more than one inning 50-percent of the time.
Lloyd was a first team All-Region selection mainly because of his bat, but his nine saves finished tied for fourth in the Big Ten. He’ll be back in the closer role again this season for IU.
We aren't done yet. ?
— Indiana Baseball (@IndianaBase) March 28, 2017
Long Relief/Mid-Week Starters: Tim Herrin – 3-3, 3.91 ERA, 20 games/8 starts, 53 IP, 38 K, 21 BB, opp. avg .300
Herrin was a wild card for Indiana last year, making eight mid-week starts and then coming out of the bullpen on the weekends giving quality long relief.
Lemonis used him in a multitude of ways last season as he pitched as many as five innings in a game twice as a starter. He was also used at times out of the bullpen to face just one batter. As a 6-foot-5 left-hander, Herrin has the body makeup that any coach loves.
It will be interesting to see if Herrin continues to make starts during his junior season or if he is used predominately out of the bullpen as a lefty specialist.
— Indiana Baseball (@IndianaBase) May 17, 2017
Andrew Saalfrank – 2-1, 5.58 ERA, 16 games/8 starts, 40.1 IP, 43 K, 17 BB, opp. avg .314
Saalfrank started off in the Indiana starting rotation as just a true freshman and showed how good he could be to start the season.
Lemonis was attracted to the 6-foot-3 left-hander out of Hoagland, Indiana with a killer breaking ball to start the year. When Big Ten play came around, he lasted just 1/3 of an inning against Northwestern in his only conference regular season start.
Saalfrank was relegated to the bullpen for two months before getting the start and win against Louisville in a major mid-week game in mid-May.
He also picked up a start in the Big Ten Tournament going five solid innings against Minnesota. Krueger was supposed to start, but couldn’t because he pitched the day before in the extra inning win against Michigan.
Expect Saalfrank to be the mid-week guy for Indiana this year and maybe even crack the weekend rotation if he becomes more consistent than others.
3 up, 3 down.https://t.co/0XTrHP6aw6
— Indiana Baseball (@IndianaBase) May 26, 2017
Kade Kryzsko – 2017 stats: 1-1, 3.91 ERA, 18 appearances, 25.1 IP, 24 K, 5 BB, opp. avg .258
Cam Beauchamp – 2017 stats: 1-2, 4.64 ERA, 17 appearances, 21.1 IP, 13 K, 20 BB, opp. avg .313
— Indiana Baseball (@IndianaBase) May 14, 2017
BJ Sabol – 2017 stats: 5-1, 4.69 ERA, 24 appearances, 40.1 IP, 38 K, 9 BB, opp. avg .228
Noodle gets it done in the 4th.
— Indiana Baseball (@IndianaBase) May 10, 2017
Brian Hobbie – 2017 stats: 2-5, 6.61 ERA, 14 games/12 starts, 65.1 IP, 37 K, 14 BB, opp. avg .327
Grant Sloan – 6-foot-4, left-hander, redshirt freshman, transfer from Virginia. From Zionsville, Indiana. He is the son of former IU basketball player Brian Sloan and grandson of NBA legend Jerry Sloan.
Connor Manous – 6-foot, right-hander, redshirt freshman transfer from Miami (FL.). From Munster, Indiana. He finished his senior year in high school with a 0.76 ERA in 64.1 innings and 106 strikeouts.
Austin Long – 6-foot-3, true freshman right-hander from Bedford, Indiana. He went 16-4 in his high school career as a pitcher. He was ranked No. 6 RHP out of Indiana and No. 24 player overall out of the state.
Tommy Sommer – 6-foot-4 left-hander, true freshman from Carmel, Indiana. One time All-State selection, ranked as the No. 35 LHP prospect in the nation and No. 233 player overall by PBR.
Matt Litwicki – 6-foot-1 right-hander, true freshman from Dyer, Indiana. Ranked as the No. 3 RHP and No. 8 overall player in the state of Indiana. Litwicki went 62.1 consecutive innings without allowing a run in high school and nine straight shutouts.