Indiana baseball started its 2018 campaign with a 3-1 weekend in South Carolina.
After dropping the season opener to Oklahoma 6-3, the Hoosiers rallied off three straight wins. A 5-0 shutout against Kansas State put Indiana in the win column for the first time this season, followed up by a walk-off winner against No. 18 South Alabama.
IU then finished out the weekend with a 6-5 win over 2016 National Champion Coastal Carolina.
Let’s take a look at the good and the bad from Indiana’s opening weekend.
As a team Indiana launched six home runs in four games this weekend. Luke Miller led the way with three long balls, including two in the win against Coastal Carolina, while Logan Sowers hit two home runs but junior college transfer Logan Kaletha’s walk off grand slam against South Alabama was the loudest of them all.
Sowers is expected to be one of the top hitters for Indiana this year and he’s done just that in the first four games. With his two home runs, he collected seven hits ending the weekend with team highs in batting average (.438) and slugging percentage (.813).
Kaletha’s teammates raved about his ability in practice prior to the first game and they weren’t wrong. The first-year transfer from John A. Logan College batted leadoff for IU in every game this weekend and racked up seven hits, including a triple, six RBI’s and his first career IU home run, a walk-off grand slam.
Kaletha ended the weekend with a .357 batting average in his first four games as a Hoosier and his .786 slugging percentage is third best on the team.
Miller only recorded three hits over the weekend, but all three were home runs. He was the difference going 2-for-4 with two homers and five RBI’s in the 6-5 win against Coastal Carolina. While the power is there for Miller, he’ll hope to get the average up as he sits at .200 after the first four games.
Fineman dropped 20 pounds this offseason and completely changed his swing according to IU coach Chris Lemonis. So far, it’s paid off to start the season.
Fineman ended the opening weekend with the second best batting average on the team at .417. The junior catcher also started each of the first three games behind the dish and came in during the sixth inning in the finale against Coastal Carolina.
Junior starting pitcher Pualy Milto picked up right where he left off at the end of last season to start 2018.
Milto pitched six innings of shutout ball against Kansas State and had a no-hitter going for 5.2 innings. He finished with six strikeouts while allowing just one hit and retired 16 of the last 17 batters he faced.
He was the lone bright spot in the starting rotation, which struggled to begin the season.
The Indiana starters aside from Milto struggled during opening weekend, but its bullpen got the job done. In 18 innings of work, the bullpen allowed just two earned runs.
Sophomore Cal Krueger stood out the most, picking up two wins in both of his appearances this weekend. Krueger allowed no runs and struck out four over his three innings of work.
The freshmen out of the pen were also poised. Tommy Sommer, Nick Eaton and Austin Long combined to allow zero runs over six innings of work while striking out three.
Sommer, the 6-foot-4 left-hander, was the most impressive this weekend by picking up a three inning save against Kansas State; holding the Wildcats to just one hit while striking out two in his appearance.
Junior Matt Lloyd, who is back in the closing role this year, recorded a two-inning save against Coastal Carolina in his only appearance on the mound this weekend.
Base running will be a major focal point for Indiana this season as they swiped nine bags on 11 attempts in the first four games.
Senior outfielder Laren Eustace was a perfect three-for-three on his attempts and sophomore outfielder Matt Gorski was two-for-two. Kaletha was the only Hoosier tracked down on the base paths this weekend going two-for-four on his attempts.
Outside of Milto, the Indiana starting pitching was less than spectacular. Junior ace Jonathan Stiever allowed six earned runs including three home runs in five innings of work against Oklahoma in the opener, boosting his ERA to 10.80. However, Stiever did rack up a team-high seven strikeouts this weekend.
Lemonis wasn’t sure how the rest of his rotation was going to lineup after Milto, but he went with sophomore Andrew Saalfrank against South Alabama. Saalfrank only lasted three innings while giving up three earned runs.
Monday against Coastal Carolina, Tim Herrin got the start for Indiana and he too only lasted three innings allowing three earned runs against the Chanticleers.
The bullpen saved Indiana’s starters this weekend, but Lemonis will certainly look for more consistency out of his starting rotation next weekend.
Lloyd hit over .300 with 11 home runs and 46 RBI’s a year ago, but opening weekend in 2018 wasn’t kind to him. Lloyd started every game this weekend at either first base, second base or designated hitter but went just 1-for-16 with seven strikeouts at the plate.
Indiana was able to get it done with the long ball this weekend, but the team batting average sits at just .236 after the first four games. Only three players are hitting above .300 right now on the season with guys like Miller, Gorski and Lloyd all at or below the Mendoza line.
Indiana heads to Port Charlotte, Florida next weekend for the Snowbird Baseball Classic. They’ll get a look at fellow Big Ten opponent Rutgers Friday at 3 p.m., then play Boston College at noon Saturday before rounding out the weekend against Chicago State on Sunday at 10:30 a.m.