Expectations were rightly sky high for the Indiana Hoosiers at the start of the season in February.
When the season swung into full gear, this IU team looked legit. They were hitting the ball all over the yard and punishing opposing pitching staffs. Their own pitching staff was dominating opposing hitters too with a nation leading ERA, at one point.
But then came the injuries. Saturday starter Pauly Milto went down and hasn’t made a start since April 13. Third baseman Luke Miller had a foot issue and also missed most of the month of April. Unfortunately for IU, those injuries coincided with the schedule getting harder.
In part because of those two, and a few other issues, the Hoosiers have slipped. They’ve fallen out of the rankings and currently sit in seventh in the Big Ten standings. IU won 29 of its first 35 games and was a top ten team. Since then, the Hoosiers have won just two of their last nine.
Indiana Baseball drops out of the Top 25 for the first time this season after being swept over the weekend at Minnesota.
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) May 7, 2018
Every baseball team goes through its ups and downs. It’s a long season. But when IU welcomes in the No. 21 Kentucky Wildcats to Bart Kaufman Field Tuesday night, the Hoosiers have a lot to prove.
There was a time this season when the goal was hosting a NCAA Regional. That goal might still be there, but it’s fading rapidly. After a weekend sweep at Big Ten leading Minnesota, it’s hard to justify a regional in Bloomington.
IU was in Kentucky’s regional last season in Lexington as the two-seed. It was the Wildcats who knocked them out. Now the Hoosiers get them on their home turf in a game that could boost an RPI ranking that has tumbled.
A win over Kentucky could do wonders for IU. What the Hoosiers did in February, March and most of April hasn’t gone unnoticed nationally. They took care of business against lesser opponents. It’s been a bad few weeks against better opponents, but nothing will make people forget about that besides winning games down the stretch in May.
After Kentucky, IU has two series’ left this season against Maryland and Nebraska along with a midweek game at Louisville. Both Maryland and Nebraska are not currently in the Big Ten Tournament while Louisville has taken a step back from last year’ College World Series appearance.
A season ago, it was a midweek home game at a similar point in the season against Louisville.The Hoosiers got a stellar performance from then-freshman Andrew Saalfrank and got a marquee win. IU coach Chris Lemonis could be looking for that again this time around.
The weekend sweep at Minnesota didn’t look good. The pitching faltered and the bats didn’t do quite enough. Something has to change with this Indiana team. It’s a ball club that has had a lot of success.
It’s no fluke that they won over 30 games before the calendar turned to May. The hype at the beginning of the season was justified and all it takes is just a turn in fortune.
That turn in fortune has to start Tuesday against Kentucky. The RPI opportunities are fading fast and this could be the last chance to get a big boost.
IU is at a breaking point. If the struggles continue, the preseason hype was all for not. But if the Hoosiers can win games down the stretch, the hype can still be justified.