The field of 64 is set for the 2018 NCAA baseball regional and the Indiana Hoosiers are a No. 2 seed for the second consecutive season.
Indiana will head to the Austin Regional hosted by No. 1 Texas and joined by No. 3 Texas A&M and No. 4 Texas Southern. The Hoosiers earned the two-seed in large part to their high RPI (29) and strong start to the season with a record of 29-6 through the first 35 games.
The Hoosiers have tailed off since then, going just 9-11 in their last 20 games. But, if they can get production out of their strong lineup and gain quality pitching, there’s a shot they could win this regional.
⚪️ #IUBASE will face TAMU on Friday.
🔴 Hoosiers are the No. 2 seed.
⚪️ First Pitch is at 5 p.m. ET Fri.
🔴 @lemo22 is the first coach in program history to lead a squad to three Regionals in his first four seasons and is tied for most Regional appearances in program history. pic.twitter.com/ZDnebqp1iU
— Indiana Baseball (@IndianaBase) May 28, 2018
Let’s take a look at how each team stacks up against Indiana heading into this weekend.
No. 4 Texas Southern (27-26 overall, 17-6 SWAC, 11-21 Away, 4-3 Neutral)
Texas Southern is not a threat to any of the top-three seeds in this tournament. They earned an automatic postseason berth after beating Grambling State 18-3 in the SWAC tournament championship.
The Tigers dominated their conference all season long, but only picked up 10 wins in the nonconference. They were 0-8 against NCAA Regional teams this season while losing to Texas 10-2 on April 18.
It’ll be tough for the Tigers to pull out a win, but do be on the lookout for outfielder Christian Sanchez who is hitting .343 with 17 home runs and 60 RBI’s this season.
NCAA Baseball Final:
— TSU Athletics (@TXSOTigers) May 20, 2018
No. 3 Texas A&M (39-20 overall, 13-17 SEC, 7-10 Away, 5-2 Neutral)
Indiana will open up the tournament against Texas A&M Friday night at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2. The Aggies, in addition to the Hoosiers and Longhorns, have a legit shot to advance to the Super Regionals.
After starting the season 16-1, Texas A&M finished just 23-19 and were under .500 in conference play. Although, they were tested every weekend with the SEC having 10 tournament teams and four of them being regional hosts.
In the SEC tournament, the Aggies beat three regional teams, Vanderbilt, Georgia and Auburn, before being bounced by eventual conference champion Ole Miss in the semifinals, 2-1.
"I feel like we proved to ourselves & to a lot of people that we're ready to go in the postseason & that we can play with anybody."
— Texas A&M Baseball (@AggieBaseball) May 28, 2018
The Aggies pose threats both at the plate and on the mound. As a team they hit .284 with 50 home runs this year while averaging close to six runs per game.
Michael Helman leads the club with a .366 batting average, and while there’s not one power hitter that stands out, seven Aggies have at least five home runs and five have at least 30 RBI’s.
On the mound, quality starting pitching from John Doxakis (2.89 ERA, 80 K’s, 87.1 IP) and Mitchell Kilkenny (3.00 ERA, 87 K’s, 93 IP) help pace A&M while closer Nolan Hoffman (1.24 ERA, 14 saves, 51 K’s, 51 IP) has shutdown hitters all season.
Texas A&M’s 3.23 team ERA was tops in the SEC this season which will cause major issues for Indiana if the bats stay quiet like they have been during most of the last 20 games.
One way Indiana could get past the Aggies is if Jonathan Stiever can be the lock down ace that he has been all season and the bullpen and defense backs him up as well.
No. 1 Texas (37-20 overall, 17-7 Big 12, 27-7 Home)
It’s the Longhorn’s regional to lose. After starting the season 9-9, they completely flipped the script and finished 28-11 and Big 12 regular season champions.
Texas and Indiana had opposite seasons with the Longhorns being cold to start then finishing hot, and that’s a major reason why they’re a regional host and the Hoosiers are not.
The Longhorns don’t have stellar pitching with a team ERA of 4.36 and their top-starting pitcher, Blair Henley, holds an ERA of 3.54, but they get it done at the plate.
If Indiana is matched up against Texas, they’ll have to capitalize on poor pitching and shutdown the Longhorn offense led by Big 12 player of the year and Golden Spikes Award finalist, infielder Kody Clemens.
Clemens is the son of seven-time Cy Young award winner Roger Clemens and leads the Longhorns with a .341 batting average, 19 home runs and 61 RBI’s. The potent Longhorn offense matches Indiana’s season total scoring six runs per game.
— Texas Baseball (@TexasBaseball) May 29, 2018
The Longhorns also have home-field advantage, which will give them even more of an edge.
Even in Indiana’s first round matchup against A&M, you can guarantee that Aggie fans will travel well just two hours west to Austin, and Longhorn fans will want to see an old rivalry of Texas-Texas A&M renewed in round two.
Indiana will face a hostile environment all weekend long being the only non-Texas team in the regional.
Can the Hoosiers advance?
IU Coach Chris Lemonis said it the best at the end of the regular season, they’ll need quality starting pitching, timely hitting and strong defense in order to make a deep postseason run.
In the Big Ten tournament, Indiana struggled in each of those phases at some point as they were ousted after three games of the double elimination tournament.
Against A&M in game one, IU will have to go toe-to-toe with the Aggie pitching and hope the bats can capitalize on mistakes.
If they get to face Texas, the Longhorn lineup will be a cause for concern against Indiana’s pitching staff and the Hoosier bats will have to take care of Texas’ not-so-stellar pitching.
If the Hoosiers face Texas Southern in an elimination game, they’ll have to just play their game and Indiana will be fine.
It’ll be a new and hostile environment in Texas all weekend long for Indiana players, but maybe they can click on all phases, get it done and advance to a super regional.
Soooooo, this is going to be 🔥.
— Texas Baseball (@TexasBaseball) May 30, 2018