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Indiana baseball set to battle at Tennessee during second weekend

Indiana centerfielder Logan Kaletha in a game against Purdue in 2018. (Mark Timko/HN)

Indiana Baseball travels to the Volunteer state in back-to-back weekends to face Tennessee after taking two of three to start the season against Memphis last weekend.

The Hoosiers were dominant in games one and three of the Memphis series, winning by scores of 6-1 and 6-0, respectively, but fell flat in game two, losing 6-3.

This series is a good early season test for Indiana. Facing a SEC opponent on the road is no easy task, even if they finished at the bottom of the SEC East division in 2018.

IU experimented with the lineup plenty against Memphis,as only five players started and played the same position every game. Indianahead coach Jeff Mercer said the lineups will continue to shift around as they take advantage of the team’s depth.

“There’s more guys I’d like to move in there,” Mercer said. “We’re going to play to matchups, we’re going to play to our strengths.”

Second base and left field remain up-for-grabs between a number of guys.

At second base, sophomore Justin Walker started games one and three while senior Cade Bunnell started game two. In left, three different players started each of game of the series between sophomores Elijah Dunham, Sam Crail, and Drew Ashley.

In order for a starter to emerge, defensive play could be the difference.

“At this point the ability to play high level defense is the most important thing,” Mercer said.

Despite potential change, Indiana will look for continuity from its dominant starting pitching and strong bats at the top of the order.

The starters of senior Pauly Milto (Friday), Tanner Gordon (Saturday), and Tommy Sommer (Sunday) combined for a total of one run allowed in the Memphis series.

Milto particularly liked what he saw from Gordon as well.

“Tanner, his composure on the mound was really impressive to me,” Milto said. “Being his first D1 start, just being able to go out there and do his thing was really impressive.”

The top of the lineup IU used in games one and three of the Memphis series could be expected to stay moving forward. Junior Matt Gorski hitting lead off, Walker second, senior Logan Kaletha third, and senior Matt Lloyd at clean-up.

Kaletha leads the team in batting average at a .364 mark with four RBIs thus far.

Tennessee comes into the series off to a strong start with an undefeated record at 4-0. They swept Appalachian State last weekend and beat Northern Kentucky, 18-0, on Tuesday. In the Vols four games they haven’t allowed a run either, while scoring 29 of their own.

The level of their competition should be noted, as both teams they played haven’t won a game on the year so far and finished with well-below .500 records a season ago. At the same time, putting up 29 runs in four games and giving up none is impressive.

Tennessee enters the weekend with a strong presence at the plate. They have four guys hitting above .300 thus far and an overall team batting average of .254 to go along with five home runs.

Junior first baseman, Luc Lipcius, is on the cusp of an early breakout this season for the Volunteers. He has established himself as a full-time starter and earned a career high in hits, runs, and RBIs in a game during the win over Northern Kentucky.

Lipcius’ batting average leads the team at .500, in which five of his six hits are of the extra base variety including a home run. He has six RBIs on the year opposed to just one strikeout.

Tennessee’s pitching staff has been strong to start the year too. As a team the Volunteers are allowing an average of less than four hits and upwards of ten strikeouts per game.

If Tennessee were to follow suit from a weekend ago the starters are as follows:

Friday: Garrett Stallings

Saturday: Zach Linginfelter

Sunday: Will Neely

Friday should be a fun match-up with a pitcher’s duel of Milto and Stallings. The two had nearly identical stats on their first starts of the young season.

Milto, got his season started with a win, going seven innings and giving up two hits while striking out seven against Memphis.

Stallings is a junior righty who threw seven innings while only allowing a hit and striking out eight in a winning effort over Appalachian State.

Stallings is also the No. 119 ranked prospect for the 2019 MLB Draft according to D1Baseball.com.

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