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Indiana baseball preview: Minnesota

Fresh off of a 9-3 win over Ball State at Victory Field in Indianapolis Tuesday, Indiana baseball is set to host Minnesota in an important series this weekend.

The weekend’s slate of games will have a major impact on the Big Ten standings. Indiana is currently alone at the top of the conference with a 9-3 record in Big Ten play. Minnesota isn’t far behind; they hold a 7-5 conference record and are in fifth.

The Golden Gophers are the defending regular season and Big Ten Tournament Champs and made a Super Regional a season ago. Going into the season, Minnesota was expected to experience similar success as they were voted the preseason favorite in the Coaches poll.

Minnesota has struggled to replicate that success thus far; the team has a losing record at 17-20 after boasting 44 wins just a season ago. Despite the lack of success, Minnesota certainly has plenty of talent. It should be a competitive series against an Indiana team that has won 11 of their last 12 games and has a 28-13 record.

These will be the first games Indiana plays all year as a ranked team as well. According to Baseball America, Indiana is the No. 25 ranked team and in RPI Indiana ranks at No.22.

Let’s take a deeper look at what Minnesota offers to the series.

Utilitymen

Similar to Indiana’s senior utilityman, Matt Lloyd, who plays first base and pitches as a closer, Minnesota has a multi-skilled utilityman as well in sophomore Max Meyer.

Meyer can practically do it all as the Golden Gophers’ Friday starter has the best ERA at 1.93 on the team for starting pitchers and is second on the team in batting average at a .283 mark.

Lloyd has the second-best batting average on Indiana and has the second lowest ERA of Indiana’s bullpen arms.

Both guys are essential to the two teams’ success and could be argued are the clubs’ most important players as they contribute in a multitude of ways.

Hitting

Minnesota is a decent hitting club; in team batting average they rank eighth in the Big Ten at a .260 mark. They also put up an average of five runs per game.

The Golden Gophers only have one bat who hits above .300 though, junior Eli Wilson, who hits for a .307 average. Wilson also has hit for 17 RBIs and two home runs to go along with 14 walks taken.

Meyer and junior Jordan Kozicky make up Minnesota’s next best bats. Meyer hits for a .283 batting average and is a traditional contact hitter. 25 of his 30 base hits have been singles with the other five being four doubles and one home run. Meyer has 12 RBIs on the year too.

Kozicky is the best power bat for Minnesota. The junior leads the team in home runs (7) and RBIs (36) and has a .264 batting average. Kozicky is tied for fourth in the Big Ten for most RBIs in the conference.

Pitching

Minnesota’s pitching as a team is similar to their hitting as they rank eighth in the conference in ERA (4.46). Based on the last few weekend series, the starters include Meyer on Friday, senior Jake Stevenson on Saturday, and Sunday’s is sophomore Joshua Culliver.

Meyer stands out among the group and as one of the Big Ten’s best arms. Meyer’s ERA stands at 1.93, which ranks fourth in the Big Ten. Meyer has pitched more than anyone on the Golden Gophers with 56 innings thrown and has struck out 60 batters with only 15 batters walked.

Stevenson has struggled throughout the season to a 1-2 record and 5.72 ERA. The senior has only thrown 28.1 innings in 12 appearances and has 32 strikeouts and 20 walks on the year.

Culliver has produced similar results to Stevenson. He has a 2-3 record and a barely better ERA of 5.52. He has thrown 34 strikeouts and walked 18 in 45.2 innings pitched. Batters against Culliver hit for a .310 batting average as well.

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