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Indiana baseball hurts title hopes with series loss to Illinois

Grant Richardson during Indiana’s series with Penn State. (Kurt Spitler/HN)

Three Takeaways: Indiana Baseball Loses Two of Three at Illinois

Indiana Baseball dropped two of three in a series loss on the road at Illinois to halt their momentum following an important series win over Minnesota.

The Hoosiers’ record now stands at 31-16 overall and 12-6 in the conference.

This was the first Big Ten series lost all season for Indiana. They were previously 5-0 in conference series this year.

Indiana lost on Friday and Saturday by scores of 4-0 and 3-1, respectively. The Hoosiers avoided the sweep with a dominant 9-2 victory over the Illini Sunday.

Due to the poor performance, Indiana hurt their standing in the Big Ten as well. They rank second and trail Michigan by two-and-a-half games for first in the conference.

With that being said, here are three takeaways from the series.

Bats Struggle on Friday Again with No Rebound

Indiana’s batting wasn’t pretty on Friday against Illinois. Friday offensive struggles are nothing new for Indiana, but the Hoosiers typically bounce back after game one.

Against Illinois, they never did. Friday and Saturday featured mediocre performances from the plate as in the two games the Hoosiers combined for six hits, three in each game.

Junior Matt Gorski and sophomore Elijah Dunham each had two of the six hits.

Indiana displayed their reliance on the home run again this weekend as Dunham’s home run in game two was their only run of the game and in game three when the Hoosiers scored nine, Indiana had three long balls.

Dunham went yard again along with sophomore Cole Barr and senior Ryan Fineman each having a bomb too. Their three home runs accounted for seven of the nine runs scored against Illinois on Sunday.

Andrew Saalfrank Quietly Dominating

It’s no secret anymore but junior Andrew Saalfrank is cruising from the mound for the Hoosiers.

In a weekend where senior ace Pauly Milto and Saturday starter Tanner Gordon didn’t pitch to their potential, Saalfrank shined.

The junior threw seven innings and only allowed four hits, no runs and struck eight batters en route to a win.

Saalfrank now has the best record of the pitching staff at 7-1, leads the team in strikeouts with 82 and has the lowest ERA among the weekend starters at a 2.03 mark.

It should be noted that Saalfrank has thrown significantly fewer innings (57.2) compared to Milto (83) and Gordon (68.2). They all have made 12 starts though.

The Schedule Only Gets Tougher

Indiana losing this series makes their hopes to win the Big Ten all the more difficult. They are by no means out of it, especially only being behind two-and-a-half games, but this was a series Indiana could have taken advantage of with Illinois being about a .500 team in conference play prior to this series.

Indiana will have a chance to overcome their setback next weekend when they’ll travel to Ann Arbor to play in a series against Michigan that could very well decide the Big Ten.

It should be noted that following Michigan, the rest of the top five in the Big Ten standings is very tight.

  1. Michigan (14-3)
  2. Indiana (12-6)
  3. Iowa (11-7)
  4. Minnesota (11-7)
  5. Nebraska (12-8)

Before they play Michigan, Indiana will face Kentucky on the road this Tuesday. Despite Kentucky owning a 23-24 record, the Wildcats shouldn’t be overlooked.

Playing a brutally tough SEC schedule, Kentucky’s overall record is a bit misleading. By taking out their 6-18 conference record, the Wildcats look a lot stronger at 16-7 in the non-conference.

Regardless, it should be a good test for the Hoosiers before having to play the Wolverines in Ann Arbor.

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