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Indiana baseball midweek preview: Kentucky Wildcats

Freshman Grant Richardson is greeted by his teammates after an at-bat. (Josh Eastern/HN)

After losing two of three games to Illinois this past weekend, Indiana (31-16) will travel to face Kentucky (23-24) this Tuesday. The Hoosiers will look to rebound after their first series loss since Feb. 24 against Tennessee.

Coming into this matchup, Indiana sits two and a half games back of Michigan in the Big Ten. While this game will have no effect on the Big Ten standings, it could help the Hoosiers boost their RPI as postseason play approaches and get their confidence back heading into the big series with Michigan this upcoming weekend.

Indiana is currently ranked 28th in RPI and fell out of the top 25 after struggling against Illinois. The Wildcats are ranked 42nd in RPI and own the fourth best strength of schedule in a very competitive Southeastern conference.

Kentucky is 3-7 in their last 10 games, but most recently beat Arkansas, who is ranked 4th in RPI and has a great chance of hosting a regional. Last season, Kentucky beat Indiana 7-6 and have won the last three matchups.

Here is what to expect from both sides ahead of Tuesday’s game.

Hitting

Indiana was shutout in game one and only scored one run in the second game versus Illinois, but bounced back with a nine-run outburst on Sunday. Home runs from Elijah Dunham, Cole Barr and Ryan Fineman helped the Hoosiers avoid a sweep and provided some momentum for their matchup with Kentucky.

Indiana baseball hurts title hopes with series loss to Illinois

Fineman has been a key addition to the lineup for Indiana after coming back from injury on April 23. Replacing Wyatt Cross in Indiana’s lineup, Fineman has four RBI since his return and has provided power towards the bottom of the order.

Justin Walker has started to heat up for the Hoosiers with five hits in the last six games. Walker earned the job at shortstop over Jeremy Houston midway through the season and has shown potential defensively, as well, in his sophomore season.

The Wildcats’ lineup is anchored by Ryan Shinn, who leads the team with 13 home runs, and TJ Collett, who has a team-high 38 RBI. Ryan Johnson has only started 11 games this season, but has been the team’s lead-off hitter recently, owning a .342 batting average.

Breydon Daniel is a base stealing threat for the Wildcats, as he has only been caught stealing on five of 22 attempts this season. Jaren Shelby and Austin Schultz are also dangerous on the basepaths with 11 and 10 stolen bases, respectively.

Pitching 

For the Hoosiers, Tommy Sommer will take the mound for his second midweek start of the season. Sommer has a 4-2 record with a 2.76 ERA in four starts and six relief appearances.

Sommer last appeared against Illinois this past weekend where he pitched 1.2 innings and didn’t allow a run. He also pitched twice in relief in the Minnesota series as a closer, combining to pitch 1.2 innings of perfect baseball with three strikeouts.

Sommer’s last start was a midweek contest against Ball State where he pitched six innings, allowed four hits and two runs and struck out 10 Cardinals to just one walk.

Kentucky has yet to name a starter, but in a majority of their midweek games either sophomore Mason Hazelwood or freshman Dillon Marsh have started.

Hazelwood is a lefty who owns a 3.90 ERA, the best among their midweek starters. He’s pitched 32.1 innings this season and has a 2-3 record with 36 strikeouts and 17 walks.

Marsh is another lefty who has struggled at times, recording a 5.66 record in his 12 starts. Marsh has started in midweek games as well as weekend games. He has 42 strikeouts in 41.1 innings pitched.

Other options could include redshirt-junior Grant Macciocchi or freshman Alex Degen, both right handers. With such a left-handed heavy lineup for the Hoosiers, it wouldn’t be surprising to see one of the lefties pitch Tuesday.

Indiana looks to build off of Sunday’s offensive output and forget about Friday and Saturday, not only to win this game on Tuesday but to prepare for a do-or-die series with the top dog in the Big Ten, the Michigan Wolverines.

First pitch for Tuesday’s Indiana vs. Kentucky matchup is set for 7 p.m. at Kentucky Proud Park and will be broadcasted on the SEC Network.

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My name is Jack Ankony and I am a freshman from Mount Prospect, Illinois. I am a huge Chicago sports fan who loves to write and talk about sports.

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