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Three takeaways from Indiana’s huge series win over conference-leading Michigan

Tanner Gordon delivers a pitch in last weekend’s home series. (Kurt Spitler/HN)

Indiana Baseball flipped the switch in their most important series of the season at Michigan over the weekend as the Hoosiers took two of the three games to win the series.

Indiana defeated Michigan easily on Friday, 10-4, and followed up with another high-scoring win on Saturday, 10-8. On Sunday, the Hoosiers fell just short in dramatic fashion, 6-5 in the 11th inning.

A sweep would’ve been welcomed, but the bottom-line is that this was a very successful weekend for Indiana. Coming off of a rough stretch where they had lost three of their last four, they went on to beat a team in Michigan who had won 13 in a row entering the series and hadn’t lost a series at home all season.

With the series win, Indiana’s record has improved to 33-18 with a 14-7 conference mark, second best in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers still trail Michigan for the best record in the conference but are only 1.5 games back.

Now, let’s take a look at the aftermath of the Michigan series with three takeaways.

Indiana Responded with Urgency, Kept Big Ten Chances Alive

The Hoosiers’ chances weren’t looking bright prior to the Michigan series with Indiana slumping and having to play the Big Ten leaders on the road, but Indiana certainly rose to the occasion and salvaged their chances for a Big Ten regular season title. Not only that, but Indiana got their confidence back with two statement wins in a near sweep on the road.

Indiana was in dire need of a momentum swing, especially entering the home stretch of the season with only four games left.

Indiana will host No. 6 ranked Louisville on Tuesday and will play their last series of the season this weekend against Rutgers to end the regular season and conference play.

As great of a win as it would be for Indiana if they were to upset Louisville, the focus will likely be on Big Ten play. Indiana is trailing Michigan by 1.5 game in a tight race at the top of the league.

The top five of the Big Ten standings are as follows:

  1. Michigan: 15-5

  2. Indiana: 14-7

  3. Illinois: 13-8

  4. Nebraska: 13-8

  5. Minnesota: 13-8

Rutgers will be the last chance for the Hoosiers to improve their conference record. Thankfully for Indiana, Rutgers will be at home and is a far weaker opponent than Louisville or Michigan with a 20-28 overall record and a 9-11 record in conference.

Michigan will end their season with a tougher task as they face Nebraska on the road.

If Indiana is going to win the Big Ten, they’re going to need to play a good series and get some serious help from Nebraska in the process. 

The Bats Woke Up (and on a Friday?)

Following a four-game stretch where Indiana scored a total of 12 runs, the Indiana offense more than doubled that figure at Michigan in which they scored 25 runs in the three games.

The Hoosiers also totaled 27 hits for the series, an average of nine per game. Saturday featured the Hoosiers’ three home runs of the series as well. Matt Lloyd, Elijah Dunham and Cole Barr all went yard to protect the Hoosiers’ national lead of home runs (84).

The offensive jumpstart was needed if the team wanted any chance to beat Michigan and stay competitive throughout the remainder of the season.

What was most shocking was that the Hoosiers delivered their most complete offensive performance of the season for a Friday game in this Michigan series.

Indiana has proven to be a juggernaut from the plate all year, but the bats have struggled tremendously on Friday nights.

In the win on Friday, Indiana had 10 hits to go along with their 10 runs scored. Before the Michigan series, on Friday nights Indiana puts up an average of about 6 hits and 3.5 runs in Big Ten play.

Those numbers are inflated as well by the Michigan State series where Indiana’s Friday contest featured 15 Hoosiers hits and 13 runs.

When taking that game out, Indiana was averaging 4.6 hits per game and a run per game in Friday games in Big Ten play prior to the Michigan series.

To not only flip their momentum with a huge win over Michigan, but also reverse their Friday hitting slump in the process is impressive.

Catching Issues

Indiana could potentially have another injury concern with senior catcher and starter Ryan Fineman.

In the 10th inning, Fineman got pulled after favoring his back after taking a swing at the plate.

Fineman had been out earlier in the season due to injury too. The senior missed time in game two of the Maryland series on March 30 and didn’t return until the Ball State game at Victory Field on April 23.

With Fineman being taken out on Sunday, senior Wyatt Cross entered the game and struggled on the last play of the game to give the Wolverines the win.

With the bases loaded, no outs and a tied 5-5 score in the bottom of the 11th inning, Michigan got the best of the Cross and the Hoosiers. Michigan’s Jordan Brewer hit a ground ball to Indiana shortstop Drew Ashley who threw home to prevent the winning run from scoring.The throw was a bit short though, and Cross couldn’t corral the bounce from the baseball, allowing Michigan to win.

The Indiana loss was certainly not Cross’ to blame, but Cross will have to tighten up defensively as the Hoosiers move closer to the postseason with potential for Fineman to be out with injury.

For now, Indiana will take this positive momentum back home, where they finish the season with four straight at Bart Kaufman Field. The week will start on Tuesday when they host No. 6 Louisville. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. on ESPNU.

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