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Indiana baseball weekend preview: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Cole Barr rounds third base after one of his conference-leading 15 home runs. (Kurt Spitler/HN)

Indiana Baseball will host Rutgers for their final series of the season in what is a crucial weekend for the team.

On Tuesday night, the Hoosiers fell to No. 9 Louisville in a marathon of a game, 8-7 in 11 innings at home. The loss likely eliminated any hope of Indiana hosting a regional in the NCAA Tournament.

Despite the regional chances being dashed, the Rutgers series arguably means more as Indiana is still in the hunt for a regular season Big Ten Title.

With a 33-19 overall record and 14-7 record in conference play, Indiana ranks second in the Big Ten, 1.5 games back of the conference leading 15-5 Michigan Wolverines.

Luckily for Indiana, this weekend they’ll have an easier series to play than the Wolverines. Michigan will travel to Nebraska for their weekend series.

Rutgers is a far weaker opponent and is eighth in the Big Ten compared to Nebraska who is fourth in the league. Not only in conference standings, but the contrast between Rutgers and Nebraska is quite stark.

  • Rutgers: 20-28 overall, 9-11 in conference. RPI: 178
  • Nebraska: 26-19 overall, 13-8 in conference. RPI: 37

Even with an easier task at hand, Indiana can’t afford to lose focus, even if they don’t end up winning the Big Ten. Any loss to Rutgers, especially at home, will not help their NCAA Tournament resume in the slightest.

With that being said, let’s take a look at what to watch out for with the Scarlet Knights.

Hitting 

From the plate is where Rutgers struggles the most and it’s quite obvious that batting is the team’s weak link.

As a team, the Scarlet Knights have a .238 batting average, tied for the second-worst mark in the Big Ten with Michigan State.

By comparison, Indiana’s batting average isn’t far better, only .253, but the Hoosiers put up a lot more runs and have a far more explosive offense.

Rutgers ranks second to last in the Big Ten in runs scored (194) compared to Indiana’s conference-leading 358 runs.

Rutgers also has 15 home runs on the year while the Hoosiers are tied for the most home runs in the country with Arizona State with 84.

Rutgers doesn’t have many individual standouts from the plate. They have no player hitting over a .300 average on the season and only have two who are hitting better than .250.

Redshirt freshman Tim Dezzi is the team’s best bat with a .292 batting average on the year. Dezzi is a pure contact hitter as well, with only six extra base hits all season, all doubles. Dezzi does have 19 RBIs though and has only struck out 28 times in 168 at-bats.

Sophomore Mike Nyisztor is also a reliable guy in the lineup for the Scarlet Knights. Nyisztor has a .286 batting average and leads the team in hits with 57. The sophomore has hit one home run on the year and has 10 RBIs.

Pitching

Pitching would definitely be the strength of the team and is the anchor that allows the Scarlet Knights to win baseball games.

As a team, their ERA isn’t that impressive, 4.28, but their weekend starters are quite talented and better than the team averages may indicate.

Rutgers’ Thursday starter is sophomore lefthander Harry Rutkowski. He doesn’t have a very good record, 2-5, but has a 3.55 ERA, 74 strikeouts and only 22 walks to his name on the year.

Friday, the Scarlet Knights will start junior lefty Tevin Murray, who’s ERA of 2.31 is the fourth best in the Big Ten. Murray also has thrown 78 strikeouts and has a 4-4 record. Opposing batters are only hitting for a .189 average against Murray.

To end the series on Saturday, Rutgers will send redshirt junior righthander, Tommy Genuario, to the mound. Genuario only has 37 strikeouts on the season but has only walked 22 batters and boasts a 2.58 ERA.

If Indiana can learn to adjust to Rutgers’ strong pitching, than they should be in good position to win the series and give them a chance at a Big Ten Title.

Weekend schedule:

Thursday (6:05 p.m.)

LHP Harry Rutkowki vs RHP Pauly Milto

Friday (6:05 p.m.)

LHP Tevin Murray vs RHP Tanner Gordon

Saturday (12:05 p.m.)

RHP Tommy Genuario vs LHP Andrew Saalfrank

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