For the seventh time in program history, the Indiana Hoosiers are the regular-season Big Ten Champions after sweeping the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The Hoosiers capped off the series and their Big Ten Championship campaign with a 13-3 win Saturday afternoon.
Indiana finished the season 36-19 and 17-7 in Big Ten play, a half-game ahead of the Michigan Wolverines.
Here are a few takeaways from the Rutgers sweep as well as a Big Ten Championship season for Indiana.
The emergence of Elijah Dunham
Sophomore Elijah Dunham missed nearly a month early in the season due to injury. Since then, he has established himself as a formidable member of this dangerous Indiana batting order.
In his last seven games, Dunham is hitting .533 (16/30), with five multi-hit games. He has seven doubles and four RBI in that stretch. Before the Sunday game against Michigan, Dunham was on an eight-game hit streak.
Before this recent seven game stretch, Dunham was batting .231 (24/104), with five multi-hit games in his first 30 games.
This Rutgers series put an exclamation point on a phenomenal month of May for Dunham. He was 4-for-5 with two doubles on Thursday. He followed that up on Friday with a 2-for-4 performance with an RBI single. Then on Saturday, Dunham was 3-for-4, crossing home plate four times.
With his recent success, Dunham has moved into the cleanup spot in the lineup and seems to be very comfortable with his role in the explosive Hoosier lineup.
— Indiana Baseball ⚾️ (@IndianaBase) May 18, 2019
Indiana’s bats are alive and well
Rutgers’ starters had solid ERA’s coming into this series, specifically their Friday and Saturday starters (the series was from Thursday-Saturday).
On Friday, Rutgers put lefty Tevin Murray on the mound. Murray entered the game with a 2.33 ERA, fourth best in the Big Ten. He also had 78 strikeouts on his resume.
Indiana didn’t think twice about that ERA Friday. Murray lasted just 2.1 innings, allowed five hits, six earned runs and issued five free passes from walks and hit batters.
Indiana finished the game with 12 hits and 11 runs. After battling some strikeout issues in the midweek game against Louisville, the Hoosiers limited their strikeouts to 10 on Friday.
Rutgers’ Saturday starter, Tommy Genuario, entered the game with a 2.58 ERA. However, Indiana roughed him up, forcing him to exit after just 3.2 innings. He allowed four hits, five earned runs and issued four free passes.
As a team, Indiana scored 13 runs on 11 hits and only struck out three times. Cole Barr notched his conference-leading 16th home run and finished the game 3-for-4.
Winning when they had to win
There were several games you could look back to and realize they were so important for Indiana to win the Big Ten title. As a friendly reminder before reading this list of games, remember the Hoosiers won the title by a half game.
THAT'S OUR COACH!!!! pic.twitter.com/LcZNSMpgeC
— Indiana Baseball ⚾️ (@IndianaBase) May 18, 2019
First, Indiana trailed 6-1 against Minnesota on April 27. They were dominated by Minnesota’s ace, Max Meyer, the day before, and were in jeopardy of losing their first series of the Big Ten season. However, with two on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Matt Lloyd launched a deep ball to right field, rescuing the Hoosiers.
The next series was a road trip to Illinois, where Indiana lost the first two games and were in jeopardy of being swept for the first time since the Tennessee series.
After scoring a combined one run in the first two games, Indiana’s offense woke up right when they needed to, rallying off nine runs on Sunday to save themselves from a sweep against a good Illini team.
Then, of course, there’s the Michigan series. The Wolverines came in as the No. 19 team in the country and had a two and a half game lead on IU. However, Indiana rattled off 10 runs on both Friday and Saturday to win both games and move close enough to have a chance to win the title this week.
That brings us to this weekend, where Indiana needed to sweep and get some help from Nebraska. As of Friday afternoon, they knew their championship fate was in their own hands. Indiana still had to earn it, and on Friday night and Saturday afternoon, Indiana did that in emphatic fashion, with 11 runs on Friday and 13 on Saturday.
This team didn’t get off to a great start, being swept by Tennessee and striking out 21 times in the Saturday game. They lost games to Penn State and Michigan State, two teams that didn’t even make the Big Ten Tournament.
However, they are winners, and winners don’t quit. This team embraced the mentality of their first-year head coach and never gave up. When you keep fighting and give it all you have, good things happen. For Indiana, the good things were the two Nebraska wins over Michigan this weekend, allowing them to win the title.
— Big Ten Baseball (@B1Gbaseball) May 19, 2019
Now Indiana will head to the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 1 seed with a target on their backs. Then they’ll head to the NCAA Tournament. They can check off regular season champs off their list, but there is still a lot ahead of this team in 2019.
There are a lot of unknowns ahead of them, but one thing is for sure.
This team will fight until the end.