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Indiana baseball is off to Louisville to begin the NCAA Tournament

Cole Barr rounds the bases after hitting a home run in Indiana’s loss to Kent State. (Kurt Spitler/HN)

The Indiana Hoosiers will travel just down the road to Louisville for their NCAA Tournament regional matchups. The Hoosiers are in the tournament for the sixth time in the last seven years and the ninth appearance in the program’s history. The Hoosiers are the No. 2 seed in the region. Here’s how the field lines up:

  1. Louisville
  2. Indiana
  3. Illinois State
  4. UIC

The Hoosiers will match up with Illinois State on Friday at 2 p.m. to start their NCAA Tournament. Let’s learn a little bit about the Louisville regional.

Illinois State

Let’s start with the team Indiana will play first, the Illinois State Redbirds. They finished the season 34-24, 14-7 in the Missouri Valley Conference.

The Redbirds played a majority of their games on the road this season, finishing 19-17 away from home. Add in neutral site games and the Redbirds are 21-19 with 69 percent of their games away from home.

Back in March, Illinois State took one of the three games against then No. 1 and now a top-4 seed Vanderbilt. They split their two midweek games with No. 4 seed UIC this season. In total, against NCAA Tournament teams, the Redbirds were 7-13.

Illinois State is paced offensively by junior Joe Aeilts. He’s hitting .350, with a team-high 14 doubles. He also has 10 home runs and 46 RBI, both second-best.

Four other Redbirds are hitting over .300. Junior John Rave leads the team with 12 home runs and 48 RBI. The team is hitting .295 and has 50 home runs.

On the mound, Indiana will likely face off against left-hander Brent Headrick, the Redbirds Friday night starter. He has a 3.50 ERA this season in 15 starts with a 9-3 record. He’s pitched a team-high 90 innings and has 101 strikeouts, best on the team by a wide margin.

An important note, he’s only allowed five home runs this season. That could be a big factor against a team like Indiana that relies heavily on the long ball.

Louisville

The Hoosiers and Cardinals faced off just under two weeks ago, when Louisville won in a 12-inning marathon. The Cardinals had a 6-0 nothing lead before Indiana scored five runs in the bottom of the fourth and eventually tied the game in the seventh.

Louisville ultimately took advantage of fielding errors and a season-high 23 strikeouts from the Hoosiers and won 8-7. It wasn’t a pretty game overall, with six combined errors.

The Cardinals are the No. 7 overall seed in the tournament, with a 43-15 record, 21-9 in the ACC. At Jim Patterson Stadium, where the regional will be held, Louisville is an impressive 27-7. Against teams in the field, they are 17-10.

Junior Tyler Fitzgerald leads the team, hitting .327 with 13 doubles and a team-high 60 RBI. Three other Cardinals are hitting over .500, with two others hitting .299.

Freshman Alex Binelas leads the team with 13 home runs and four triples. Junior Logan Wyatt leads the team with an incredible 64 walks in his 201 at bats. Danny Oriente led the team with three hits against Indiana on May 14.

If Indiana sees Louisville in the second game, chances are they will face Nick Bennett, Louisville’s consistent Saturday starter this season. the left-hander has a 4.64 ERA in 13 starts with a 6-3 record. He has 65 strikeouts in 66 innings.

Louisville has some solid relievers. Left-hander Michael Kirian leads the team with a 1.73 ERA with 35 strikeouts in 26 innings. Indiana saw right-hander Michael McAvene who has a 2.22 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 28.1 innings. The two combined for nine saves this season.

Against Indiana, McAvene threw two scoreless innings with no hits, one walk and five strikeouts.

UIC

The Flames are 29-21, 18-11 in the Horizon League. UIC won the Horizon League Championship over Milwaukee, 6-5. That came after an 11-6 win over No. 1 seed Wright State in 10 innings.

UIC has won 11 of its last 13 games. They were the No. 2 seed in the Horizon League Tournament. The Flames are 2-4 against tournament teams, splitting the season series with Illinois State and winning one of three games against Texas A&M in an early-season series.

The Flames are led by freshman Ryan Hampe, who is hitting .369 with a team-high 14 doubles. He also has 47 RBI and just 18 strikeouts in 160 at bats.

Senior Scott Ota is the only other player hittign over .300, with a .358 average. He also has a team-high 14 doubles and a team-high 62 RBI. He also leads the team by a wide margin with 19 home runs. The team has 38 total home runs. Overall, the Flames are hitting .274.

Right-hander Joey Fredrickson is the probable matchup if the Hoosiers face the Flames. He has a 4.37 ERA in 14 starts with a 6-5 record and 44 strikeouts in 82.1 innings.

The Flames have two relievers with an ERA under 1.00. Right-hander Alex Padilla has a 0.90 ERA in 26 relief appearances. He has seven saves and 27 strikeouts in 30 innings. Left-hander Mark McCabe has a 0.93 ERA in 16 appearances.

The action starts on Friday for the Hoosiers with their first matchup against Illinois State at 2 p.m. on ESPN3.

Austin Render

I am a sophomore from Fort Wayne, Indiana majoring in Sports Media. Last year I worked with IUSTV Sports doing recap and feature packages for IU field hockey, women's basketball and baseball. I am one of the current WIUX Co-Sports Directors. I am a student broadcaster for WIUX as well as Big Ten Network Student U. You can reach me at austinrender99@gmail.com and you can follow me on Twitter @austinrender.

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