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Young talent poised to take charge in the outfield for Indiana baseball

Indiana’s 2020 baseball season will be defined by a reshuffling of talent after a school-record 10 Hoosiers were selected last year in the MLB draft. While this is undoubtedly a sign of a program looking up, it leaves in its wake an Indiana baseball squad with some significant holes to fill.

Key Loss: Matt Gorski

Along with Swiss Army knife Matt Lloyd, Gorski was a massive producer in Indiana’s offense last season. He hit .271 and smashed 12 home runs, the third-most on the team. His 58 runs scored was a team-best.

Not only is Gorski a loss in production, but a loss in consistency and stability. The centerfielder was one of only four players on Indiana’s roster last season who started more than 50 games for the Hoosiers.

Gorski was drafted in the second round with pick 57 to the Pittsburgh Pirates, which is the highest a Hoosier has been drafted since Kyle Schwarber went in the first round in 2014.

Captain of the ship: Elijah Dunham

Elijah Dunham in an at-bat against UIC in last year’s NCAA Regional in Louisville. (Jared Rigdon/HN)

Dunham has already proved that he is one of the best players in the Big Ten. Last season, he earned All-Big Ten Third-Team honors for his team-best .310 average and 29 RBIs. His strong sophomore season was also recognized by the Pittsburgh Pirates, who selected him in the 40th round with pick 1,204 in the MLB draft.

Injuries kept him off the lineup card for parts of the 2019 season, and Gorski was the undeniable commander of the outfield. This year, its Dunham’s turn. If he stays healthy, Dunham is primed for an exceptional season. He ended last year on an 18-game reach-base streak and has already racked up Preseason Big Ten Honors, as well as being named Preseason All-Big Ten by Perfect Game for this season.

Poised for a breakout year: Grant Richardson

Richardson’s freshman campaign showed flashes of a player that is capable of a remarkable career. Appearing in 46 games, Richardson finished with a .264 average, 37 RBIs and nine home runs.

Richardson was never really able to find his footing all the way, having a streaky season at the plate. He showed a flash of greatness against Maryland last season, in a 20-5 win, pelting three long balls and tallying six RBIs in six plate appearances. Those are the types of games Richardson is capable of, and look for him to have a good deal more of them in this upcoming season with a more pronounced role while still being only a sophomore.

Also keep an eye on: The freshmen

With a significant roster turnover from last season, three of Indiana’s six listed outfielders are freshmen. Two more are sophomores, with Dunham being the only junior. With that sort of youth, and still only in his second season at the helm, head coach Jeff Mercer will surely experiment with his lineups to find a combination that works.

Indiana brings in Garret Manous, a righty from Munster, Indiana; Ethan Vecrumba, who bats lefty and throws righty; and Hunter Jesse, a pure lefty from South Lebanon, Ohio. These freshmen will likely get chances throughout the season to showcase their talent with such a young outfield crew.

The outfield has the potential to make or break Indiana this season. Coming off a Big Ten regular-season championship, the Hoosiers will have to have a lot of young talent step up if they want any chance at repeating.

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