Indiana looked to have found its groove after a dominating 17-2 mercy-rule win versus Purdue on March 4, but a 1-2 weekend versus San Diego revealed inconsistencies that still exist on this team. The Hoosier bats stayed hot in the first game of Saturday’s double-header, but did not have a hit until the seventh inning in game two.
San Diego’s pitching staff limited the Indiana lineup just enough on Sunday and the IU bullpen struggled mightily, leading to a 13-5 win to clinch the series victory. Let’s break down the major storylines from a 1-2 weekend from the Hoosiers.
Errors remain a real issue
After a successful 2-1 weekend at the Keith LeClair Classic a week ago, the only negative head coach Jeff Mercer could come up with was sloppy defensive play. Mercer was confident these issues would naturally be fixed as a result of more outdoor practices as the weather begins to warm up, but it looks like the Hoosiers will need a few more weeks to straighten up on defense.
In Saturday’s 9-2 victory in game one of the doubleheader, Indiana’s bats did enough to claim a victory, but an error kept it from being a more impressive win for Indiana. In the seventh inning a Jordan Fucci error led to a run for San Diego and also ended Gabe Bierman’s day on the mound.
While Fucci hasn’t had much time in left field this season, Mercer needs his bat in the lineup. Indiana had built a large enough lead for this run to ultimately become irrelevant, but it shows that IU still has a ways to go defensively.
The Hoosiers dug themselves into an early hole in game two of the doubleheader with two unearned runs in the fourth inning. It was a pitchers duel through three innings, with neither side getting a hit until the top of the fourth inning when San Diego took advantage of Indiana errors. Tommy Sommer was pulled after three no-hit innings, and the Indiana defense and bullpen did the team no favors in the remaining innings.
San Diego catcher Adam Kerner led off the fourth inning with a double, and a Jeremy Houston error opened up the inning for San Diego, scoring two unearned runs. While Mercer is confident that Indiana will clean up its defense soon, losses like game two on Saturday won’t sit well with Mercer moving forward.
Emergence of Cooper Trinkle
To this point of the season, the Hoosiers have been able to rely on the consistency of players such as Elijah Dunham, Grant Richardson, Drew Ashley and Cole Barr. Along with the more recent success of Fucci, they have powered the Indiana offense. But the Hoosiers have proven to be much more dangerous when hitters towards the bottom of the order begin to produce.
And this weekend versus San Diego, that player was Cooper Trinkle. Trinkle transferred to Indiana this season after playing two years at John A. Logan College. Mercer has been successful in his recruiting from John A. Logan after a successful season from pitcher Tanner Gordon last year in his only season as a Hoosier.
Drew Ashley has been a mainstay at second base for Indiana for over two seasons, but the recent success of Trinkle has forced Mercer to shift Indiana’s lineup and defensive positioning. On Saturday, Ashley was Indiana’s DH in the first game, and played both catcher and left field in game two. In Sunday’s game, Ashley started in left field and hit a solo home run.
The versatility of Ashley has allowed Mercer to keep Trinkle in the lineup, which has benefitted the Hoosiers overall. Trinkle led Indiana with three hits in game one on Saturday and also scored two runs and had one RBI. Trinkle again led the Hoosiers in hits in game two, going 2-for-4 at the plate, but it wasn’t enough for an IU victory. The junior went 1-for-5 with one run scored on Sunday, but even another great day at the plate would have likely proven irrelevant as the Indiana pitching staff gave up 13 runs.
Moving forward, Trinkle has proven that he belongs in the Indiana lineup, and luckily for Indiana, Ashley is versatile enough to make this happen. On the season, Trinkle is batting .364 in 22 at bats with eight hits, two doubles and six RBIs.
Subpar weekend for majority of pitching staff
Gabe Bierman was a bright spot in game one on Saturday, but Indiana was hurt by mostly mediocre outings from the starters, as well
as the bullpen. Bierman pitched 6 1/3 innings, and gave up one earned run on five hits, two walks and five strikeouts. It looks like Bierman is starting to find a groove on the mound, stringing together a couple nice outings the past few weeks, but the same cannot be said about the majority of the IU pitching staff.
Sommer threw three no-hit innings in game two on Saturday, but three walks and a hit by pitch boosted his pitch count and cut his outing short. In this game, Sommer did not allow any runs and struck out three batters. Matt Litwicki replaced Sommer to begin the fourth inning and managed to pitch four innings.
Litwicki’s final line was four innings, two runs (one of which was unearned) a walk and three strikeouts. His ability to go deep into the game helped save a few bullpen arms, but allowed San Diego to take the lead. San Diego really blew the game open when David Platt replaced Litwicki to begin the eighth inning. Platt pitched 1 1/3 innings and gave up three earned runs (and one unearned run) on four hits, one walk and two strikeouts.
While two of San Diego’s six runs were unearned and scored as a result of defensive errors, the IU pitchers were unable to command the strike zone. In Sunday’s loss, Braydon Tucker took the mound and was constantly hit by the San Diego lineup. Tucker pitched 4 2/3 innings, but gave up 10 hits and three walks, which resulted in five runs for San Diego. One of San Diego’s runs came off of another Indiana error, but it is safe to say this was one of Tucker’s weaker outings of the season.
Grant Sloan relieved Tucker with two outs in the fifth inning, but was unable to limit a hot San Diego lineup. Sloan managed just two-thirds of an inning and gave up two runs on one hit, two walks and two strikeouts.
The game was already decided, but Alex Franklin continued the bullpen struggles in the eighth inning, giving up three earned runs on three hits in one inning. Staying true to the weekend theme, four runs scored off Franklin, but only three were earned after a Grant Richardson throwing error. To finish things off, Ty Bothwell was roughed up in the ninth, giving up two runs on one hit.
Indiana has two midweek games coming up at Evansville on Tuesday and at home versus Cincinnati on Wednesday. Theses midweek games will provide an opportunity for some of Indiana’s bullpen arms to show what they can do, as Indiana will likely save Bierman, Sommer and Tucker for the weekend series versus Memphis starting Friday.
Thirteen of Indiana’s next 14 games will be at Bart Kaufman Field, which could help the Hoosiers settle into a rhythm. Mercer has remained steadfast in his belief that Indiana’s defense will improve as a result of simply playing and practicing outside more often. With five games approaching this upcoming week, limiting errors will continue to be important as Indiana moves on with an 8-5 record.