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Indiana baseball picks up first win of season at Karbach Round Rock Classic

Indiana baseball had the chance to erase the series last week against Clemson when the team competed in the Karbach Round Rock Classic this past weekend in Texas.

Despite losing two out of the three games they played, the boys of spring finally got in the win column after four straight Ls to begin the 2022 campaign.

Indiana began the tournament with a tilt against the No. 2 team in the country, the Arkansas Razorbacks. Despite the clear mismatch on paper, Indiana was very competitive in this one, but ended up on the wrong side of the 5-2 final score.

Starter John-Biagio Modugno tossed a career-high five innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on five hits while also striking out three. The Razorbacks put up a three-spot in the top of the fourth to extend the lead 4-0 after scoring one run in the first inning. The junior took the loss and dropped to 0-2 on the season, which seems a bit harsh given the competition he’s faced.

The bullpen was once again lights-out in the first game of the series, pitching four innings of one-run ball, and that run was unearned. Freshman Grant Holderfield and senior Bradley Brehmer each pitched two innings in relief. There’s a growing sense that the bullpen is going to be very strong this season for the Hoosiers given how much trust there is in a lot of the guys to throw multiple innings in relief. Given the number of new faces on this team, head coach Jeff Mercer is figuring out the way his pitching staff is going to look via trial-and-error, as we’ve seen plenty of pitchers who are usually starters come out of the ‘pen.

“I was really proud of our pitchers,” Mercer said after the game. “We took care of the ball for the most part, had a few miscues defensively that cost us a few runs, but on the mound it was much more of what we would have anticipated coming into the season.”

The pitchers did not get much help behind them, as some defensive mishaps led to extended innings and eventually a deficit that was too much to overcome. Mercer also mentioned how the cold weather may have played a factor, as Indiana had some trouble finding the strike zone and the sub 30-degree weather didn’t make it easy for the fielders to keep the blood flowing.

While there wasn’t a whole lot offensively for Indiana, freshman Josh Pyne had two hits and the only Hoosier RBI. Bobby Whalen reached base three times as well. The Arkansas starter, Connor Noland, threw six quality innings of one-run ball to quiet an Indiana offense that has struggled mightily so far.

Still, no Indiana fan should complain about this result. Competing with the second-best ranked team in the country after an abysmal first series is a sign that things are moving in the right direction.

The offensive onslaught we were all waiting for came on Saturday, when Indiana won its first game in blowout fashion, 12-4 versus the Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns. A seven-run third inning highlighted by far Indiana’s best all-around performance of the young season.

“We were able to finish a ballgame for the first time,” Mercer said. 

It’s worth noting that Indiana had the lead in the mid-to-late innings of the second and third games against Clemson, but saw those leads evaporate quickly.

After jumping out to a 2-0 in the top of the second courtesy of a Matthew Ellis solo home run and a Carter Mathison RBI double, Indiana batted around in the third, scoring seven off of two hits and four walks. Three ULL errors allowed the Hoosiers to open the floodgates. The best part about this inning? Two-out hits leading to runs. Tyler Doanes, Phillip Glasser and Whalen all drove in two-out RBIs to cap the scoring in the inning.

Indiana added four more in the later innings, and Morgan Colopy hit a solo shot to deep center in the sixth to put Indiana in double digits. All nine starters reached base safely off of nine hits, seven walks and one hit batter. Whalen led the Hoosiers with three RBIs.

As good as the offense was, the pitching was just as good. Redshirt junior Jack Perkins threw five innings, allowing two runs and two hits to earn his first victory as a Hoosier. The right-hander struck out seven Ragin’ Cajuns. After a brutal first four games to begin the season, it was a great way to earn victory number one on the season.

The finale of the tournament saw Indiana on the other side of a blowout, at the hands of the Stanford Cardinal. After scoring a dozen the day before, Indiana gave up a baker’s dozen while getting shut out for the second time in six games, as the game ended after just six and a half innings due to a mercy rule.

Starting pitcher Reese Sharp allowed five runs and six hits while getting only 10 outs in his first career start for the Cream and Crimson. The Cardinal scored in four of the six innings they came to the plate, and Indiana’s struggles to keep runners off the basepaths continued.

Ellis and Colopy each collected two hits, while Glasser picked up his fifth hit on the year. Still, Cardinal starter Drew Dowd was dominant, striking out eight over four scoreless innings to pick up his second win. Joey Dixon followed him with three scoreless frames, getting credit for the save despite the lopsided score.

Indiana goes 1-2 on the weekend while learning a lot more about themselves. There’s a lot to take away from the Texas tournament, given the competition and climate. Arkansas and Stanford are considered two of the best teams in their respective conferences, and temperatures below 30 are rare if you’ve never been to Texas.

Biggest takeaways

The inconsistent offense is back from last season, as is the need for the Hoosiers to find a third starter. Let’s not forget that last season, Indiana went 2-7 in its final nine games as its NCAA bid slipped right through its fingers, while averaging less than three runs a game. This inconsistency has reappeared in the early stages of 2022, something that is very worrisome for the Hoosier faithful.

On the pitching side, it seems like Modugno and Perkins are set as the top two arms in the rotation, but the third starter is still unknown. Last week against Clemson it was Nathan Stahl who got the ball, and this series it was Reese Sharp who got the pill. Neither were overly impressive, but someone who was much more impressive out of the ‘pen was Brehmer. Many thought he would be the Sunday starter at the beginning of the season. Regardless, sooner rather than later, finding the third arm would be optimal, and there’s another weekend series on the horizon at Missouri State. Indiana has quite the gauntlet beginning in just a few weeks, and while most of those matchups are at home, the need to find the third starter is crucial moving forward.

Mercer has made it clear that he wants his guys to incrementally improve every game and every series. The Indiana head coach said he’s confident that he saw that this past weekend, and his ballclub will have four games this week to get even better, beginning with their home opener Tuesday against the Miami (OH) RedHawks. It will be the first time the Hoosiers will welcome a full capacity into Bart Kaufman Field since March 11, 2020 as they open their March 2022 slate. First pitch is slated for 4 p.m.

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