Yesterday it was the pitching. Today it was the hitting. After scoring 15, 8, and 17 runs in the first three games of this eight-game spring break swing, the Hoosiers could only muster 3 this morning against the Panthers of Eastern Illinois at Henley Field in Lakeland, Florida. Chris Squires got the start on the mound and pitched well for seven innings (giving up only 2 runs) but struggled in the eighth as he gave up 4 runs. For the game, Squires threw 7.1 innings and gave up 6 runs on 18 hits (no, that is not a misprint) with 3 strikeouts and 2 walks. Fortunately for Squires, the defense came to play, committing no errors and turning 3 double plays.
At the plate, Josh Phegley and Sterling Mack each homered, and Chris Hervey had 2 hits. No other Hoosier had more than 1 hit as the team combined for only 7 hits for the game. Coming into the game, Mack only had 6 at-bats on the season, so it was nice to see him take advantage of this opportunity by taking one yard. The team clearly has a lot of depth in the outfield this season with Kipp Schutz, Evan Crawford, Chris Hervey, T.C. Knipp and Michael Earley (and even Josh Phegley when he doesn’t catch) all vying for playing time, so it may be difficult for Mack to get consistent at-bats this season. However, it is always a plus to have depth off the bench, and hopefully Mack can contribute in this regard moving forward. After the bullpen struggled mightily against Northern Iowa yesterday, it was good to see freshman Drew Leininger come in and get 2 quick outs in relief of Squires.
The loss was the third in a row for the Hoosiers and drops IU’s record to 6-10 on the season. In what was expected to be a breakout season for the Hoosier baseball program, IU is really struggling in the non-conference portion of its schedule. The team has hit, pitched, and fielded well at different times throughout the season, so the pieces to the puzzle are clearly there. Let’s hope the team can finally put those pieces together and close out this Florida trip with a string of victories in preparation for the conference season, which begins the weekend after next with a three-game set at home against Minnesota. While the season is still young, IU needs to start playing better baseball to have any realistic chance at winning the Big Ten this season.
Next game: 3/18 (tomorrow) at 6:30pm EST at Stetson (6-12) in Deland, FL.