BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana has won three consecutive series dating back to April 23 against Nebraska, and it has a chance to make it four as the Big Ten's last place team Minnesota comes to town.
The Hoosiers (22-26, 8-10 B1G) and Golden Gophers (14-31, 4-14 B1G) will begin their series at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, followed by Senior Day at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday and the series finale at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Indiana is coming off a 7-2 loss at Louisville on Tuesday, which followed a crucial series victory at Michigan on May 8. Minnesota claimed its second series victory of the season when it defeated Nebraska last weekend, but is still looking for its first road series win of the season.
Here's a breakdown of the pitching matchups and hitters to watch this series.
Friday, May 13: IU RHP Jack Perkins versus UM RHP Richie Holetz
Perkins has been Indiana's most reliable starter all season and boasts a team-low 4.30 ERA. Indiana lost Perkins' last start at Michigan, but the redshirt junior put the Hoosiers in a position to win. Perkins pitched six innings and allowed five hits, three runs, two walks and seven strikeouts. His last start at Bart Kaufman Field was on April 29 against Illinois when he allowed two runs in 5.2 innings of work. Perkins transferred to Indiana after three years at Louisville, and Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer thinks Perkins has developed into a true Friday starter.
Holetz will make just his third start of the season on Friday, entering the game with a 6.75 ERA in 28 innings of work. He has been used more often as a reliever, but the 6-foot-5 redshirt junior will have a chance to prove he belongs in the starting rotation. Holetz most recently pitched 3.1 innings out of the bullpen against Nebraska, allowing four hits and two earned runs. His best outing of the season came on April 27 against Saint Thomas when he pitched four scoreless innings.
Saturday, May 14: IU RHP Bradley Brehmer versus UM LHP Tom Skoro
Brehmer will take the mound for the Hoosiers with a 6.16 ERA across 10 starts and three relief appearances. His most recent outing featured five innings of work where Brehmer allowed eight hits, five runs, two walks and eight strikeouts. The senior right hander has allowed 19 runs in his last four starts, but earned the win against Nebraska when he allowed one run and struck out 11 batters in six innings. Brehmer enters the game with a 4-3 record, and the Hoosiers will need a solid outing from him to keep their Big Ten tournament hopes alive.
The Golden Gophers will hand the ball to Skoro on Saturday, who hasn't started a game all season. Skoro has strictly been used out of the bullpen, posting a 2.70 ERA in 26.2 innings. He has 29 strikeouts on the season and doesn't give away easy bases, as seen by just six walks all season. After not pitching more than two innings all season, Minnesota used him in a long reliever role against Nebraska when he allowed one earned run and four hits in 4.2 innings.
Sunday, May 15: TBA versus UM RHP Aidan Maldonado
It's not surprising to see Indiana leave the Sunday start up in the air. Mercer hasn't announced a Sunday starter until game day many times throughout the season, and it's likely he'll evaluate the team's bullpen usage throughout the series to make a decision. Over the last few series, it's been common for Sunday to be a bullpen day for the Hoosiers. Luke Hayden started last Sunday's game at Michigan, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Braydon Tucker or Grant Holderfield take the mound on Sunday.
Minnesota's Sunday starter Maldonado boasts more starting experience than the first two pitchers combined, making 11 starts and one relief appearance this season. Maldonado enters the game with a 4.06 ERA in 62 innings. He's more of a strikeout threat than the first two starters, seen by his 75 strikeouts, but he's had some control issues with 30 walks on the season. Maldonado's last start came on May 8 against Nebraska when he allowed five hits, one run, one walk and eight strikeouts across seven innings.
Hitters to Watch:
Indiana has been led lately by a trio of freshmen looking to make history. Carter Mathison, Josh Pyne and Brock Tibbitts can become the first freshmen trio in Indiana history to each record 40-plus RBI in a season if Tibbitts drives in one more run in the final seven regular season games. Mathison and Pyne have won or shared two of the last three Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards, and Tibbitts is third on the team in both total bases (92) and slugging percentage (26).
In the other dugout, Minnesota doesn't have a very deep lineup – only three regular starters have a batting average above .230 – but the Gophers still have talent at the top. Sophomore outfielder Brett Bateman leads the team with .321 batting average. He hasn't hit a home run and has just 10 RBI, but he's getting on base nearly 40 percent of the time. Jack Kelly is the team leader with 37 RBI, and he's second among Minnesota hitters with a .314 batting average. And while he only bats .226, Chase Stanke provides the pop for Minnesota with 10 home runs and a .503 slugging percentage.
Indiana is currently seventh place in the Big Ten, and a series win would certainly help the Hoosiers lock up a spot in the Big Ten tournament, where the top eight teams qualify.
Stories related to Indiana baseball:
- BIG TEN FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK: Carter Mathison broke the Indiana freshman home run record on Sunday, and on Wednesday he was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week along with Iowa's Keaton Anthony. Mathison joins Josh Pyne as the second Hoosier to win this award in 2022. CLICK HERE
- INDIANA FALLS TO NO. 7 LOUISVILLE: Indiana jumped on Louisville with a first-inning run, but the No. 7 Cardinals were able to withstand this early pressure by taking advantage of costly errors and manufacturing runs. CLICK HERE
- THIRD STRAIGHT SERIES VICTORY: After losing game one, the Indiana bats caught fire to combine for 19 runs in games two and three. The Hoosiers have won three straight series as they battle to qualify for the Big Ten tournament. CLICK HERE
- PERKINS' WARRIOR MINDSET: After overcoming Tommy John surgery and an up-and-down career at Louisville, Jack Perkins found a home at Indiana through his faith in God. He's now Indiana's Friday starter, leading the Hoosiers through confidence and toughness. CLICK HERE
- INDIANA TAKES SERIES OVER ILLINOIS: Indiana scored eight runs in the fifth inning of Sunday's rubber match against Illinois. Freshman Carter Mathison belted two home runs, and Reese Sharp tossed 4.1 scoreless innings in relief to claim a crucial series victory. CLICK HERE