Fall Report: IndianaFall Report
It isn’t easy to regularly make the NCAA tournament out of the Big Ten. The 13-team conference has become dramatically more competitive from top to bottom over the course of the last decade, and the Big Ten race has become an annual battle royale. Ten different Big Ten programs have made at least one regional since 2012, and new coaches helped transform Northwestern and Purdue from doormats to contenders in 2017, when both finished .500 or better in league play.
Against that backdrop, Indiana has emerged as the Big Ten’s most consistent winner, leading the conference with four regional appearances in the last five years, and five postseason trips since 2009. After Tracy Smith led the Hoosiers to the College World Series and then a national seed in back-to-back seasons in 2013-14, Chris Lemonis has been able to maintain a high standard in Bloomington, leading IU to regionals in two of his first three seasons at the helm, sandwiched around a third-place finish in the standings that did not lead to a regional in 2016. Heading into his fourth season, Lemonis says this year’s club is “probably our most talented group since we’ve been at Indiana as coaches,” and it’s loaded with experience, too. Plenty of holdovers remain from Indiana teams that played well but suffered gut-punch losses in regional openers in 2015 and 2017.
“We’ve got guys who’ve played in regionals and they’re hungry, they want more,” Lemonis said.
The Hoosiers never expected they’d get back sluggers Logan Sowers and Matt Lloyd plus third baseman Luke Miller, who was drafted as an eligible sophomore last year. Sowers (.291/.356/.536, 13 HR, 19 2B) and Lloyd (.301/.393/.554, 11 HR, 16 2B) both went undrafted despite putting up good numbers. Miller (.272/.331/.464, 10 HR) gives Indiana a third returnee who hit double-digit homers last year, giving this lineup a powerful veteran core.
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