A big week of Indiana baseball begins today in Omaha.
IU, the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, opens play at 6 p.m. ET against No. 8 Iowa. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network. The winner of today's game will play Thursday at 10 p.m. against the winner of No. 4 Minnesota vs. No. 5 Michigan. That game will also be televised on the BTN.
If the Hoosiers lose today, they would play at 2 p.m. ET Thursday against the loser of Michigan-Minnesota in the first elimination game.
IU will throw staff ace Joey DeNato today in the opener against the Hawkeyes. DeNato is 11-1 on the season with a 1.83 ERA. In Big Ten play he was 7-0 including a nine-inning no decision in his final outing last Thursday against Minnesota. Tuesday, DeNato was named the Big Ten's pitcher of the year.
Iowa will go with junior lefty Sasha Kuebel. Kuebel is 6-4 this season with a 4.43 ERA.
The Hoosiers were 3-0 this season against Iowa, outscoring the Hawkeyes 25-9 in those three games in early April in Iowa City.
IU (38-13, 21-3) enters the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 1 seed for the second year in a row. The Hoosiers are ranked anywhere from No. 8 to No. 18 in the various national polls entering the postseason. IU also is ranked No. 4 in the most recent RPI.
If the Hoosiers can repeat as the Big Ten Tournament champions for the second year in a row it would go a long way toward securing a top eight national seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. The significance of that is that IU would host a Regional and if it won, it would host a Super Regional. That much is guaranteed for a top eight national seed.
Both pitching and defense have been keys to Indiana's run toward the NCAA Tournament, but the pitching in particular has been outstanding. IU's team ERA of 2.22 is the best in the Big Ten and ranks fifth in the nation. In 24 Big Ten conference games, that ERA dropped to 1.53. All three of iU's starting pitchers (DeNato, Christian Morris and Brian Korte) rank in the top 10 in ERA in conference games.