The pitching staff has been a strong staple for the Indiana baseball team over the last two years. This year is no different.
With experienced players returning and talented freshmen in the mix, Hoosiers first-year head coach Chris Lemonis has excess pitching that has some of his veteran players calling it the deepest staff they’ve seen in their time at IU.
“Believe it or not, that’s a good problem to have,” Lemonis said. “We just have a lot of experience back in the pitching staff.”
As of IU media day a few weeks ago, he had six pitchers in mind who had a shot at starting.
With four starting spots, naturally there will be some competition. Lemonis said there would be three regular starters and one mid-week starter.
However, Harrison doesn’t view the situation as a competitive one between him and the rest of his teammates.
“It’s been fun,” he said. “I don’t think we’re competing with each other, I think we’re all rooting for each other. We can all do the same job and do it equally well.”
Harrison went 6-0 last season and posted an ERA of 2.21 as a reliever. His six wins were tied for second-most with Morris.
Morris is poised for an even bigger role after experiencing significant growth his sophomore year.
Morris went 6-3 with an ERA of 2.04 last year after going 1-1 with an ERA 4.68 his freshman year. He started 14 games – 12 more than his freshman year – and made 16 appearances.
“That maturity and that experience level is huge,” Lemonis said. “Once you’ve been out there and you’ve done it. He’s a really strong-armed kid and he has still got room to grow.”
Effross was the team’s closer last season, stepping in for redshirt senior Ryan Halstead who was lost for the season in the Hoosiers’ home opener. Kelzer was chosen by the Yankees in last year’s MLB Draft, but chose to return to school. Baragar and Hobbie are in their first year with the program.
Halstead and redshirt junior Kyle Hart are key returning players who suffered season-ending injuries last season.
Halstead will be available at the beginning of the season and is expected to be Indiana’s closer. Halstead, the program’s all-time leader in saves, suffered a season-ending knee injury in just his fourth appearance last season.
“It’s huge to have a guy with that much experience,” Lemonis said. “The injury was really a tough injury, but the kid worked so hard that you’re seeing a kid whose body is better and stronger than ever, and I think his stuff is a little better than ever. To have that ability the first night to hand the ball to a guy who’s pitched in so many big environments, it’s big for us. I know as a new manager, that bullpen is a huge part.”
Hart will not be available at the start of the season because he’s still rehabbing an elbow injury sustained last year which required Tommy John surgery. Lemonis said he hopes Hart can start appearing in games by mid-March.
Still, Hart is confident in his pitching staff.
“I want to be cautiously optimistic because you never know where you’re at until you get 10, 15, 20 games in and your guys have been battle tested,” Hart said.
“With that being said, I think we’re stacked, I really do. I think this is a better staff than any of the staffs with DeNato, with (Brian) Korte, with (Aaron) Slegers. I think we’re better. I think we’re deeper.”
Though Hart won’t be playing in the season opener, Indiana has plenty of pitchers on its staff who will make up for his absence.
“We don’t really know who’s going to be where,” Halstead said. “(But) we have strength, we have depth, we have experience from a bunch of guys who have done it before so I definitely think it’s going to help with our success this year.”