After back-to-back extra innings losses over the last four days, it would be understandable if members of the IU baseball team were frustrated at the moment.
But it’s time to move on.
While the last two games have been bitter pills to swallow, all of IU’s goals are still in front of them, and they will have a chance to capture the first objective in its final 2019 Big Ten series beginning on Thursday.
Indiana welcomes Rutgers into Bart Kaufman Field for a three games series today. The Hoosiers will need help, but a strong series against the Scarlet Knights will leave the door open for a league crown.
Here are the current league standings with one weekend remaining:
First place Michigan travels to Nebraska this weekend for its final series. The Huskers are still in the hunt for a Big Ten title as well. In fact, five teams enter the weekend with at least a chance to finish tied for a Big Ten title before the application of the league’s tie breaking rules.
What’s clear is that either a series win by Michigan or a series loss by Indiana will eliminate the Hoosiers from contention for a title.
Alternatively, there are multiple scenarios that can result in IU being crowned as the Big Ten regular season champion:
1. Indiana wins two of three against Rutgers / Michigan is swept by Nebraska.
This result will clearly put IU on top of Michigan in the standings, but the Hoosiers would end up with company. Along with Nebraska, sweeps by Illinois and Minnesota would also find them joining the first place party at 16-8.
While any team that ends up tied atop the league standings will likely claim a title in their record books, there are procedures to determine the true league champion for the purpose of determining seeding for next week’s Big Ten Tournament in Nebraska.
The tie breaking rules go through a number of variables such as head-to-head, RPI, and common opponents, and things get really messy when more than two teams are tied. You can read the complete rules here if you are feeling particularly ambitious.
2. Indiana sweeps Rutgers / Michigan loses two of three (or is swept) at Nebraska.
This outcome will not only put IU on top of Michigan in the league standings, but it will also put the Hoosiers beyond the reach of Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska. Accordingly, this is the one clear path to an undisputed outright league title.
Rutgers does not have a series win this season against any of the five teams still in contention in the league. In fact, the only Big Ten series that the Scarlet Knights did not lose this year were against the bottom three teams in the standings. The only two series that Rutgers won (Michigan State and Purdue) were played at their home park in New Jersey.
An Indiana sweep, and at least a series win, is clearly attainable.
After going deep into the bullpen against Louisville on Tuesday, IU will look to get extensive work out of their top three starters against Rutgers. With the Scarlet Knights hitting just .238 (11th/Big Ten) in conference games, the Hoosiers will have a good chance to do just that.
Rutgers has a fairly strong group of starting pitchers. It will be incumbent on Indiana to get through to the Scarlet Knight bullpen where they will have an even better opportunity to do damage.
- Thursday, 6:05 p.m. vs. Rutgers (Milto, 7-5, 3.24)
- Friday, 6:05 p.m. vs Rutgers (BTN) (Gordon, 5-4, 3.42)
- Saturday, 12:05 p.m. vs. Rutgers (BTN) (Saalfrank, 7-1, 2.40)
Indiana leads the all-time series with Rutgers 7-2 and defeated the Scarlet Knights 7-6 in their lone meeting last year.
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