Jeff Mercer is set to begin his second season as the head man for the Indiana baseball program.
The Hoosiers will get away from the cold temperatures in Bloomington and make their way south to start the season.
IU will open with three games against No. 11 LSU this weekend before traveling to Mobile, Alabama where they will face UT-Martin, South Alabama, and Siena.
Indiana at No. 11 LSU (Stream — Watch ESPN)
Alex Box Stadium (10,326), Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Friday, Feb. 14 – 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 15 – Doubleheader starting at 2:00 p.m. (updated due to weather)
Coming to IU from Wright State in July of 2018, the bar was set high at Indiana by Mercer’s predecessors.
Mercer replaced Chris Lemonis, who compiled a record of 141-91-2 in four seasons at Indiana. The Hoosiers reached the NCAA Tournament in three out of his four seasons.
Prior to Lemonis, Tracy Smith took IU to three NCAA Tournaments in a six year run that included the 2013 College World Series.
In 2019, Mercer and the Hoosiers showed no signs of dropping off. They finished with a record of 37-23, including 17-7 in Big Ten conference play. That conference mark earned Indiana the 2019 Big Ten Regular season title, Big Ten Coach of the Year honors for Mercer, and a postseason appearance in the Louisville Regional of the NCAA Tournament.
The 2020 campaign starts with a formidable foe.
LSU is a traditional national power, with six NCAA Tournament titles to its credit over the last 30 years.
Mercer knows that opening the 2020 season on the road against a ranked team will help his club grow and benefit them as the season progresses.
“Being able to be in big environments and to be able to play pressure packed baseball really helps to shape the character of you and your toughness,” Mercer said. “And at the same time as a coaching staff you want to know where the weaknesses are.”
In the preseason polls, Indiana is also receiving votes in the Collegiate Baseball, NCBWA and USA Today rankings.
With ten players selected in the 2019 Major League Baseball draft, Indiana has a lot of shoes to fill throughout its roster. With that in mind, Indiana was voted by the Big Ten coaches to finish fifth in the league.
Mercer isn’t going to let any early challenges become an excuse.
“No one will put an asterisk next to the game and say you played a bunch of freshmen and sophomores,” Mercer said. “No one will say you guys didn’t have experience, so we’ll spot you three runs. It doesn’t work that way.”
A solid core remains in the lineup for IU, headlined by Cole Barr, Elijah Dunham, Grant Richardson and Drew Ashley. But Indiana took major hits to its pitching rotation, with all three weekend starters moving on to the professional ranks.
If its starting pitching can become steady and reliable over the course of the season, the Hoosiers should be able to contend in the Big Ten once again.
MEET THE HOOSIERS
Here are the probable starters and other key contributors for the opening weekend in Baton Rouge.
Catcher – Collin Hopkins (.206 / 0 HR / 10 RBI) — Western Kentucky
First Base – Jordan Fucci (.308 / 15 HR / 49 RBI) — Samford
Second Base – Grant Macciocchi (.083 / 0 HR / 0 RBI) — Kentucky
Shortstop – Jeremy Houston (.210 / 0 HR / 10 RBI)
Third Base – Cole Barr (.255 / 17 HR/ 51 RBI)
CF – Grant Richardson (.264 / 9 HR / 37 RBI)
RF – Ethan Vecrumba (Freshman)
LF – Elijah Dunham (.310 / 8 HR / 29 RBI)
DH – Drew Ashley (.284 / 4 HR / 32 RBI)
Probable Weekend Starting Pitchers
Tommy Sommer (4-3 / 3.40 ERA)
Gabe Bierman (4-0 / 3.56 ERA)
Braydon Tucker (0-0 / 2.70 ERA)
Key Relief Pitchers
Connor Manous (2.68 ERA / 2 saves)
Grant Sloan (5.01 ERA)
Cal Krueger (5.50 ERA)
You can follow us on Twitter: @daily_hoosier
Find us on Facebook: thedailyhoosier
The Daily Hoosier –“Where Indiana fans assemble when they’re not at Assembly”
Seven ways to support completely free IU coverage at no additional cost to you.