Indiana Baseball Wins Outright Big Ten Title

The Jeff Mercer era is off to a good start in Bloomington.  Less than a year after being hired by Indiana, Mercer watched as his team made a dog pile in the infield after clinching the school’s first Big Ten title since 2014.

In a must win situation, IU finished off the sweep of Rutgers with a 13-3 win on Saturday.

The Hoosiers dominated the series this weekend at Bart Kaufman field, outscoring Rutgers 31-12 in the three games.

A six running fourth inning from IU’s potent offense blew things open on Saturday, and another strong start from Andrew Saalfrank (8-1) put the clamps on the Scarlet Knights.

The conference crown marks the seventh time Indiana has won the Big Ten in its program history.  The Hoosiers sent off seven players as league champs on Senior Day at its final home game of the year.

Rutgers jumped out to a 1-0 first inning lead with two hits in its first two at bats, as Saalfrank managed to work his way out of a bases loaded jam to avoid further damage.

Scarlet Knight starter Tommy Genuario had IU’s number early, holding the Hoosiers hitless through the first three innings.

But the Indiana bats came alive in the fourth.  Known for their power, IU instead hit Genuario with a wave of singles to break things open.  The Hoosiers had four singles, two walks and a double to jump out to a 6-1 lead and put the conference crown within their sights.

Rutgers responded with two runs in the top of the fifth, but IU got back to what they do best as Cole Barr hit a two run homer in the bottom of the fifth to stretch the lead back out to 8-3.

The Barr home run tied him for the Big Ten lead with teammate Matt Lloyd with 16.  It was IU’s 90th home run of the season.

From there IU didn’t let up, scoring two more in the seventh and three in the eighth to put things out of reach.

Freshman pitcher Gabe Bierman delivered a strikeout in the top of the ninth to finish off Rutgers.

For Mercer, an Indiana native who has referred to being the head coach of IU as a dream job, it was a fitting exclamation point on a highly successful first season in Bloomington.

Indiana (36-19, 17-7) finished a half game ahead of Michigan.

Mercer and his Hoosiers are not done yet of course.

IU will be the No. 1 seed in next week’s Big Ten Tournament in Omaha, and with a strong showing there might earn the right to host a NCAA Tournament Regional the following week.

You can hear Mercer’s thoughts on the game below.

(Video via Jim Coyle/Indiana Sports Beat)

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