Butler baseball set to square off against in-state rival Indiana

Duncan Hewitt rounds third base during a game last season. The baseball team takes on Indiana University in Bloomington on Feb. 27. Jimmy Lafakis/Collegian file photo.

DREW SANDIFER | STAFF REPORTER | dsandife@butler.edu

While both Butler and Indiana usually have all their chips in their basketball programs this time of year, an intriguing matchup will take place between the schools’ baseball teams.

On Feb. 27, the two will play at Bart Kaufman Field in Bloomington. This will be the fourth consecutive season the teams have played each other, including a three-game series last season. Butler is 1-4 in that span.

While both programs are coming off successful campaigns in their own right, they have seen their fair share of struggles to begin this season.

Last year, Butler went to the Big East Tournament for the first time in program history and tied a school record with 34 wins. Indiana reached the NCAA Regionals for the fifth time in six years and had 40 wins for the third time in seven years.

While Butler has been steadily improving under third-year coach Dave Schrage, the program has a long way to reach where the Hoosiers sit. Butler had one player get drafted last year, while Indiana had four.

However, that is not to say that Butler is incapable of taking down its larger in-state foe. In fact, Butler baseball has had some recent success against the Hoosiers.

The Bulldogs took down Indiana in 2017 and were one run away from taking a game in their series against the then-No. 11 ranked Hoosiers last year.

Butler started the year 2-3. They took two of three against Rider in their opening series, but lost to Rutgers last Friday and New Orleans on Feb. 24.

The Bulldogs’ Kyle Smith has impressed early on in his debut season, being named the first Big East Player of the Week this year.

Indiana has faced similar struggles under first-year coach Jeff Mercer. Indiana’s skipper last year, Chris Lemonis, left for Mississippi State, so the Hoosiers grabbed Mercer from Wright State, who made an appearance in the NCAA Regionals.

Indiana is 2-4 in the young season, having played all their games in the state of Tennessee. They took two of three from the Memphis Tigers before being swept by the University of Tennessee.

Among Indiana’s struggles, their offense may be the most glaring. Not a single player has more than five hits, with their best batter by average only hitting .294. If the Butler pitcher can get on a roll, this could be a low-scoring game where every runner on base can turn the game on its head.

For schools that are focused on NCAA Tournament resumes of basketball teams, this game may not garner a lot of attention. However, this is a big opportunity for either team to get a win that could provide momentum for the rest of the season.

Butler will travel to Bloomington for this game, the Hoosiers’ home opener. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Follow Drew on Twitter: @drew_sandifer

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