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Indiana Baseball wants to bring an explosive offense to Maryland

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After Indiana baseball defeated Indiana State University 16-7 on Tuesday night, head coach Jeff Mercer said the Hoosiers looked loose and relaxed.

The results this season have been mostly disappointing. Indiana (16-14) has lost at least a handful of games it could have won, with bullpen collapses and long stretches of anemic offense proving too much to overcome.

But now Mercer believes the Hoosiers have begun to shift into another gear. They drive to College Park, Maryland, this weekend to face the defending Big Ten champion Terrapins (20-8) in a three-game set that begins Friday at 6 p.m.

Junior catcher and first baseman Brock Tibbitts left Tuesday's game early in the game with an apparent leg injury, and Mercer did not provide a timetable for his return. While Tibbitts' absence would hurt, Indiana has one of the Big Ten's best offenses and is red hot right now.

Freshman second baseman Jasen Oliver's bat was a revelation for an Indiana team that ranked third in the conference with a .300 batting average. Oliver, who lost weight Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors. He is now sixth in the rankings as of last week as he looks to extend his 12-game streak.

While juniors Carter Mathison and Josh Pyne have taken steps backwards from last year – albeit the latter hit a go-ahead home run to help beat Indiana State – sophomores Devin Taylor and Tyler Cerny stood out.

Taylor, the 2023 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, leads Indiana with a .377 batting average and ranks second on the team with six home runs. Pitchers have moved away from attacking the lefty power hitter, and he and Mathison are tied for sixth in the conference with 24 walks this year.

Although Cerny's glove has been a rollercoaster at shortstop – his 13 errors rank second in the Big Ten – his bat has been a crucial part of Indiana's offense. Cerny's 36 RBIs are tied for the top of the conference, and his six home runs and team-leading 11 doubles make him a lethal option in the two-hole rankings tournament.

As for Maryland, the offense is led by two brothers hitting back-to-back in the lineup. Junior Eddie Hacoopian leads the team with a .373 average and 41 hits.

His younger brother Chris Hacopian has shown a little more strength. The freshman leads the Terrapins with seven home runs, a 1.078 OPS and a .607 slugging percentage.

Although Maryland's offense lacks explosiveness on paper, it pulled off a thrilling 13-12 win over the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and demonstrated its ability to score runs in bunches.

Game 1:6 p.m. Friday – Indiana LHP Ty Bothwell vs. Maryland RHP Kenny Lippman

Bothwell: 3-1, 4.93 ERA, 34.2 IP, 33 SO, 9 BB, .243 BAA

The college-educated southpaw may have his best performance of the season on March 29 against Butler University. Bothwell pitched eight innings of two-run, eight strikeout ball without drawing a single walk.

Lippman: 1-2, 5.46 ERA, 29.2 IP, 27 SO, 18 BB, .283 BAA

In Lippman's last time out, on March 29 against Michigan, the graduate student was targeted in 3 1/3 innings of work. Lippman allowed seven hits and five runs while issuing two walks as Maryland emerged victorious 11-9.

Game 2: Saturday, 2 p.m. – Indiana RHP Connor Foley vs. Maryland RHP Logan Koester

Foley: 3-1, 3.75 ERA, 36 IP, 54 SO, 23 BB, .152 BAA

Foley has been Indiana's shutdown ace all season, and he was strong in his last start against Butler on March 30. In 5 2/3 innings, the sophomore gave up three hits and three runs while striking out nine.

Koester: 4-2, 4.54 ERA, 19 SO, 13 BB, .240 BAA

Koester's final start against the Wolverines on March 30 continued Maryland's inconsistent pitching weekend. The redshirt senior lasted just 1 1/3 innings, giving up six hits, eight runs and two walks.

Game 3: 1 p.m. Sunday – Indiana TBD vs. Maryland RHP Joey McMannis

McMannis: 0-0, 3.76 ERA, 26.1 IP, 19 SO, 16 BB, .237 BAA

After tough starts from Lippman and Koester, freshman McMannis had a solid outing against the Wolverines on March 31. In four innings, McMannis gave up seven hits but held the damage to three runs while striking out five.

Follow reporters Matt Press (@MattPress23) and Nick Rodecap (@nickrodecap) for updates throughout the Indiana baseball season.