Nebraska Baseball: Huskers Take On Indiana Hoosiers

David McGee

Nebraska baseball takes on the Indiana Hoosiers in a pivotal Big Ten series that determines which team stays in the race for the season conference title. The Huskers hope to remain in contention for a NCAA tourney at-large bid - a series loss will put a huge dent in those hopes. This is your game thread - JOIN CN ONLINE!

Saturday, May 4 - 6:05 p.m.

Probable Starters: RHP Christian DeLeon (5-3) vs. LHP Joey DeNato (6-1)

TV: Big Ten Network

Stream: BTN2Go.com

Radio: Husker Sports Network

What a huge series for Nebraska baseball.... well, Indiana baseball too, but who the hell cares about them?

When the weekend is over, one of these two teams will remain in the race for the conference season title (counts for little), but more importantly, at stake for Nebraska is the hope of getting an at-large NCAA bid should they fail to win the Big Ten tourney and get the automatic qualification bid. Should Nebraska lose this series or get swept (God forbid), they can most likely kiss their at-large hopes goodbye.

Minnesota will stay in first place in the Big Ten Conference, regardless of the outcome of the Nebraska-Indiana series, as they beat Penn State 11-2 yesterday and (at the time of this writing) today, the Gophers are ahead 7-1 in the fourth innings.

Below is the athletic department's scouting update on the Hoosiers. What it doesn't contain is information on how Nebraska beats Indiana. If the Huskers want this series, they're going to have to keep the Hoosiers from getting early leads -

THIS IS YOUR GAME THREAD!!!

GO BIG RED!!!!

Scouting the No. 16 Indiana Hoosiers

Picked as the preseason favorite to win the conference by the league coaches, the Indiana Hoosiers come to Lincoln ranked as high at 16th in the national polls.

The Hoosiers and Huskers are tied for second in the Big Ten with 11-4 records, while the Hoosiers carry a conference-best 34-8 overall record in the weekend.

Indiana posted an 18-game winning streak earlier this season that started with a win at Florida on March 3 and lasted until April 7 when Illinois won the series finale between he two teams in Bloomington, Ind.

The Hoosiers are currently on an eight-game winning streak, including a three-game sweep of Michigan last weekend at home.

The eight-game winning streak is on the heels of a four-game losing streak that saw the Hoosiers get swept at Michigan State followed by a midweek loss at home to Ball State.

Indiana has played well on the road this season, as they are 11-5 in true road games and 9-1 in neutral site games. The Hoosiers have played away from home during Big Ten play twice, going 3-3. They swept at Iowa and were swept at Michigan State.

Offensively, the Hoosiers enter the week ranked in the top 25 nationally in eight different categories, including batting average (11th - .315), slugging percentage (12th - .460), doubles per game (15th - 2.17), scoring (17th - 7.2), home runs per game (19th - 0.79), home runs (20th - 33), doubles (22nd - 91) and hits (24th - 464).

Three Hoosiers rank in the top 35 nationally in batting average, including sophomore Kyle Schwarber, who ranks 25th with a .397 average. A Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American last season, Schwarber leads the team with 10 home runs and is second on the squad with 38 RBIs. He has just 22 strikeouts on the year, compared to 24 walks.

Fellow sophomore Scott Donley has made a big impact in his first season on the field for the Hoosiers after he sat out the 2012 season due to his transfer from Virginia Tech. The 6-2 Crown Point, Ind., native is hitting .390 and ranks 23rd in the country with his team-high 47 RBIs.

Justin Cureton is hitting just .238 on the year, but finds a way to get on base and ranks 12th in the country with 1.14 runs per game. He has scored 48 runs on the season to rank 18th in the nation and has a team-high 18 steals in 24 attempts.

The Huskers will also need to pitch wisely to reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year Sam Travis, who is hitting .305 with six homers and 35 RBIs. He and Dustin DeMuth are tied for the team lead in doubles with 14 each.

DeMuth is hitting .390 and has eight stolen bases and 32 runs scored.

Indiana's pitching staff has been just as good, ranking fourth in the country with a team ERA of 2.34. IU's staff holds opposing hitters to a .242 average, while giving up 133 runs (100 earned) on 346 hits and 115 walks over 384.1 innings, while striking out 259.

On Saturday the Huskers are scheduled to see junior lefty Joey DeNato, who was a third-team All-Big Ten pick a year ago. The 5-10 lefty is 6-1 on the year in 11 starts with a 2.60 ERA. The San Diego, Calif., native has given up 62 hits in 62.1 innings of work, but has allowed just 22 runs (18 earned). He has given up 25 walks, but is third in the conference with 55 strikeouts, including 29 during league play. DeNato hasn't lost a game since February 22, when Indiana dropped its series opener at Georgia Southern 12-7. He went just 2.0 innings, giving up five runs (2 earned) on six hits.

The Huskers will face another lefty on Sunday in sophomore Kyle Hart. A Big Ten All-Freshman pick last season, Hart has a perfect 7-0 record in 11 starts in 2013 and a 2.39 ERA. The 6-5 Cincinnati, Ohio, native had thrown a team-high 64.0 innings, giving up 28 runs (17 earned) on 62 hits and 18 walks. He has struck out 39 on the year, while holding opponents to a .256 average.

Righty Aaron Slegers is schedule to take the bump on Monday for the Hoosiers. The 6-10 sophomore has moved into the weekend rotation after throwing just 7.1 innings in a relief role last season. In 11 starts, the Scottsdale, Ariz., native is 6-1 with a 1.85 ERA. In 58.1 innings of work, he has given up 20 runs (12 earned) on 58 hits and 12 walks, while striking out 36. His only loss of the season came against Illinois on April 7 in the series finale, as the Illini snapped the Hoosiers' 18-game winning streak. Slegers went 5.0 innings, giving up three runs (2 earned) on seven hits.

Ryan Halstead has taken over at the back of the bullpen for Jonny Hoffman, who was dismissed from the team prior to the start of the 2013 season after being named the league's top reliever a year ago. Husker fans may remember that Hoffman saved both games of doubleheader last season in Bloomington.

Halstead has seven saves on the year in 17 appearances. The junior righty has a 2.39 ERA over 26.1 innings of work, giving up seven runs (all earned) on 15 hits and nine walks, while punching out 28. A native of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Halstead has held opposing hitters to a .165 average.

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