Dominant was the word IU Coach Chris Lemonis used when he was asked what he thought of senior starting pitcher Caleb Baragar’s last outing against Toledo. Domination could be used to classify the entire weekend starting staff as a whole.
The dilemma for the Hoosiers is that, beyond their trustworthy core of seniors Kyle Hart, Evan Bell and Caleb Baragar, who have a combined 1.79 ERA on the season, the outlook is thin regarding starting pitching.
Lemonis has experimented with different starting pitchers three times this year. As the season progresses, the mid-week games will start to pile up as Lemonis is still looking to find one extra starter he can rely on.
“In a couple weeks we need two guys that can pitch during the week,” Lemonis said. “That’s going to be the hard part.”
While allowing nearly five runs in each game not started by one of the seniors, junior Luke Stephenson has gotten the starting nod twice and freshman Pauly Milto earned his first career start and win Sunday.
In Stepheson’s first start against Seton Hall he only lasted three innings.
During last Tuesday’s game against Evansville, Stephenson earned his second start of the season but was only able to work through three innings again.
“We knew it would be a bullpen day, we kind of had it set up for everybody,” Lemonis said. “When we start Luke we’re thinking right now we’d like to get five innings from him. Hopefully we can get three, four, five in there or once or twice through the lineup and then hand it off to our bullpen.”
Milto was a part of that bullpen group given the ball against Evansville once Stephenson was removed. Entering the game with one runner aboard and two runs already for the Aces in the inning, Milto allowed the next two batters to reach on a hit by pitch and walk before a 2 RBI single.
Once he had allowed the runs to score, Milto settled down striking out the final batter of the inning and returned to the mound for a scoreless inning.
His performance was enough to grab Lemonis’ attention as he earned the start in the four game series finale Sunday and dazzled on the mound through five innings.
“Cal State Fullerton was definitely the most hyped up, but then Evansville I got under my feet some more,” Milto said. “Then this start kind of sealed the deal, and I’m feeling pretty good.”
Only allowing two hits and one unearned run while striking out three is exactly the type of start Lemonis said he wants to see out of his mid-week starters.
On Wednesday, when IU takes on Butler for the second time this season, the starter will remain unknown until just hours before first pitch.
Given the fact Milto would be on three days rest removes his name from the conversation, Stephenson is the front-runner, but Lemonis could try his hand with a different pitcher.
Sophomore BJ Sabol has worked through 9.1 innings this season with his longest outing coming in relief of Stephenson, tossing three innings against Seton Hall. Freshman Jonathan Stiever could be in the mix with his last appearance coming more than a week ago when he stuck out three over 4.2 scoreless innings of relief.
Even if some of the younger players aren’t confident enough yet to go out and show what they can do on the mound in game situation, they can always fall back on the seniors in the rotation for help.
“They always have my back no matter how I’m pitching,” Milto said.