BLOOMINGTON, IN- It would be easy to define Logan Sowers by the ups and downs of his career at Indiana.
The ups, such as his 19 doubles, 13 home runs, and Second Team All-Big Ten selection in 2017, have been matched in equal measure by the downs, like his nagging injury that cost him some time in 2016 and the strikeouts that have often been his bugaboo at the plate.
There’s also the fact that many wouldn’t have predicted he’d still be here at IU in 2018, his senior season. A 31st-round draft pick out of high school after being named Indiana’s Mr. Baseball, he seemed like a candidate to be three years and out in Bloomington, off to pro baseball.
But instead, he found himself undrafted after the 2017 season and heading back to IU for one more go ’round.
On Sunday, as part of the team’s 4-2 win over Pacific, he showed not only why he came to IU with so much acclaim, but also why, despite the fact that it took him some time to put it all together, he stands to leave Indiana as one of the program’s most prolific power hitters ever.
The ball just simply flies off his bat when he barrels it up.
In the bottom of the third, with two men on, Sowers roped a double into the left-center gap to put Indiana up 2-1. As big as that hit was on its face, it felt even bigger in the moment for a couple of reasons. For one, Indiana had been waiting for big hits basically all weekend against a plucky Pacific team that won a 2-1 contest on Friday and hung close in a 3-1 defeat on Saturday. But also, a double play earlier in that inning off the bat of Jeremy Houston seemed to threaten the likelihood of the third being a scoring inning at all. It felt like a huge clutch moment during a weekend where Indiana hadn’t been able to come up with many.
In the sixth, it was the same story, as Sowers scorched a line drive into left that Pacific left fielder Tyler Ryan dove for but couldn’t come up with, giving him a second double. And in the eighth, he made it a trio of doubles, with a hard grounder between Pacific third baseman Carter Hayes and the third base bag, bringing home the go-ahead run and putting Indiana on top for good, 3-2.
“They’ve kind of been trying to pitch me in all weekend, and my timing was just a little bit off, and today, I was like ‘I’m going to get the head out, and it kind of worked for me,'” Sowers said.
The three doubles give Sowers five on the season and 44 for his Indiana career. That puts him just outside Indiana’s all-time top ten in doubles as it stands today. Let’s just say he equals last season’s doubles total. That would give him 58 for his career, putting him fourth on the list, one spot ahead of Jerrud Sabourin and three doubles behind second place, currently held in part by former big leaguer Mickey Morandini.
Sowers has two homers on the season so far, which, once again, puts him just outside the all-time IU top ten. If he equals last season’s 13, that would give him 40 career homers, good for a tie for sixth in the record books, equal to the total put up by a guy named Kyle Schwarber, of whom you may have heard.
Fortuitously for Sowers and Indiana both, his final year in Bloomington happens to come in a season that could end up being pretty special for the program. Joined by the likes of Luke Miller, who was drafted after last season but chose to return to school, and Matt Lloyd, a two-way star who was also considered something of a draft risk heading into the draft last year, Sowers is part of a veteran group capable of matching some of the exploits of those great Indiana teams of 2013 and 2014.
It’s certainly not something that’s lost on Sowers himself.
“We came in with guys who had gone to the College World Series, and they taught us how the program works, and we’re trying to just keep that going,” Sowers said. “Indiana baseball is on the rise, and we want it to stay that way.”
For the season, Sowers is now hitting .333/.413/.537, and crucially, he’s well on pace to set a career high in walks and to have a strikeout rate much lower than that of his junior season. He’s clearly on the way to defining his career not by some of its ups and downs and unexpected twists and turns, but rather by putting his name all over the Indiana record books, and potentially, leading Indiana to heights they enjoyed several years ago.
Indiana Bullpen Flexes Muscle
One of the more overlooked strengths of this Indiana club is their bullpen depth, and they showed that off this weekend in the series against Pacific.
In the three games, Indiana relievers threw eight innings, giving up ten hits and two unearned runs with three walks and nine strikeouts. And that wasn’t just one or two guys getting used over and over. The Hoosiers ran five different pitchers out there, with only Cal Krueger seeing time twice.
It also felt notable that Chris Lemonis and his staff left Cal Krueger in to pitch the ninth on Sunday after he entered in the eighth, rather than feeling compelled to turn to Matt Lloyd to close out the win, as they had done on Friday, showing that they have trust in a myriad of guys to finish games.
Speaking of that game, the bullpen collectively pulled the most weight on Sunday, when freshman starting pitcher Tommy Sommer was removed after four innings.
“Cam Beauchamp came in and really did a nice job, showed nice stuff, and then Cal (Krueger), besides the wild pitch to start it, did really well, too,” Indiana head coach Chris Lemonis said. “He’s (Krueger) just learning how to be a closer a little bit. You can see he’s got a really good arm, he just likes to do a little too much with it sometimes. Being able to relax in that scenario is going to be huge for him.”
Pacific Might Just Be Feisty in the WCC
The West Coast Conference promises to be very competitive at the top of the league once again. Saint Mary’s and San Diego have looked the part so far, there’s potential with BYU, Gonzaga just won three of four on the road against Rice to run their record to 9-5, and Santa Clara is off to a surprisingly quick start.
And while it’s a big ask for Pacific to make a move into the upper echelon of the league, they showed enough this weekend against Indiana, with a win and two hard-fought losses by two runs each, to make you think that they’re going to be pretty feisty.
First and foremost, they pitched extraordinarily well. Pacific starters surrendered just four earned runs over 18.2 innings, highlighted by Shelby Lackey throwing seven innings on Friday, giving up five hits and one run in the 2-1 Tigers win.
Lackey, in particular, has been a bright spot. In four starts, he’s 2-0 with a 2.05 ERA. Over 22 innings, he’s struck out 21 and walked just six. Teamed with relievers Ryan Shreve (0.75 ERA, 12 IP) and Cooper Casad (1.17 ERA, 15.1 IP), the two pitchers who came on in relief of Lackey on Friday, the Tigers know they have a core on the pitching staff capable of delivering more than their fair share of victories.