Hoosiers win 5th straight, top Terps 5-1

It’s a different team when Pauly Milto and Luke Miller are on the lineup card.

Just as Indiana’s recent winning streak attests.

Since Milto returned to IU’s rotation last weekend at Nebraska, the Hoosiers have looked more like the team that charged through the first half of the season and less like the one that stumbled through a frustrating 11-game stretch around the beginning of the month.

Milto’s reemergence as Indiana’s No. 2 starter coincided with the onset of a hot streak for Miller, arguably IU’s most potent hitter.

Since then, the Hoosiers have been tough to beat.

Indiana claimed its fifth consecutive win on Friday, topping Maryland, 5-1, on an overcast afternoon at Bart Kaufman Field. Milto earned his second consecutive win, holding the Terrapins to one run through six innings, while Miller continued his tear at the plate with his third home run in two games.

“Getting back, and they’re now playing good,” IU coach Chris Lemonis said. “Luke got back for a little while, just had to figure his way out, but it’s huge (having him in the lineup). Luke hit one last week at Nebraska to really help us win the game, had the big one last night, had some good swings today. It’s just a presence, too, in the lineup. Pauly’s given us some tremendous starts. Just competes.”

Both Milto and Miller dealt with injuries that sidelined them within the last month.

A foot injury caused Miller to miss 11 games in the middle of April, while arm soreness forced Milto out of the weekend rotation for series against Ohio State, Illinois and Minnesota.

“They’ve both been huge,” IU outfielder Logan Sowers said. “Pauly coming back, I feel like that’s when we went into the slump when Pauly got hurt. Really awesome having him back and healthy again. Same with Luke. Luke’s come back and kind of changed the lineup a little bit. There’s more of a power threat in there. That’s big time.”

After IU (36-15, 13-9) took an early 1-0 lead on Matt Gorski’s RBI groundout in the bottom of the first, Milto kept Maryland (24-29, 9-13), scoreless across the first five innings.

The right-hander yielded seven hits but largely avoided damage, walking only one and striking out four. He needed one strikeout, in particular, in the top of the fourth when he loaded the bases after having already eliminated one threat with a 4-6-3 double play. So Milto locked in on Maryland’s Taylor Wright, striking him out on four pitches.

“He pitches good in jams, just (using) the sinker and he gets double plays,” Lemonis said. “He’s just a tough kid who doesn’t give in with runners out there. That’s kind of his thing. He’ll give up some hits, but he doesn’t give up many runs.”

The only run Maryland plated against Milto came in the top of the sixth, when Will Watson smacked a double that scored Marty Costes and tied the game at 1-1.

The Hoosiers answered immediately with Sowers’ two-run single through the middle in the bottom of the sixth. Two innings later, Gorski and Miller provided further cushion with solo home runs to cap the scoring.

During IU’s three wins this week, the Hoosiers’ Nos. 1-5 hitters — Logan Kaletha, Matt Lloyd, Matt Gorski, Logan Sowers and Luke Miller — have done their jobs.

Those five have combined to hit .339, while driving in 16 of IU’s 20 runs in the first three games of the week.

“We’ve been getting hits with runners on base, RBIs, doubles, hard-hit balls, home runs,” Sowers said. “Luke has really found his stride swinging the bat really well again, so that’s been big for us.”

Indeed, when the heart of IU’s order is batting like this, the Hoosiers can play with anyone.

And with only one more game — Saturday’s 2:05 regular season finale — before the start of the postseason, the Hoosiers feel they’re playing well at the right time.

“We went through a rough stretch, but we’re playing really good baseball right now,” Sowers said. “It’s a really good time to be heating up.”

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