Mercer, Saalfrank earn Big Ten yearly awards

The league’s top coach and best pitcher belong to Indiana.

Jeff Mercer has been named Big Ten Coach of the Year and Andrew Saalfrank has been named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, the conference announced on Tuesday. Mercer and Saalfrank headline a lengthy list of postseason accolades for the Hoosiers, who also saw utility man Matt Lloyd join Saalfrank on the All-Big Ten First Team.

Scotty Bradley, Cole Barr and Matt Gorski each made the second team, while Elijah Dunham earned a spot on the third team. Grant Richardson was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team and Drew Ashley was selected as IU’s Sportsmanship Award winner.

In his first season at Indiana, Mercer guided the Hoosiers to an outright Big Ten title — the program’s first since 2014. IU is 36-19 overall and 17-7 in the league entering Wednesday’s Big Ten Tournament opener against Iowa. Mercer, who came to IU after leading Wright State for two seasons, is 113-67 in his career. Indiana won seven of its eight Big Ten series in his first season in Bloomington, and dating back to his stint with the Raiders, Mercer has lost only two league series as a head coach.

As IU’s Sunday starter this spring, Saalfrank has been a key piece to the Hoosiers weekend success. The junior is second in the Big Ten in wins (8), third in strikeouts (96), fifth in ERA (2.58). In Big Ten games only, he was tied for first in wins (6), was second in strikeouts (64), and eighth in ERA (2.51). His 13 strikeouts against Penn State broke Joe DeNato’s record (12 vs. Michigan on April 27, 2012) for most strikeouts by an IU pitcher in a Big Ten game.

Michigan’s Jordan Brewer was named Big Ten Player of the Year and Maryland’s Maxwell Costes claimed Freshman of the Year recognition.

Lloyd and Barr are tied atop the Big Ten leaderboard with 16 home runs this season. Lloyd leads the Hoosiers with 54 RBIs and ranks second on the team with a .291 average. Dunham paces the club with a .313 average, while Gorski is batting .279 with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs.

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