Mercer says 2020 group leaves ‘lasting impact’

Indiana baseball will never know what its 2020 season would have become.

But in the wake of across-the-board spring sport cancelations in the Big Ten, IU coach Jeff Mercer is left wondering what the fanbase never got to see.

“I do wish Hoosier Nation would have had a chance to get to know this group as I have,” Mercer said in a statement released Friday. “There’s little doubt you would’ve shared my pride and admiration for them. They’ll leave a lasting impact on our staff and a legacy to be remembered. They certainly love Indiana and left our program better than they found it and for that we’ll always be grateful.”

In their abbreviated campaign, the Hoosiers (9-6) claimed road wins over No. 11 LSU, No. 17 East Carolina, and No. 30 South Alabama. They obliterated Purdue in a midweek home opener at Bart Kaufman Field, 17-2, on March 4.

A three-game slide was broken in what ended up being IU’s last win of the season, a 6-2 result Wednesday over Cincinnati. Throughout the next day, an escalating stream of coronavirus-related suspensions and cancelations culminated in the halting of the entire 2020 spring season. Friday, the Big Ten took the additional step of stopping all team activities through April 6.

That not only suspended spring practice for a football team that’s trying to build momentum following an eight-win season, but it hit the pause button for a young baseball team that showed enormous potential early.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes is our main concern and we support the decisions to keep them safe,” Mercer said. “As disappointed as we all are, this was the right decision. I pray today, as I have for weeks, for those impacted by this virus and for our health officials fighting to eradicate it.”

There were 1,629 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of 4 p.m. Thursday, including 41 deaths. The seriousness of containing the virus has been understood by coaches across the country, including Mercer.

It was, nonetheless, disappointing to have an entire season canceled. For Mercer, in his second year as IU’s coach, this was a group that featured 22 freshmen and sophomores and just seven seniors. But they showed maturity.

“I’ve enjoyed this group tremendously. They have a great temperament and personality and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed coming to work with them,” Mercer said. “Each day I was more impressed by their investment into the program and each other, their work ethic, determination and toughness.

“They’ve made me so very proud in a short period of time.”

On Friday, the NCAA announced it was in favor of “eligibility relief” for spring athletes who are losing this year of competition. It remains to be seen how those details will be worked out, particularly with scholarship limits and freshman classes already committed for the coming year.

IU baseball’s senior class does include several regular contributors, including infielder Jeremy Houston, catcher Collin Hopkins, infielder/pitcher Grant Macciocchi, relievers Braden Scott and Cal Krueger, and infielder Jordan Fucci.

Fucci, a grad transfer from Samford, was second on the team in runs batted in with 14. A sophomore, Grant Richardson, led the Hoosiers with 17, as well as a team-best .424 batting average.

IU’s pro day canceled

Along with a halt on team activities, IU canceled its football pro day Friday.

The showcase for players hoping to advance their pro prospects was previously scheduled for March 23.

In other coronavirus-related news, the NCAA also mandated a pause in on- and off-campus recruiting through at least April 15, according to multiple reports.