2024 Season Preview Series: Infield

An early look at the 2024 Indiana Hoosiers infield after the first official practice

By Zach Horwitz @HorwitzZach January 28th, 2024 – photo of practice by Chris Feeny

“Somebody else is going to have to fill that leadership void” was a highlight of Head Coach Jeff Mercer when speaking to the media after the first official practice on January 26th. 

Surely, losing your starting shortstop is a huge hole to fill for the Hoosiers infield. Phillip Glasser, a 10th round pick to the Washington Nationals, was the leadoff guy for Indiana, slashing .357 in 63 games alongside a career-long streak of reaching base in 45 consecutive games. To follow up Glasser at the shortstop position will be a tall task but Tyler Cerny is up for the challenge.

Nobody is better suited to take over the infield than sophomore Tyler Cerny. He started 57 games for the Hoosiers in 2023, all at second base. With Glasser’s absence, Cerny will slide over to the left side to man the position. Coach Mercer spoke about maturity and resiliency with this year’s squad, and Cerny may be a prime example of that. “A lot of folks don’t know about Tyler. Tyler was really ill his junior year of high school and missed a year of baseball… to see him grow and improve, and as a guy that I recruited as a freshman in high school, I’m just super proud of him.” As a rookie in the clubhouse last season, Cerny reached base safely in 46 of 59 games played, hitting .276 on the year. He should look to produce these numbers at the plate with even more opportunities, and in the field, Mercer is confident in his skills to take over the role. “He had to take the next step as far as becoming more fundamental,” Mercer stated. Standing at 6’2, “He’s physically talented enough to do it. He’s really matured in controlling his emotions.” Also, when mentioning Cerny’s competitive nature, he proposed that Tyler has been the most improved player over the last six or eight weeks. Keep an eye out for Cerny and his upgraded role as the starting shortstop throughout the 2024 season. 

Staying on the left side of the infield, Josh Pyne will operate the “hot corner” after starting 62 games there his sophomore year. Pyne set his mark on the program after a phenomenal freshman campaign, becoming the sixth IU freshman to notch 70 hits in a season, while also mashing 20 doubles which was good for eighth-most in the country. Coach Mercer talked about the offseason and how Pyne “gained a ton of weight” and has gotten “a lot stronger”. He also alluded to making just one or two adjustments to Pyne’s swing before he can really “take off”. The Bloomfield, Indiana native should be a huge piece in the middle of the Hoosiers lineup that will drive in tons of RBIs this upcoming season. 

Moving over to the right side, there are a few question marks that will need to be answered. Although it seems Houston transfer Brandon Burckel will join Cerny up the middle. Burckel, a career .260 hitter, was a key piece of a Houston Cougar team that finished 36-23 last season, just missing the NCAA Tournament. One thing that really stands out about Burckel’s game: speed. He successfully stole 24 bases last season, starting 15-15. Indiana stole 45 bases as a team last year, with last year’s seniors combining for 25 of them. Burckel will be a real threat on the bases for the Hoosiers, and it’ll be pivotal for him to get on base with the power bats in the lineup behind him.

Indiana Baseball practices at Bart Kaufman Field – photo by Zach Horwitz

The first base and catcher positions go hand-in-hand for Jeff Mercer’s group. Brock Tibbitts is probably the biggest story of the team right now, and that is his transition back to playing catcher. Last season, as a sophomore, he started all 63 games at first base. Tibbitts played behind the plate in summer ball, and Coach Mercer explained that he needed to get the feeling of playing catcher again. Peter Serruto, a fifth-year senior, took the bulk of the catching in 2023 and the spot was open yet again for Tibbitts to get back into it. Jeff Mercer declared that “we just couldn’t stay healthy enough at catcher to keep him back there” in years prior. But now, the 6’4 junior will get his first opportunity as the backstop to the Indiana pitching staff. 

With Tibbitts predominately playing catcher this upcoming season, first base is up for grabs. During the first official practice, it was freshman Cal Sefcik getting some reps over there. Sefcik has faced tons of adversity in his high school years, having Tommy John surgery and then hip injuries when playing third base. To keep him on the field, Coach Mercer has him playing on the right side, which has allowed him to take a big jump in his offensive approach. “His swing was really a multi-piece swing which had some big moving pieces… and we had a mutual agreement to make some adjustments to getting as close to playable as possible,” Mercer said. 

As February continues to roll in, we’ll have a better idea about this Indiana roster and the guys that will make up this infield.