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Indiana Baseball Comes Back Late, Avoids Big Ten Tournament Elimination

Indiana Baseball dugout congratulates Matt Gorski after hitting a solo home run in the third inning on April 7 against Purdue. Gorski hit a 3-run home run with two outs in the ninth inning of the Big Ten tournament against Michigan State to tie the game 5-5 as Indiana went on to win it in the 10th inning and avoided elimination. (Mark Timko/HN)

Indiana baseball head coach Chris Lemonis said the Hoosiers would need quality starting pitching, lockdown defense and timely hits to have success in the postseason.

The Hoosiers struggled in all three of those categories until they were down to their final out Thursday afternoon in an elimination game against No. 8 Michigan State.

Down three runs in the bottom of the ninth, outfielder Matt Gorski sent a three run moonshot to left to tie the game 5-5. In the tenth inning, Wyatt Cross walked-off the Hoosiers with a RBI single to complete the dramatic 6-5 win over Michigan State and kept the Hoosiers alive in the Big Ten tournament.

“We’re a really powerful team and we do a lot of great things,” Gorski said. “We run well, we hit well, and power is a really big strength for us and we really had to adjust with this big ballpark and new atmosphere.”

For most of the game, and the tournament, Indiana struggled at the plate as they were coming off a two hit, one run performance in the 7-1 loss to No. 4 Illinois Wednesday night.

Thursday afternoon, MSU starting pitcher Mason Earla held Indiana hitless through the first 5.1 innings in a 5-0 game. His no-hit bid was finally snapped after a Matt Lloyd RBI single in the sixth to make it a 5-1 deficit.

From there, Indiana had opportunities, but still struggled to bring runs across the plate. The Hoosiers struck out with the bases loaded in both the seventh and eighth innings in prime scoring opportunities.

Through the first eight innings, Indiana left eight runners on base and was two-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

But much like we’ve seen all season long the Hoosiers came back late and won in dramatic fashion after the three-run shot by Gorski in the ninth to tie it, and the walk-off by Cross in the 10th to win it.

“I feel like the attitude of our team, we’re just a bunch of scrappers and we’re not going to go down without a fight,” Cross said. “Everybody on this team wants to play, wants to be here and wants to win a Big Ten championship.”

While Indiana executed at the plate in the very last moments of the game, poor defense and starting pitching almost eliminated the Hoosiers.

Wednesday night against Illinois, the defense was a let down in the sixth inning of a scoreless game.

It looked as if starting pitcher Jonathan Stiever was going to escape a jam with two runners on. Instead, two costly two out errors by shortstop Jeremy Houston and right fielder Logan Sowers allowed three Illini runs to come across and make it a 3-0 game. Illinois would blow it open in the seventh with a 3-run home run and eventually send IU to the elimination bracket.

Against Michigan State on Thursday afternoon, the starting pitching wasn’t sharp. Junior right-hander Pauly Milto and his 2.00 ERA took the hill to try and keep Indiana from heading home early.

After three scoreless innings, Milto couldn’t record an out in the fourth inning as Michigan State went up 3-0 after the fourth and would later extend the lead to five.

Although the Indiana offense had just two hits through the first 14.1 innings in Omaha, they found a couple of clutch hits late to avoid going 0-2 in the Big Ten tournament for the first time since 1991.

“They way our offense is built, we do hit the long ball,” Lemonis said. “It’s probably not built great for this park, but it gives us an opportunity to come back. Not a great game, but a great finish for us, we live to play another day which is exciting.”

Indiana will try to avenge its Wednesday night loss by playing Illinois again Friday night at 8:30 p.m. ET in an elimination game.

Zain Pyarali

I am a junior from Edwardsville, Illinois majoring in Sports Media. I formerly worked for the Indiana Daily Student for two years serving as the Sports Editor and beat reporters for Men’s Basketball, Men’s Soccer, Baseball and Field Hockey during my time with the student newspaper. Currently I am the Men’s Basketball beat reporter for IU Student Television while I also broadcast games for BTN Student U. Email me: zpyarali@thehoosiernetwork.com and follow me on Twitter: @ZainPyarali

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