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Indiana baseball takes advantage of two game home stand

Indiana Junior center fielder Logan Kaletha gets ready in the batters box during a game against Northern Illinois in 2018.(Mark Timko/HN)

In another rare February home game at Bart Kaufman Field, Indiana baseball defeated in-state opponent Butler 9-3 Wednesday.

The win propels the Hoosiers record back to .500 and 4-4 overall after defeating Cincinnati the day before 7-1.

Indiana’s offense started slow, as Butler starting pitcher, sophomore John McCauley, struck out five of his first six batters faced in the first two innings.

It all changed once the third inning rolled around as junior outfielder Matt Gorski kick started the offense again with a home run. Gorski went yard for his third dinger of the year and second in two days.

“The dude (Gorski) is unreal,” senior centerfielder Logan Kaletha said. “The dude just sets the tone no matter what.”

Overall, the offense was balanced with six different Hoosiers combining for seven hits on the day. Indiana displayed strong plate discipline for the second straight game as they drew five walks, making that 15 total in the first two home games of the year.

Kaletha got his swing back in stride after a rough Tennessee series. Against the Bulldogs Wednesday, he went 2-for-5 with two RBIs and a home run in the seventh.

Senior catcher Ryan Fineman added to the offensive outburst with a three RBI double to the right-center gap during his only plate appearance of the day in the seventh to effectively nail down the coffin on Butler.

The pitching for Indiana was strong too, as freshman right-hander Gabe Bierman bounced back after his first appearance against Tennessee where he allowed two runs in one inning of work.

Bierman made his first career start, striking out four Bulldogs over four innings and only allowing a hit and one earned run en route to picking up his first collegiate win.

Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer was impressed with the freshman’s composure.

“His ability to rebound, control himself, I thought he did a really good job,” Mercer said.

Junior left-hander Andrew Saalfrank and sophomore right-hander Connor Manous provided relief to Bierman. Fellow freshman Braydon Tucker closed it out in the ninth.

The only struggle on the evening came from careless mistakes from IU’s defense. Butler scored two of its runs off passed balls behind home plate and one on a properly executed double steal with runners on first and third.

Mercer said part of the issue with the passed balls came from senior catcher Wyatt Cross having to deal with Bierman’s sinker.

“Gabe’s sinker is a really good pitch,” Mercer said. “Anytime you’re catching a true sinker baller, which there’s not many in college baseball, they’re difficult to handle.”

The total effort was there from Indiana this past week and should be an encouraging sign for the team moving forward.

“If we get that full nine where the offense is just very consistent, I feel like we’ll be really solid this weekend,” Kaletha said.

What’s Next?

The Hoosiers will look to use the wins over Cincinnati and Butler to amount some momentum before this weekend. Indiana travels to Conway, South Carolina for the Coastal Carolina Tournament where they face serious competition in three games.

On Friday, they’ll have Northeastern, (4-2) who has a quality win over Missouri of the SEC. Northeastern won the Colonial and made the NCAA Tournament a season ago before losing in the Raleigh regional.

Saturday will present Connecticut (3-3) who took two of three games in their series against No. 8 Louisville.

Finally, on Sunday, Indiana will get to play its first ranked team of the season in No. 20 Coastal Carolina (7-1). A year ago, Indiana beat the 2016 National Champions, 6-5.

“I expect us to play great competition,” Mercer said. “I just want them to trust themselves, trust their teammates and go out and try to play good baseball.”

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