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Indiana baseball sweeps doubleheader over Penn State to win weekend series

Tanner Gordon pitches during Indiana’s win over Penn State. (Kurt Spitler/HN)

Indiana baseball played a doubleheader at home against Penn State Saturday to close out its weekend series and won both contests to win the series. The Hoosiers took the first game 5-3 and the second by a score of 3-2. 

Indiana’s record now stands at 19-12. Within Big Ten play, the Hoosiers are 7-2 and have won all three of their conference series against Iowa, Maryland and now Penn State.

The Hoosiers’ good fortune on Saturday could be attributed to the unexpected attendance of legendary Indiana Basketball Head Coach Bobby Knight at Bart Kaufman Field for the games.

It was Knight’s first time being back on the IU campus publicly since he got fired in 2000. Knight stayed for the first game but left before the second started. Having Knight at Bart Kaufman Field at all meant a lot to Indiana Head Coach Jeff Mercer who grew up in Indiana, watching and cheering for Indiana Basketball.

“To have him come back to a baseball game, it honestly brought tears to my eyes,” Mercer said. “It’s beyond me.”

Now here’s three takeaways from Saturday’s doubleheader.

The bats wake up 

After a game of minimal offensive production on Friday when the Hoosiers could only amount two hits on the game and no runs, Indiana’s bats woke up on Saturday.

Neither of Saturday’s games were amazing outbursts like the Saturday and Sunday games against Maryland a week ago when the Hoosiers combined for 39 runs in those two outings, but the bats did just enough today to earn the two wins.

In game one, Indiana had 11 hits with seven Hoosiers earning at least one. Three guys had RBIs, including: Matt Lloyd, Cole Barr, and and Scotty Bradley.

After getting shutout the night before and a poor offensive showing on Wednesday, Mercer credited the team’s improvement from learning from their mistakes from the plate throughout the year.

“I think the whole season has been a lesson,” Mercer said. “You just keep going, you don’t have a choice.”

Sommer looks good in return

In the seventh inning of the first game on Saturday sophomore lefthander Tommy Sommer returned to the mound for the first time this season since March 3. The sophomore had been dealing with injury the past month. Today was only his fourth appearance on the season.

The typical Sunday starter only had two innings of work but was impressive. Sommer only gave up one hit, one walk and struck out two while giving up no runs. He also earned the win.

“He was excellent.” Mercer said. “I love the command. I love the composure. I love the fact that he can hold the run game so well.”

To have Sommer back in the rotation will serve Indiana well moving forward from a depth perspective. It is to be determined if Sommer will resume his usual Sunday starter responsibilities moving forward.

Saalfrank was dealing

Andrew Saalfrank, the man who has been Sommer’s replacement as the Sunday starter, was excellent against Penn State in game two of the doubleheader. He was shaken up early, allowing two runs in the first three innings, but rebounded for the rest of the game.

Saalfrank went seven innings, giving up six hits, two walks and two runs. He also struck out 13 batters, one short of his career high. The lefty has really found his stride as of late, in each of his last four appearances, the Hoosiers have come away victorious. In those four appearances he has a total of 39 strikeouts while giving up no more than six hits in a single game.

Mercer was impressed with the junior’s effort and improvement throughout the season.

“You look at how far that guy has come,” Mercer said. “What a gritty performance.”

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