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‘Our culture is growing’: Indiana toughs out win against arch-rival Purdue

Matt Gorski at-bat for the Hoosiers on a beautiful day. (Kurt Spitler/HN)

The Hoosiers started the game with McCade Brown on the mound. The freshman walked three straight batters, then allowed a two-RBI double, all without getting one out.

Enter Tommy Sommer. The sophomore left-hander hadn’t started a game since March 3 against Coastal Carolina. While he didn’t technically start Wednesday night, he came in with no outs in the top of the first inning with Indiana already down two runs.

Sommer took care of the rest. He went six innings, struck out six, allowed just one hit and zero runs. Most importantly, Sommer was able to throw 71 pitches.

“Tommy was incredible, he really won the game for us,” IU Head Coach Jeff Mercer said. “Obviously getting him back from injury was a huge shot in the arm for us. He was terrific.”

This performance comes on the heels of his first appearance since the injury on Saturday when he pitched two innings in the first game of the double header. He struck out a pair and allowed just one hit in that effort.

Meanwhile, after Indiana expanded the lead to 6-2 in the sixth, Purdue rallied back in the seventh, scoring three runs, and then added one more in the ninth after a costly Justin Walker error.

At times, Indiana’s offense went stagnant, ending the game with 18 strikeouts, something that plagued the Hoosiers early in the season, especially in the Tennessee series where Indiana was swept.

“We swung at more balls that were out of the zone than were in the zone,” Mercer said. “We have to go back, and we have to get better at it… I don’t know what it is. If I could get a bat and go in there and do it, I would love to, but my eligibility is exhausted unfortunately.”

So, with Indiana’s bats struggling in the latter innings and Purdue sending it to extras, Indiana needed a jolt of energy. That came from Indiana’s Scotty Bradley, who doubled to open up the bottom of the tenth.

Eventually, with the help of some poor pitching from Purdue, the bases were loaded for senior Cade Bunnell. He hadn’t played since the Maryland series on March 31, but was put in to pinch hit for Drew Ashley in the eighth.

With the bases loaded in the tenth, Bunnell flared one out to left field, painting the foul line and sending the Hoosiers home with their 20th win of the season.

“I was really happy for him to step in and be prepared for that moment,” Mercer said.

Mercer also talked about a batting cage moment with Bunnell in practice yesterday. He said that Bunnell had been working on a no-stride swing, something he might have been working on after some of the pitchers they saw against Penn State.

After two pitches of Bunnell swinging too hard, Mercer yelled from third base to widen his stance and go no stride. He nodded his head and delivered.

“You show up to work every day because you don’t know what day it’s going to be that you figure it out for the rest of your career,” Mercer said. “If Cade Bunnell is not in the cage, working his butt off on a no stride, so that when he needs it against a guy throwing 94 and overpowering him, he’s not prepared to go to that.”

Another midweek game where, outside Sommer, Mercer didn’t believe Indiana did much well. However, their will to win, aided by a rivalry matchup, helped Indiana get over the hump in another close game.

“The biggest thing we learned today is that our culture is growing, a culture of toughness and resiliency,” Mercer said. “It’s not always your best day, but it’s always a day for you to compete and that’s where I feel the culture is going.”

Indiana will be back in action on Friday, starting a four-game series with Evansville. Game one will be in Evansville, with Saturday and Sunday in Bloomington. The Purple Aces are 36th in the RPI and should prove to be a good test for the Hoosiers.

First pitch for Friday is scheduled for 7:00.

Austin Render

I am a sophomore from Fort Wayne, Indiana majoring in Sports Media. Last year I worked with IUSTV Sports doing recap and feature packages for IU field hockey, women's basketball and baseball. I am one of the current WIUX Co-Sports Directors. I am a student broadcaster for WIUX as well as Big Ten Network Student U. You can reach me at austinrender99@gmail.com and you can follow me on Twitter @austinrender.

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