No. 25 Indiana (33-19) had its chances to knock off No. 9 Louisville (41-12) Tuesday evening, but it was a 12th-inning blunder by the Hoosiers’ defense that costed them an extra-inning classic, 8-7.
After going down six in the first four innings, Indiana responded with a five spot in the bottom of the fourth and would force extra innings with its two runs in the seventh.
Even with the loss, Indiana showed a lot of fight against a top-10 team, down six early. Before the Hoosiers focus on their final Big Ten series this weekend, here are some takeaways from their last midweek game of 2019.
The triple that started it all ?@matthew_gorski7 kicked off the five-run inning that has us within one!
— Indiana Baseball ⚾️ (@IndianaBase) May 15, 2019
First-year head coach Jeff Mercer has strived to make Indiana fundamentally sound. Early in the year, in their midweek struggles with Kent State and Wright State, Indiana looked lost at times defensively.
So far this season, the Hoosiers have a .970 fielding percentage, fifth-best in the Big Ten, averaging just over one error per game. Tuesday night’s two errors were costly, but that doesn’t include the wild pitch and poor decision-making Indiana’s fielders made.
It started in the third inning. Indiana had one out and a runner on first. A grounder was hit to first baseman Scotty Bradley, who tried to turn two, but instead threw the ball into left field, allowing both runners to reach safely. The next batter homered, scoring three runs for Louisville.
Alex Franklin walked in a run in the fourth inning. While that doesn’t go down as an error, it’s certainly an at-bat Franklin would like back.
Louisville scored their run in the seventh after Danny Oriente singled to score Alex Binelas from second. Binelas got to second because of a passed ball from Wyatt Cross behind the plate.
Finally, the costliest error came in the 12th. With a runner on third, a grounder was hit to first-baseman Cade Bunnell. Instead of going home with it immediately and eliminating the run, he first looked to second base to turn two. His delayed throw to the plate cost the Hoosiers what proved to be the game-winning run.
Indiana finished the 12-inning marathon with two errors, a passed ball, a wild pitch and some confusing defensive miscues down the stretch, uncharacteristic of this year’s Hoosier team.
Old habits return
Indiana struck out 46 times in the Tennessee series, including 21 strikeouts in the Saturday game. That was their season-high until Tuesday night against Louisville, where Indiana struck out 23 times.
Strikeouts have been an issue for Indiana all season. They average nearly 11 a game. They lead the Big Ten by a large margin with 566 strikeouts this season. For a decent stretch early in the season, Indiana was either hitting home runs or striking out.
After Matt Lloyd drew a lead-off walk to start the bottom of the 12th, the next three batters, Elijah Dunham, Cole Barr and Tyler Van Pelt all struck out to end the game. With a runner on and no outs, the Hoosiers never made contact.
They did score their seven runs in this game without a home run, which is something Indiana has improved greatly upon throughout the season. However, the strikeouts are certainly something that continues to pop up at the wrong times. Four Hoosiers struck out three times against Louisville, while eight of their 12 batters struck out multiple times.
Great experience against a regional host
There were some positives to take from this midweek contest against a potential regional host in Louisville.
On a bullpen day, Indiana used eight pitchers. Gabe Bierman started the game off, pitching two innings and allowing two runs on some well-placed but softly hit balls.
The Hoosiers got great innings from some of their young relievers. Freshman Alex Franklin walked in a run but also battled back and got out of a bases-loaded jam, allowing just that one run. Freshman Braydon Tucker followed Franklin with two scoreless innings, allowed just two hits and got a huge double-play ball to end the sixth inning with a runner stranded on third.
Sophomore Connor Manous allowed only two hits and one unearned run in his 1.2 innings of work. Sophomores Grant Sloan and Braden Scott combined to throw 3.1 scoreless innings late in the game, with just one hit and three strikeouts.
— Indiana Baseball ⚾️ (@IndianaBase) May 15, 2019
At the plate, seven different Hoosiers had a hit and seven different Hoosiers registered an RBI, all without any home runs. It was a balanced attack offensively for Indiana, proving once again that there aren’t any holes in this lineup and that everyone is capable of contributing at any given time. Wyatt Cross was 1-for-4 with an RBI in the nine-spot of the lineup.
Indiana fought hard to come back from a 6-0 deficit early, but they ultimately fell short. However, this contest had no bearing on their Big Ten title chances.
Indiana, a game and a half behind in the Big Ten standings, will start their final conference series on Thursday with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (20-28, 9-11). The series will wrap up on Saturday with senior day.
There’s a lot at stake this weekend, so Indiana will need to have a short memory, taking the field again in less than 48 hours. The Hoosiers have now played 23 innings in their last two games, both losses. The bullpen, or lack thereof, could be an important story for the Hoosiers in this weekend’s series.