LOUISVILLE — Indiana Baseball stayed true to their identity with an excellent hitting display to keep their season alive in a 9-5 win over No. 4 seed Illinois-Chicago Saturday to avoid elimination from the NCAA Tournament.
Today’s win on the second day of Regional action in Louisville was the Hoosiers’ first postseason win all year after going two-and-out in the Big Ten Tournament and losing to Illinois State yesterday 8-7.
“It’s a good win for our club to go out and have to play a game like that and find a way to come out on top,” Indiana Head Coach Jeff Mercer said.
It was a different team from a day ago when the Redbirds struck the Hoosiers out 18 times fell in an uninspiring loss.
Hoosiers have the lead!
Once again, Grant Richardson (@Grantr_1) comes through when it matters most. His triple scores two, and the freshman from Fishers comes home from third.
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) June 1, 2019
Today, the Hoosiers reduced that total to seven times and had a far improved performance from the plate. Indiana only hit the ball one more time against UIC (8) than they did yesterday (7) but the Hoosiers were making better contact and hitting the ball further.
Indiana had five players hit for an extra base hit today with a double, triple and three home runs as well. Against Illinois State, there was only one extra base hit for the game, a home run from Elijah Dunham in the first inning.
For Indiana senior Matt Lloyd, it was just about getting back to the basics for the team to break the slump.
“Just getting back to what we’ve been doing all year,” Lloyd said. “Coach Mercer always talks about how we’ve learned how to do it in the past probably three or four games and just have got away from it.”
For a team who had relied on the deep ball and had been leading the nation most of the regular season in home runs, today’s performance was needed in order to wake up the bats.
It’s been tough sledding for Indiana’s offense since they won the Regular Season Big Ten Title against Rutgers on May 18.
In the three-game Rutgers series, Indiana combined for 32 runs and six home runs. Until today, through Indiana’s three prior postseason games, Indiana has accounted for just one home run and 13 runs total.
Regardless of the overreliance, the Hoosiers are a different and far more competitive baseball team when they can hit the long ball consistently.
“When we do things right, we score in bunches” Mercer said.
The long ball was consistent today though and spread out to different parts of the field. Lloyd had a three-run shot to right field in the sixth inning, Cole Barr had a solo shot to left in the seventh and Drew Ashley went yard for a solo home run to dead center in the eighth. Five of the Hoosiers’ nine runs came from the long ball.
This was also the sixth game this season where Lloyd and Barr both hit a home run in the same game.
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 1, 2019
“I always joke with him and tell him that he can’t hit one unless I hit one,” Lloyd said. “I guess it’s accidental, you just get in a roll. He wants to be the older guy, just like the older brother.”
If Indiana wants to keep their hopes for Omaha alive, they’ll surely need more of the home run in what is a long road to be called Regional champs.
The Hoosiers will play in another elimination game against the loser of the No. 1 seed Louisville and No. 3 seed Illinois State tomorrow at noon. Regular season Saturday-starter Tanner Gordon will be the likely starter for Indiana in that game.
If the Hoosiers were to win, they would play again tomorrow night at 6 p.m. A win in Sunday’s night contest, would result in the Hoosiers playing for a Regional title on Monday.
A regional title for the Hoosiers is possible, but as we’ve seen time and time again, their potential all depends on the long ball.