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Missed Opportunities Haunt Indiana One Last Time

The Indiana bench looks on. (Jared Rigdon/HN)

Indiana Baseball has been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament after a 9-7 loss to the regional host and No. 7 national seed Louisville Sunday.

This is the third straight season where Indiana has seen its season end in the regional round.

It was also the Hoosiers’ second meeting with the Cardinals this season as well as the second straight loss to Louisville. On May 14, Indiana hosted Louisville and fell to the Cardinals in another high-scoring, close affair, 8-7 in 12 innings.

High-powered offense in Sunday’s game was expected with a national power like Louisville that averages 7.5 runs per game, coupled with the nation’s home run leader in Indiana.

Typically, when the Hoosiers lose ball games it’s because of a lack of offense. That wasn’t the case today though — not even close. Despite hitting struggles throughout the entire postseason, Indiana’s bats had 9 hits on the day as the Hoosiers made great contact with the ball.

The unusual difference today was that Indiana missed multiple offensive opportunities to win the game, even as the Hoosiers scored seven runs in the game.

The Hoosiers stranded a total of 10 runners on base over the course of the game. There were many instances where those runners very well could have scored and taken the lead, but Indiana just didn’t take advantage.

Obviously, scoring some of those baserunners could have allowed Indiana to tie or take the lead during the game, but had it not been for missing early opportunities, Indiana could’ve avoided digging itself into an early hole.

In the second inning, an error by Cade Bunnell led to a four-run Louisville rally which was followed by a home run from Alex Binelas in the third, extending Louisville’s lead to 6-0 just a third of the way through the game.

The third inning wasn’t just bad defensively for the Hoosiers. In the top of the third, they had their worst missed scoring opportunity of the game. With no outs and the bases loaded, Indiana found a way not to score any runs by virtue of two straight strikeouts and a Scotty Bradley popout to center field.

If the Hoosiers could have scored a few runs here and there early on, they wouldn’t be playing a massive game of a catch-up, which ultimately doomed them.

It was a bit of déjà vu for Indiana against Louisville. In the first meeting between the two clubs, Indiana was down 6-0 to start the game in the fourth inning, too.

The Hoosiers dug themselves a hole on Friday against Illinois State too when they were down 7-2 going into the sixth inning. They did end up tying in the seventh, but fell short by a score of 8-7 at the end of the day. Once again, the big run deficit made Indiana pay the price with a loss.

In reflection, the Louisville loss finalizes Indiana’s record as 37-23 for the season with a postseason record of 1-4. The Hoosiers lost both games in the Big Ten Tournament to Iowa and Minnesota, and had losses to Illinois State, along with Louisville, in the NCAA Tournament. The only postseason win for Indiana came Saturday over Illinois-Chicago.

Beyond the postseason struggles, it was a very good season for Indiana. For a program that has never been historically relevant in baseball, Indiana continues to positively grow its image. The season was highlighted by winning a regular season Big Ten title and making a sixth regional appearance out of the last seven seasons.

These achievements can be attributed to first year Head Coach Jeff Mercer, who won Big Ten Coach of the Year this season. With the team losing only six seniors on the roster this year and a lot of underclassmen who had prominent roles returning for next year, the Hoosiers could be even better in year two of the Jeff Mercer era.

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