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Three Takeaways: Hoosiers’ defensive mistakes too much to overcome in loss to Purdue

The Indiana Hoosiers baseball team (8-2) fell to the Purdue Boilermakers (2-8) by a score of 8-5 Saturday afternoon at Bart Kaufman Field in Bloomington. Coming off a quiet 2-1 victory on Friday, the Hoosiers had McCade Brown on the bump and were primed for a big performance, but Indiana’s defensive struggles and Purdue’s big hitting propelled the Boilermakers to victory.

Here are my three takeaways from Saturday’s game:

Control issues linger for Hoosier pitchers

All-American candidate sophomore pitcher McCade Brown had a tough third inning for the Hoosiers as the Boilermakers batted around and scored four runs. Purdue third baseman Tyler Powers led the inning off with a single and a collapse from Indiana followed. Three walks from Brown along with a wild pitch which led to one run being scored hurt the Hoosiers this inning.

Indiana had an opportunity to end the inning on a double play, but the Hoosiers committed an error when throwing to second which scored a run for the Boilermakers as second baseman Evan Albrecht trotted home. The error led to a two-run swing as Purdue scored two more in the top of the third. Stand-in head coach Dan Held — for the quarantined Jeff Mercer — said Brown “wasn’t able to control his offspeed today.”

However, Brown showed composure and responded well in the fourth and fifth innings. He retired six of the final seven batters he faced. He totaled 97 pitches on the day. Brown finished giving up five hits, four earned runs, four walks, and eight strikeouts on 25 batters faced.

Relief pitchers John Modugno, Braden Scott and Connor Manous also struggled with their command and allowed three runs in four innings.

Brown, along with the Hoosier bullpen, struggled with control as they pitched a 60.1 strike percentage. For reference, Purdue pitched 65.1 percent on nine fewer pitches.

Indiana also totaled six walks given up to Purdue’s three. The Hoosier bullpen had really been awesome all year long and this was the first game of the year where another team exploited the pitching weaknesses the Hoosiers have. Control is something that the Hoosiers must improve on over the season, though one game is not enough to panic. 

Purdue hitters outmatch Hoosiers

The middle of the Indiana lineup has been very consistent this season and it’s led by hot-hitting redshirt freshman second baseman Paul Toetz. He has been one of the most pleasant surprises for Mercer and his staff.

Toetz was on a team-best, nine-game hitting streak coming into the game and he extended it Saturday with two RBIs on a single and a double. But aside from Toetz, the Hoosiers really struggled to capitalize on runners on base and in scoring position. 

The Hoosiers hit a better average on the day than the Boilermakers of .297 and .282, respectively, but they left 11 runners on and hit .267 (4-for-15) with runners in scoring position. It will be hard for Indiana to win games where the offense struggles in capitalizing with runners on base. 

Purdue definitely played its best game of the season so far as their star for the day was right fielder Miles Simington, who had two hits for two RBIs and no strikeouts on six at-bats.

The Boilermakers offense was rolling the whole day and it would be difficult for any Big Ten opponent to stop them. They haven’t had an offensive performance like that all season and credit is due to them for making adjustments after Friday’s game.

One thing noticeable about the Boilermakers is how well they played team baseball. Purdue was making unselfish plays, bunting very well and strategically, as well as communicating well on defense.  

Mistakes are hard to overcome for Indiana

The defensive errors the Hoosiers committed are extremely hard for the offense to overcome. In baseball, one poor inning can kill you and it really seemed like the rough third inning really opened up the Boilermakers eyes for the rest of the game. 

Defense has been IU’s strength so far and it really let the team down Saturday. The errors and poor pitching really became too much for the Hoosiers to come back from. The Hoosiers’ offense hasn’t woken up fully this season yet, and until they begin to give pitchers a little bit of a cushion, games like this will happen.

“Today it let us down and we played some sloppy defense,” Held said of the team’s defense.

The team should be all right, but there are some issues. It would have taken a near perfect performance for the Hoosiers to beat Purdue on Saturday.

The Hoosiers will face Purdue again on Sunday to finish the series and then next weekend they will be in East Lansing visiting Michigan State for a three-game series.

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