Entering Friday, Indiana had lost five straight following a four-game sweep to Ohio State in Columbus. The Hoosiers left-handed ace Tommy Sommer took the mound sporting his 2.88 ERA looking to get the Hoosiers back to their winning ways against Illinois, the best hitting team in the Big Ten. Indiana would win in walk-off fashion courtesy of a two-run home run from Collin Hopkins.
Collin Hopkins walk-off home run.
— Griffin Epstein (@epstein_griffin) April 10, 2021
This game deserved a finish as such. Here are some takeaways from this first of a three-game series against Illinois.
Sommer struggles to keep innings clean
Through two innings of work, Sommer surrendered two hits but was able to work around the limited traffic on base as he collected a couple strikeouts to boot. He looked relatively comfortable despite the Illinois dugout heckling him with every pitch. The phrase, “like a book!” was yelled any time Sommer threw over to first to check on the runner, referring to the fact that he never picked them off because they knew the throw was coming. However, they would not start fully reading him like a book until the fifth inning.
His control wavered in the top of the third, walking back-to-back hitters with one out in the inning. Sommer looked tentative to challenge the bats of Illinois while the Fighting Illini patiently waited to see their pitch. The Illinois bats were not able to capitalize on Sommer’s mistakes until the fifth where a two-out rally would ensue.
Sommer allowed a runner on base in every inning but composed himself when facing any adversity until the top of the fifth. The wheels fell off as Illinois strung together five hits, scoring three runs to take the lead and putting an end to Sommer’s day. He finished with five strikeouts, allowing eight hits and three earned runs on 96 pitches.
IU right handers see who can hit it the farthest
Kip Fougerousse, Drew Ashley, Cole Barr and Collin Hopkins gave Indiana’s offense the life it was missing the past five games.
IU must’ve forgotten the home run derby is in July. They hit four on the night as Fougerousse, Ashley and Barr took turns seeing who could hit the ball further from the right side of the plate while Hopkins delivered his in the game’s biggest moment. The wind was blowing out to right in the earlier innings but Fougerousse would launch his down the left field line landing in IU’s bullpen.
His homer led off the bottom of the third to give IU the lead to start — something the team wasn’t able to accomplish in three of its first four games against Ohio State. The freshman’s first career homer was a great sign for Indiana’s bats especially in the bottom third of a lineup that had struggled as of late. Fougerousse was only batting .095 heading into Friday and Hopkins was at .067.
Ashley and Barr kept their hot bats going, sending their homers to deep center. Collin Hopkins — with only two hits on the year — stepped to the plate, picking the perfect time to have his third. His father was noticeably emotional exiting the stands as his son lifted his team past its formidable opponent.
IU head coach Jeff Mercer spoke on his hitters’ approach at the plate and what led to their success.
“Offense operates by getting into a decent count and being able to really manage a part of the plate, a zone on the plate and being articulate with your barrel when you get there,” Mercer said.
Lightning. Walk-off home run. End of a five game losing streak.
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) April 10, 2021
Still not perfect, but signs of a turnaround for Indiana
This game had everything from timely hitting, a lighting delay and emotions running high. The Hoosiers played far from perfect but were able to beat Illinois in the bottom of the ninth. This team was due for a spectacular finish, and this was the second walk-off HR hit at home this season. The overwhelming feeling was that IU can take plenty of momentum from a game both teams feel they should have won.
Infield mistakes made an appearance for the Hoosiers once again Friday night. While there were no errors on the scoresheet, miscommunication between Paul Toetz and Fougerousse cost the team and Sommer an out that would have ended the top of the fifth, but instead a run scored.They looked like a different team hitting the ball — when they made contact. IU still suffered from untimely strikeouts with men on base but all can be forgiven when the ball leaves the yard. There is no question this team believes it can win the Big Ten, but it will be a matter of the Hoosiers executing their game plan no matter the circumstances. Friday night they were far from perfect but they still found a way to win in thrilling fashion.