What a difference a day makes.
Twenty-four hours after a backbreaking extra inning loss to top-seeded Maryland, Indiana baseball turned in one of its best performances all year to keep its season alive on Friday Night at Charles Schwab Field.
The Hoosiers knocked out the 4-seeded Illinois Fighting Illini 8-1 behind a complete game from Bradley Brehmer on the bump to secure Indiana’s first win in the Big Ten Tournament, as IU advanced in the losers bracket. Illinois joins Purdue as the first teams eliminated after losing twice in as many days. Always nice to finish ahead of those Boilermakers, right?
Brehmer needed 112 pitches to record all 27 outs, conceding just four hits while striking out six in the masterful performance, his fifth win on the season and just his second career complete game. Brehmer had everything in his arsenal working, and dominated the Illini offense. It was the first time in nine years that a Hoosier starting pitcher went the distance in the Big Ten Tournament — the last time being Will Coursen-Carr’s complete game against Nebraska to give the Hoosiers the tournament title in 2013.
As great as Brehmer was, the Illinois starter Riley Gowens was just as good through five innings, giving up just one earned run while striking out five Indiana batters.
Both starters pitched much better against the opposition compared to the regular season meetings between the two state schools April 30 and May 1. Brehmer took the loss in an 18-10 game, giving up six earned runs in just over five innings, while Gowens gave up seven runs in the 11-7 Indiana victory, although he avoided taking the loss in that game.
It was looking like it was turning into a pitcher’s duel in Omaha, as Indiana had a 2-1 lead after six innings. Phillip Glasser got the scoring started in the bottom of the third with an RBI single to score Tyler Doanes. A Brendan Comia RBI groundout in the Illini half of the sixth tied the game at one before Indiana responded with one of their own in the next half inning.
For the second straight day, Indiana took advantage of mistakes by the opposition.
Bobby Whalen began the bottom of the sixth reaching on an E4 to knock Gowens out of the game. Three batters later, Carter Mathison hit a sac fly to score Whalen in an inning where Indiana didn’t record a hit.
The Hoosiers got more than enough insurance, putting up a six spot in the bottom of the eighth to extend the lead to 8-1 and allow Brehmer to finish the game. Josh Pyne and Mathison both had RBI hits to give the Hoosiers breathing room. It seemed as if that was all Indiana was going to get as Doanes appeared to hit a tailor-made inning-ending double play, but the ball was bobbled by the shortstop, allowing Pyne to score and the parade to continue. Peter Serruto walked with bases loaded, and then Glasser hit an RBI single to score Ethan Vecrumba, and Doanes scored on an error from the right fielder. All in all, Indiana plated six with just four hits and courtesy of two key Illini errors. Illinois made four errors in total on the night.
Brehmer sat for a long time, but made the ninth uninteresting, finishing off a career night and becoming the first Hoosier to throw a complete game on the season, even more impressive given their backs were against the wall.
The “win or go home” motto applies again tomorrow, when Indiana will play Maryland again for the second time in three days at around 2 p.m. ET in the second game of the day. The Terps were upset by Michigan and now join Indiana in the losers bracket.