For almost the entire game Indiana Baseball looked dead in the water, but when down 6-4 in the bottom of the ninth facing a full count with two outs and two men on base, senior Matt Lloyd thought otherwise.
From there, Lloyd launched a deep shot over the right field fence to beat Minnesota 7-6 in walk-off fashion.
“Matt Lloyd, he’s the baddest man alive,” Indiana Head Coach Jeff Mercer said.
Lloyd’s bomb capped a comeback from the Hoosiers that was in a way, indicative of their entire season. The Hoosiers live and die off the home run.
Going into the weekend, Indiana led the nation in home runs with 72, five more than any other team. Like the rest of the season, the home run has made its presence known for the Hoosiers in the Minnesota series as well.
Six of the team’s seven runs today came from the long ball and two of their three runs from the game yesterday did as well.
Up until the seventh inning, Indiana only had one hit and was trailing 6-1. From that sixth inning to the end of the game, the Hoosiers earned six more hits, three of them being home runs.
Despite the long ball playing such a big role in the Hoosiers’ offense, Mercer doesn’t believe that the home run is a focus for the team.
“We’ve built an entire offense around the identity of not hitting home runs,” Mercer said.
Mercer believes that the team’s mentality is hitting hard line drives and just putting the ball in play, and Indiana just has a knack for hitting a lot of home runs.
The first-year head coach also said that when the team struggles, it’s not because of a lack of the deep ball, it’s a mental thing.
“The issues don’t come from the home runs,” Mercer said. “The issues come from not trusting the process to get to have offensive success,”
When the Hoosiers don’t trust the process of their offense, it is apparent, particularly in the form of strikeouts. Just as they are the conference leader for home runs, Indiana also leads the Big Ten in strikeouts with 460 of them, 63 more than second-place Maryland in the statistical category.
Indiana struck out 15 times today to add to their conference-leading total.
The lack of focus and mental struggles showed in the Minnesota series except for when the Hoosiers rallied in the game today, according to Mercer as well.
“We were as uncompetitive, and as unfocused and rattled as I’ve ever seen us,” Mercer said. “I don’t know what it is, there is a mentality that has to change.”
Luckily for the Hoosiers, that mentality changed right when they needed it to in order to salvage the win and series for Indiana. Had Indiana lost, that would have lost them their first Big Ten series of the year and would have been their first time losing back-to-back games since March 13.
The win was also Indiana’s first against Minnesota since 2017 and the Hoosiers had previously lost six in a row against the Golden Gophers.
Indiana has a chance to win the series against Minnesota tomorrow in the rubber match, with first pitch set for noon. For Mercer though, it’s just about the effort the team brings every day.
“I don’t care what happens, I just want to go compete,” Mercer said. “If we win, we win. If we lose, we lose. The one thing you can control is your ability to compete.”
'He's the baddest man alive:' Matt Lloyd saves the day for the Hoosiers