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Indiana baseball ‘misfits’ experience growing pains in opening series against Clemson

Indiana baseball returned to the diamond this weekend to open up the 2022 season down in sunny South Carolina to face the Clemson Tigers in a three-game series.

Head coach Jeff Mercer said he was excited to see this team learn and be asked questions for the first time. After getting swept and being outscored 33-8 over the course of the weekend, it was evident there is a steep learning curve for a team still searching for its first win. Prior to the series, Mercer referred to this team as the “land of misfits,” given how many new faces are on this team, and some of the newcomers have embraced that mentality, now that they have a home with a team that wants them.

Game No. 1 on Friday afternoon was never close, as Clemson scored three runs off of five hits in the bottom of the first and never looked back, winning 9-0. The Hoosiers could only muster up three hits, with the first one coming in the sixth, as Tigers starter Mack Anglin fired five no-hit innings, striking out eight while walking two.

The Indiana starter on the other hand, John-Biagio Modugno, surrendered six runs (five earned) in three innings of work, striking out four. The lone bright spot for Indiana on Friday was the bullpen, led by Reese Sharp and Ryan Kraft. The two tossed five sparkling innings, giving up just two earned runs while striking out 13. Sharp struck out a career-high seven batters in three innings of work, while Kraft sat down six in his Indiana debut.

The three hits from Indiana came from Morgan Colopy, Matthew Ellis, and Bobby Whalen. Freshman Carter Mathison walked twice, joining Colopy and Ellis as the only Hoosiers to reach base multiple times.

Indiana’s scoreless streak didn’t last long at all after the 9-0 loss. Tyler Doanes hit the very first pitch of the game for a home run, and just two batters later Matthew Ellis hit one out of the yard to give Indiana a 2-0 lead after just half an inning.

The Hoosiers tacked on another two in the top of the second. Carter Mathison and Brock Tibbitts slapped back-to-back doubles to open up the frame, and Doanes collected his second RBI with a two-out single.

From there, it was a complete trainwreck. Clemson scored 19 unanswered runs and steamrolled the Hoosiers by 15, highlighted by a seven spot in the sixth inning. Having a lead for three innings must have been nice, right?

Jack Perkins began the long line of Indiana arms with two career highs: 3 2/3 innings pitched and eight Ks. The redshirt junior gave up three earned runs on four hits, and needed 82 pitches to get just 11 outs. From there, Ty Bothwell, Bradley Brehmer and Joe Moran took on the rest of the load in what turned out to be a game they would want to soon forget.

Indiana was much more competitive in the series finale, but dropped a back-and-forth affair 5-4 in 10 innings — a brutal way to end what was supposed to be an exciting weekend back out on the field. Indiana got another first-inning home run, this time from Phillip Glasser, before IU starter Nathan Stahl even threw a pitch. Stahl was announced as the game three starter after Saturday’s blowout loss, and he couldn’t keep the lead, as a Caden Grice sacrifice fly tied the game at one after one.

Clemson nearly took the lead in the bottom of the second, but Bobby Whalen robbed a home run in deep left-center field to keep the game tied. Whalen then led off the third with a single, eventually coming around to score on a Tibbitts pinch-hit single. Clemson once again responded in the bottom half of the frame, taking the lead 3-2, courtesy of a long two-run home run by Grice. Grice finished the game with two hits and three RBIs, and ended up with the win as well on the mound.

Stahl pitched four innings, allowing just two hits but giving up three runs. Indiana went with just four pitchers the entire game, and for the second time in the series, the bullpen pitched very, very well — a good sign considering how few positives there really were from this series.

Indiana re-took the lead in the sixth with a rally of its own. All with two outs, five straight Hoosiers reached base, capped off by an Ethan Vecrumba walk with the bases juiced to give the Hoosiers a 4-3 lead.

Clemson tied the game at four in the seventh, and threatened in the eighth and ninth, but to no avail. Grant Holderfield and Brayden Tucker worked five combined innings, before the ball was handed over to freshman Luke Hayden, who despite recording two outs in the 10th, ended up giving up the walk-off to Bryar Hawkins courtesy of the sac fly.

A theme throughout the weekend: Guys playing for the first time in an Indiana uniform. It’ll take some getting used to before this team littered with new faces starts to gel. But just how long is the early worry for Hoosier fans, given how tough their conference schedule is down the stretch. Indiana will have to throw this series out the window as they don’t have time to dwell upon these three losses

The Hoosiers have a chance to earn their first victory on Tuesday when they take on the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks at 3 p.m.

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