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03/09/2022

Indiana cruises past Cincinnati thanks to patient hitting, powerful pitching

Five runs, no hits, three pitchers, and a half inning that lasted over half an hour? Strange, huh.

That was the box score for Indiana baseball in the bottom of the first inning, as the team’s patience proved pivotal in their second home game of the season, defeating the Cincinnati Bearcats 7-0 on Tuesday night.

“We’re not expanding the strike zone and then we can hit fastballs,” head coach Jeff Mercer said. “If you can get a guy in the strike zone and hit a fastball, there’s not really anywhere to go for a pitcher.”

The first four Hoosier hitters all reached without needing to swing the bat, as three reached via the base on balls and another was hit by a pitch. Another walk with the bases loaded was enough for Cincinnati to go to the bullpen, as Indiana had already reached base five times without even putting a ball in the field of play. Two walks later, the score was 4-0, and another call to the bullpen was made.

In total, three Cincy pitchers took the bump in what was one of the longer first innings The Bart had seen in a while, as the merry-go-round continued until finally Tyler Doanes, the leadoff hitter, grounded out in his second at bat to end the first inning.

Josh Pyne said that the approach going in wasn’t to look for walks, but volunteer assistant coach Zach Weatherford, who does the scouting before every game, said to be patient.

For comparison, the first inning lasted over half an hour while the rest of the game took a combined two hours and 10 minutes.

It was smooth sailing from there, as steady pitching from freshman Luke Hayden and junior Nathan Stahl silenced the smoking-hot Cincy bats with three scoreless innings each. The Bearcats were held to just two total hits while striking out 14 times. Hayden improves to 2-0 on the season.

The only other inning that saw scoring was the bottom of the fifth, when the Hoosiers hit back-to-back home runs. Brock Tibbitts and Pyne took two pitches into the home bullpen in left field to excite an anxious crowd for a change. It was Pyne’s first career HR for the Hoosiers.

“It was a surreal moment, something I’ve dreamed of ever since I committed to play baseball here at Indiana University, and I’m really really happy that it was here at The Bart,” Pyne said.

Mercer said after the game that the team doesn’t always have to hit its way to a win, and that was certainly the case on Tuesday.

Biggest takeaways

In a relatively uninteresting affair, the Indiana offense once again got out to a hot start, putting pressure on the opposing team right from the get-go and giving the younger pitching staff room for error. The team got out to big leads over the weekend as well, winning two out of three as a result.

The ability to control breaking balls on the mound makes Indiana a scary team to face down the line. One of the biggest problems in the first few games was the ability to keep runners off the basepaths because the Hoosiers couldn’t control their secondary pitches. Being able to throw breaking balls in fastball counts keeps hitters guessing and gives Indiana the advantage on defense.

Indiana continues its momentum after a weekend series win against Missouri State. The Hoosiers are back at The Bart at 4 p.m. Wednesday for a matchup against Purdue-Fort Wayne before traveling to Troy this weekend. 


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