So close and yet so far.
Indiana baseball dropped the opening game of the Big Ten Tournament in brutal fashion to the top-seeded Maryland Terrapins late Thursday night. A game-winning hit by pitch in the bottom of the eleventh sealed the deal in the palpitating four-hour plus marathon game in Omaha.
The entire conference had to wait an extra day to get started as rain pushed the first games a day back, but the third game of the day was worth the wait.
After trailing 4-0 early, Indiana clawed its way back into the game thanks to a couple Maryland miscues and was able to tie the game in the seventh inning. The score stayed that way until extra innings.
Recent Big Ten Pitcher of the Week Ty Bothwell got the start for Indiana, just his second of the season. The southpaw fell one out short of four innings of work, giving up four runs while striking out six. Five of the seven hits the Terps hit off the Bothwell were doubles, and if a couple of those were a few feet farther, they would have been round-trippers.
Head coach Jeff Mercer handed the ball to Reese Sharp, who silenced the Maryland bats for the rest of regulation. The Indiana offense picked up Sharp after being shut down for the first five innings. After Tyler Doanes and Peter Serruto singled to lead off the sixth, Phillip Glasser did the job to plate the first Indiana run, as the Maryland left fielder made an error allowing Doanes to score.
Indiana scored another three in the next inning to knot the score at four. Carter Mathison led off with his 18th home run of the season to cut the Hoosiers' deficit to 4-2. Indiana once again took advantage of Maryland miscues, as a passed ball and a balk allowed Matthew Ellis to score before Glasser hit a game-tying single to score Doanes.
To extra innings it went. Indiana used small ball to take its first lead in the 10th. The first two baserunners reached for the Hoosiers before a sacrifice bunt from Bobby Whalen moved both Evan Goforth and Glasser into scoring position. Hunter Jessee came through with a hard hit ball to first base, and Goforth — who came into the game to pinch hit for Serruto — was running on contact and scored on the throw home to give Indiana the 5-4 lead. Josh Pyne grounded into an inning-ending double play, but the Hoosiers were three outs away from an upset victory.
The bottom of the order in the Terps lineup was able to tie the game, as the seven hitter Bobby Zmarzlak led off the bottom half of the 10th with a double. Jack Perkins came into relief for Sharp and allowed Zmarzlak to score, as the DH Ian Petrutz delivered the game-tying hit, a single to right field.
In the 11th inning, the Hoosiers were set up to retake the lead as they had first and second with nobody out. Doanes lined a single to right field, but Ellis was gunned down at home. Perkins — yes the pitcher Jack Perkins, had to hit because Indiana lost the DH earlier in the game — grounded out in his first at-bat since high school to end the top half of the frame.
Perkins was unable to send the game to the 12th. After loading the bases with nobody out, Perkins got Zmarzlak to strike out, but hit Petrutz with a pitch to end the 4-hour, 19-minute marathon.
As I mentioned in my preview just a few days ago, I had three keys to Indiana’s success in this game. The first was the long ball. Indiana was able to outslug Maryland in this game, as Mathison’s home run was the only one of the ballgame. The second was the success of Ty Bothwell and Reese Sharp, who allowed just four earned runs through nine innings. The third was the ability for the team to fight back from any deficit. Despite checking all three of those boxes, Indiana still came up short to the top team in the conference and the 15th best team in the country in the national poll.
Mercer made it clear that as the eight seed, he wasn’t looking ahead and was trying to win the game at hand, which was evident by the fact he threw his three best pitchers Thursday night.
Indiana will see it as a missed opportunity to steal a win, but was outhit 15-9 and needed a few errors from Maryland to get back into the game. Additionally, Maryland left 16 men on base as they were constantly on the basepaths and forcing Indiana pitchers to escape jams. Still, a very respectable showing from Indiana, as IU proved why it belongs in this tournament.
The Hoosiers have little to no time to dwell on the loss, as now they must win out to keep their season alive in the double-elimination tournament. They will play again tomorrow at around the same starting time of 6:40 p.m. ET against the No. 4 seed Illinois on Friday. Believe it or not, there is some good news. Indiana beat the Illini earlier this season.
Indiana loses heartbreaker to Maryland in first round of the Big Ten Tournament
So close and yet so far.