In the aftermath of Bobby Whalen’s game-winning RBI single to right field, a mob is ensuing in the green-painted turf. Tyler Cerny is not far behind, chasing his teammates who had a head start in forming the hoard of white jerseys in shallow right field. You can’t fault Cerny, though — he was busy enough sliding into home to account for the winning run.
After nearly two calendar years without one, the Hoosiers are now celebrating a second consecutive sweep, this one against Morehead State. Across a brutal stretch of nine games in 10 days, they’ve come out victorious in eight of those contests. No doubt, there’s substantial reason to celebrate.
Somewhere in that hoard is Josh Pyne, the sophomore third baseman who has come up huge in moments of need time and time again. He was up to his usual tricks Friday night, having a major impact in a 5-4 result to break out the brooms for Indiana. Only this time, it looks a little different — it’s his glove doing the talking, not his bat.
In truth, Whalen isn’t stepping to the plate with the winning run on second if it isn’t for Pyne’s bare-handed play the half inning before.
With no outs and runners on first and second, speedy left-handed Chase Vinson was making the smart play and sacrificing the runners over to scoring position. Yet, this was no walk-in-the-park play to make for the charging Pyne, either.
In the heat of the moment, Pyne gathered and fired to beat Vinson by a half-stride. A batter later, pinch-hitter Jacob Ferry doubled to the gap to bring home the third and fourth Eagle runs on the afternoon and knot the score at 4-all. However, if Pyne hadn’t made that play just an at-bat before, Ferry’s double would’ve given the visitors the lead. Instead of sliding home to win, Cerny’s run would’ve only drawn the two teams level.
“That’s the game-changing play,” Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer said following the win on Friday. “I mean, that is an all-star play. That saves the game.”
A razor-sharp focus to the little details has set the Hoosiers up for success better than they have in years past. In doing so, they’ve built a resiliency and a mindset of being too tough to quit, creating a source of confidence and moxie that has concluded with Indiana finding more than one way to win. In just this series alone, Indiana sandwiched a 23-run onslaught Thursday between two walkoff winners.
To not be pigeonholed into a certain formula for victory bodes well for a still-developing team that’s looking to make noise in the Big Ten.
“We’ve played a bunch of close games,” Mercer said. “I don’t have the numbers, but just watching baseball, 60, 70% of games are a two-run game, one way or the other, in the seventh inning. You have to find a way to win games.”
It’s a situation Indiana is admittedly familiar with this season, but the pitching and defense has afforded Indiana a positive outlook on the lessons gained from those moments. It doesn’t matter how wins come. Especially with the ever-important conference schedule on the horizon, you can’t place a high enough price tag on the value of stacking them in succession.
“There’s something to be said for learning how to win and building a winning culture,” Mercer continued. “Building a winning attitude, a confidence and a belief not only in yourself, but your teammates. We’ve had a bunch of different guys do it. Today was Bobby’s opportunity to do it, and he came up with a huge moment.”