Indiana opened up Big Ten play with a three-game-set against Ohio State at Bart Kaufman Field.
Not all went according to plan for the Hoosiers in the starts of games one and two, but the Hoosiers found a way to set up a sweep-clinching game three on Sunday.
Indiana found itself down 6-0 in the first inning before coming back to win 14-6 in game one, and down 3-0 in the third inning and 6-5 in the seventh before clawing back to win game two 9-6.
The Hoosiers were finally able to jump out to a lead in game three and hold it to complete the sweep of the Buckeyes with a 7-5 victory. Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer felt this success has been a long time coming.
“They just worked so hard and they’ve been through it,” Mercer said. “Their first half of last year was a struggle. I just think it hardened them and they want to excel so badly. And they’re so starved for that level of success that they feel like they’ve earned.”
After weather altered the series schedule and the projected starting rotation, it was freshman Evan Whiteaker who was given the nod for the series opener on Saturday. Things went south for the Hoosiers in game one before a single out was recorded. Whiteaker walked the first four batters of the game before being replaced by Gabriel Levy. Levy was able to record an out on a pop-fly after giving up a walk of his own, but surrendered two base hits that would score three more in addition to one more coming across on an error.
Those six runs would be the only runs Ohio State scored all game. After getting out of the first inning, Levy went on to throw four total innings, followed by four scoreless from lefty Ryan Kraft and Adrian Vega to close things out in the ninth.
All nine Hoosiers in the starting lineup recorded at least one hit with yet another big game from freshman Devin Taylor, who recorded three RBIs including a go-ahead two-RBI single in the fourth.
Indiana had its ace on the mound on Sunday for game one of the doubleheader and game two of the series. Sophomore Luke Sinnard surrendered three runs in the third inning and one in the sixth before completing six innings and recording eight strikeouts, making it the most earned runs he’s given up in a start so far this season.
Once again, the Indiana bats showed up while trailing, this time in the third inning. Leadoff hitter Phillip Glasser walked to start the inning followed by back-to-back singles from Josh Pyne and Devin Taylor to load the bases. Brock Tibbitts and Tyler Cerny both came up big with RBI base hits to put the Hoosiers on top.
Mercer said it was the familiarity with Buckeye starting pitcher Gavin Bruni that sparked the comeback.
“I think the second time through the lineup helps a ton for those guys,” Mercer said. “They have a sense for it. They know what winning feels like and know what winning time is and they’re really able to buckle down and compete hard.”
Game two of the doubleheader and game three of the series was a staff day for the Hoosiers on the mound on Sunday with junior Seti Manase acting as the starter. Manase was awarded with the win after making it through three scoreless. Brayden Risedorph and Ben Seiler combined to throw the next two and two thirds innings giving up four earned runs combined and letting the Buckeyes back within striking distance. With a plethora of options in the bullpen, Mercer turned to sophomore Luke Hayden to go three and a third and pick up his first win of the season.
At the plate, it was the bottom of the lineup that produced for the Hoosiers in game three. The bottom three spots in the lineup — Matthew Ellis, Bobby Whalen and Hunter Jessee — combined for five base hits and a couple of RBIs. Ellis had high praise for the depth of the Hoosier lineup.
“It’s pretty amazing to be in a lineup that’s challenging every day just to get in but once you’re in it, you gotta know you belong,” Ellis said. “Me, Hunter (Jessee) and Bobby (Whalen) as older guys are gonna try to be the best seven-eight-nine that we can be and let those young guys in the front keep doing what they’re doing.”
Indiana extends its win streak to eight, continues its undefeated record at home this season and finds itself on top of the Big Ten standings tied with Michigan at 3-0.
The Hoosiers are back in action Tuesday at home for a midweek contest with Kent State before traveling to Penn State for a three-game series next weekend.