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Devin Taylor puts a ball in play during Indiana's loss to Purdue Fort Wayne on Feb. 27, 2024. (HN photo/Kallan Graybill)
Devin Taylor puts a ball in play during Indiana's loss to Purdue Fort Wayne on Feb. 27, 2024. (HN photo/Kallan Graybill)

Indiana gets No. 3 seed in Big Ten Tournament after beating Michigan

The Hoosiers honored former head coach Tracy Smith, who now coaches the Wolverines

Michigan made a visit to Bloomington this weekend to face Indiana in the last Big Ten series of the regular season. Playing three games in less than 24 hours, Indiana dropped game one 3-2 before defeating the Wolverines in game two 11-2 and game three 8-4. The series win gave Indiana a huge lift in the conference tournament looming ahead and brought the return of a historical Indiana coach.

The series started on Thursday afternoon with an unexpected double header, as incoming weather called for the schedule change.

Things opened up with a ceremonial gift presented to Michigan head coach Tracy Smith from Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer. Smith was the head coach of the Hoosiers from 2006-2014. He then coached Arizona State before taking the Michigan job in 2022. Leading the program to their first college world series berth in 2013, Smith also led Indiana to three Big Ten Tournament wins, two Big Ten Regular season titles and was noticed as Big Ten Coach of the Year three times. The series marked the first time Smith makes a return back to Bloomington since leaving in 2014. 

The gift was a frame, containing a former Hoosier jersey showcasing Smith's number that he wore in his time as coach, a plaque and some photos. Fans gave a standing ovation to Smith, memories of the Tracy Smith era still in mind. 

Mercer spoke on how important it was to recognize Smith.

“You just have to honor the past and the legacy of the program and all the people who were a part of it,” Mercer said. “The great players, the coaches, you know this is the peoples program” 

Following the ceremony Devin Taylor kicked off game one with a solo home run. Since moving up into the lead off position Taylor has hit a home run in the first inning in three of the past four games.

With both pitching staffs and defenses attacking through four innings things stayed pretty quiet at the plate. The Wolverines finally made some noise in the top of the fourth, Will Rogers hit a double to center field and scored two runs for Michigan. Taking the lead Indiana was in search of an answer, and Taylor would answer. His single brought in a run for the Hoosiers and evened up the game. 

One of Michigan's fastest growing additions this season is freshman Collin Priest. Coming into the series as Big Ten Freshman of the Week after a rather explosive weekend at Purdue and posing as a danger when at the plate, he stepped up in the eighth inning. Sending the ball back to Ann Arbor, Priest's solo home run won the game for Michigan 3-2.

Tyler Cerny rounds the bases after hitting a grand slam during Indiana's win over Indiana State on April 2, 2024. (HN photo/Danielle Stockwell)

Game two for the Wolverines was not as close of a call, as Indiana got ahead of this one early. With four runs in the first inning, Tyler Cerny started the Hoosiers’ lead with a double, and the team would go ahead scoring 10 runs over three innings. Julian Tonghini, who was awarded the win of Thursday night's contest, went four innings and struck out eight of the 17 batters faced. Besides the two-run home run from Priest in the fifth inning, Tonghini gave up no other runs. Indiana's 11-2 win would set up game three for a rubber match and clinch a spot in the Big Ten Tournament for the 11th straight season. 

Game three came fast with stakes on the line. As things wrapped up across the Big Ten, Michigan and Indiana would be playing for the No. 3 tournament seed on Friday night. 

Going into this game Indiana was going to have to lock in hard.

“You're going to be challenged,” Mercer said.

He talked about how hard Michigan's pitcher was going to apply pressure on their bats, comparing him to an “optical illusion.”

Brayden Risporph toed the rubber for the Hoosiers and delivered exactly what they needed to hold Michigan through three innings. He tallied four strikeouts, and two 1-2-3 innings with his only run being unearned because of defensive errors. 

Multiple Hoosiers hit home runs starting with Jasen Oliver. His first home run of two was a three-run hammer, juicing up the dugout and crowd. All of Indiana’s runs came from home runs on Friday night. An offensive showcase for the Senior Night crowd. 

Combined, Indiana threw 17 strikeouts across four pitchers and scored eight runs, holding Michigan to four.

With the win Indiana clinched the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, making an 11th straight appearance. Mercer said following the game three win and performance that they showed, it helps with morale. 

“(The team) does go into (the tournament) with a little bit of confidence and you feel good,” Mercer said.

After defeating Michigan in the series 2-1 they will now head to Omaha, Nebraska on Tuesday to play in the Big Ten Tournament in hopes to make a run and gain an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament. 

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