Coming off of a statement stomping of No. 6 North Carolina three nights ago, Indiana women’s basketball opened up conference play on Sunday afternoon against Illinois.
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Herbert Endeley received the ball on the far wing, split a pair of defenders, dribbled the ball a few more times on his right foot, and blasted it into the roof of the net to give No. 3 Indiana a 1-0 lead. The date was May 14th, 2021, the College Cup semifinals. The location was Cary, North Carolina. The opponent was No. 2 Pittsburgh.
Four days after Indiana’s biggest win of the season over No. 6 Maryland, the Hoosiers had the opportunity to win Big Ten Championship No. 16 to solidify a top-16 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
If you’re like me, you still might not have fully recovered from what was an exhilarating Decision Day in the Big Ten on Sunday.
Just like every other young kid who grew up dreaming of one day becoming a professional athlete, Brett Bebej was stuck between sports. Brett had to decide between three: Baseball, soccer and basketball.
Decision Day drama: A timeline of every goal Sunday as the Big Ten regular season came down to the wire
The final day of every regular season, regardless of the sport, always brings suspense. For some teams, it’s the last time they will play in several months. For others, they are fighting to play another day.
Paddy Burns’ volley was smashed toward the frame of goal, only to be denied by the right post. The Irish bench was filled with hands on heads in disbelief as they came so close to scoring a goal in the 10th minute.
On a cool, crisp, perfect autumn night on Friday in Bloomington for Indiana men’s soccer’s first home conference match, the Hoosiers and Michigan State Spartans played to a 1-1 draw.
Indiana men’s soccer opened its season with a marquee matchup at the top-ranked team and defending national champion, Clemson. The match lived up to its hype, with five goals total and nonstop action as the Tigers came from behind to beat No. 13 Indiana 3-2 in the battle of men’s soccer bluebloods.
It felt like just yesterday when Indiana baseball began its season down south against Clemson. Believe it or not, that was back in mid-February. Four months later, the 2022 campaign came to a close after a loss in the Big Ten Tournament Semifinals to Rutgers. Indiana finished 2022 with an overall record of 27-32 and 10-14 in Big Ten play, eighth out of 13 teams in the conference. It was never going to be easy in 2022 for the Hoosiers, given they lost their top three starters and star CF Grant Richardson to the MLB Draft, all whom were part of a team that finished fourth in the conference-only 2021 schedule, narrowly missing out on an NCAA Tournament berth. Head coach Jeff Mercer was busy in the offseason, acquiring several players from the transfer portal to revitalize the team, hence why he called the team a “land of misfits.” What happened: The search for consistency and a third starter Indiana got off to a slow 2-6 start, but won the next four, including the first two at Bart Kaufman Field to open up the home slate and get back to .500 for the first time all season. The non-conference inconsistencies continued, as the team ended March with a record of 10-13, but an impressive 7-4 record at home right before Big Ten play began. It was always going to take some time for the new-look team to gel, so finishing the first month and a half under .500 wasn’t a huge surprise to many, but it seemed as if the team was getting better at the right time as conference play commenced. The beginning of conference play in April was much like the first few weeks in February: More losses than wins. After beating Northwestern 6-5 on April 1 to start 1-0, Indiana went on to lose seven of its next eight games in the Big Ten, putting the team much closer to the bottom than the top, and creating a difficult second half of the conference schedule to turn it around and find a way to clinch a berth in the eight-team Big Ten Tournament, giving themselves an outside shot earning an NCAA Tournament berth via the automatic berth. Indiana finally got a conference series win over Little 500 weekend, taking two of three at home against the defending Big Ten champs, Nebraska, in a battle of 2021 Big Ten behemoths that had thoroughly underperformed in 2022. Despite the series win, the Hoosiers were beaten badly in the finale 19-7, a common theme throughout the season. The biggest issue through the first two months was the lack of pitching. This didn’t come as a surprise to many given all the talent they lost, but it was the clear downfall of a team that could hit the cover off the baseball at the snap of a finger and power its way to double-digit run totals in an instant. The biggest hurdle was the lack of a third starter. Jack Perkins and Bradley Brehmer quickly proved to the team that they were the top two starters for Indiana, but the third starter by committee plan for Indiana failed miserably. In the first four conference series finales, Indiana pitching gave up double-digit runs in every game, averaging 14.5 runs per game allowed. Although in some of those games the Indiana offense kept it close, there was a clear weakness the team had that needed to be sorted out if the team had any shot of playing postseason baseball in any capacity. The Hoosiers were able to figure it out, as they won the next three series in conference play to put them inside the Big Ten Tournament picture for the first time all season. The biggest reason for that was the fact that guys in the bullpen were able to come in and give the team length, something that Indiana pitching desperately struggled with. Reese Sharp was one of two key pitchers alongside Ty Bothwell who pitched their best in May. Sharp was the winning pitcher in the rubber matches against both Illinois and Michigan, two teams that were way ahead of Indiana in the Big Ten standings. Bothwell earned Big Ten Pitcher of the Week after pitching seven shutout innings against bottom-feeder Minnesota to clinch the fourth straight series win. The Hoosiers controlled their own destiny, as one win against Iowa in the regular season series finale would be enough to clinch a spot in the tournament. It appeared they would do so in the first game as they slugged their way to a 13-2 lead in the third inning, but yet again, the pitching let them down as they capitulated, losing 30-16 (!) in one of the highest scoring games all year across the country. I just wrote four articles on the Big Ten Tournament games Indiana participated in, so I won’t bore you with those recaps. If you missed any of them, or anything else I wrote this year, click here. Overall takeaways Indiana ended up missing the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row. Sure, there were highs and lows this season, but I’m a very optimistic person, so here are my takeaways from this season: The baseball team was much like the men’s basketball team this winter, in my opinion. There weren't a whole lot of players who had prior experience playing in the Hoosier uniform. There was not a ton of depth off the bench. The team played much better at home compared to when it was on the road. They didn’t win a whole lot of close games. But, they won the games they needed to so they could play in the postseason. This team never gave up. Sure, there were days when it was almost unbearable to watch this team play — trust me, I was there for almost every Sunday home game. But, no matter the score, the team found ways to put good at-bats together in the last few innings and scratch some runs across. This was a constant throughout the season, no matter the team’s record or the opponent. Looking ahead to next year, the offense is once again going to be the strength of the team. That’s because of all the young talent the team has returning on the offensive side of the ball. Indiana had — Lebron James voice — not one, not two, not three, but FOUR freshmen earn All-Big Ten Freshman Team Honors for the first time since 2012, when Kyle Schwarber was a first-year player. Evan Goforth, Carter Mathison, Josh Pyne and Brock Tibbitts were the four honorees. Mathison was the best Indiana hitter throughout the season, and let’s not forget that the Fort Wayne native had an awful start to the season, finding himself out of the lineup occasionally. Mathison turned it around and made history in the process, clubbing 19 home runs to break the freshman record by an Indiana player, previously held by Alex Dickerson, who oh by the way, is on the Atlanta Braves roster. Pyne and Tibbitts were everyday starters at the corners, and Goforth made the most of his limited playing time when Phillip Glasser went down with an injury, finishing with an OBP of .404. A year under the belt everyone who played in their first year in the Hoosier uniform will make the boys of spring that much better next season — expect big things in Bloomington on the baseball diamond in 2023.
They gave it all they had. Indiana baseball bowed out of the Big Ten Tournament in blowout fashion, losing 14-2 to the two-seed, Rutgers, in the semifinals. The game was completed after just seven innings due to the run-rule. It was always going to be an uphill battle for Indiana, who had to play two games in 12 hours, win both, and then win another two Sunday afternoon to win the Big Ten Tournament. On the flip side, Rutgers came into this game 2-0, licking its chops and ready to pounce on a tired team and advance to the championship, which is exactly what they did. After making history by defeating Maryland, Indiana had the quickest turnaround any team had in the tournament. First pitch in this game wasn’t until 11:53 p.m. local time -- 12:53 a.m. ET. The Hoosiers opted to start John Biagio-Modugno in this one. The junior pitched four scoreless innings against the Scarlet Knights in the regular season, so it was a slam-dunk decision to start the New Jersey native given the rest of the rotation was all but worn out. Modugno gave up six runs and couldn’t get an out in the second inning, taking the loss in a game many expected to be high-scoring. Ryan Kraft, Luke Hayden and Nathan Stahl got the rest of the outs in the shortened game. Kraft gave up three runs in three innings of work, Hayden pitched a scoreless frame, and Stahl allowed the final five runs while recording six outs Freshman standout Carter Mathison was the only source of offense, slugging a two-run home run to the opposite field in the sixth inning, his 19th of the season to extend the record he broke earlier this season. Mathison had two home runs in Omaha and was the only Hoosier to go yard in the tournament. The game saw 16 runs scored, but it was a one-sided affair. Rutgers scored nine runs in the first three innings and the cherry on top was a five-spot in the seventh, allowing the game to end early. Speaking of early, once the final out was recorded, it was 3:10 a.m. local time at Charles Schwab Field. There was even a lightning delay midway through, delaying the game another 30 minutes. The tournament was a complete mess from the jump. With rain forcing no games to be played Wednesday, the Big Ten was behind the eight ball to get the tournament in on time. Major changes to the schedule were made, severely handicapping teams like Indiana that lost its opening-round game. If Indiana had won this game, IU would have had to play twice again on Sunday to win the tournament, meaning they would have won five games in three days, a near-impossible task against some of the country’s best teams. Rutgers advances to the championship game to face the winner of Michigan and Iowa. The winner of the tournament must be decided by 11:59 p.m. ET, when the deadline for the automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament is. The Hoosiers won’t be a part of that tournament in all likelihood. Despite the season ending in a harsh way, Indiana can’t be disappointed with its performance in Omaha. The Hoosiers snuck into the tournament by the skin of their teeth, but made the most of their time in Nebraska by winning twice, eliminating both Illinois and Maryland, while playing the Terrapins close on Thursday as well. Indiana finishes the season with a record of 27-32, 10-14 in Big Ten play.
Revenge is a dish best served cold. Less than 48 hours after losing a devastating game to Maryland in 11 innings in the opening round, Indiana came out on top in the second marathon game between the two teams in three days. The Hoosiers won 6-4 in 11 innings to keep its hopes alive of winning the conference tournament and receiving the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. It’s the first time in Big Ten Tournament history that an eight-seed has eliminated the one-seed. Indiana was three outs away from defeat in the top of the ninth and one strike away in the bottom half from bowing out of the tournament and having its season end in heartbreaking fashion. But, the “never give up, never surrender” mentality reappeared in Omaha. Indiana took the lead early, scoring a run in both the second and third innings. Tyler Doanes hit a sac fly and Bobby Whalen scored via an error -- a common theme throughout the Indiana games -- on a ball hit by Hunter Jessee. It’s the third straight game that Indiana has scored an unearned run. Maryland made three errors Saturday, one less than Illinois made Friday. Maryland scored in the fourth and fifth innings to tie the game at two. Jack Perkins, who took the loss in Thursday night’s game against the Terps, got a chance to redeem himself by starting on Saturday afternoon. Perkins turned in a good start, allowing two runs in five innings of work, recording five punchouts in the process. After Ryan Kraft hit a batter and walked the next one, it turned into the Braydon Tucker show. Tucker, who came into the game with an ERA north of six, pitched six innings in relief to earn the win and keep the Hoosiers hopes alive. As good as Tucker was, it seemed that he -- literally -- threw the season away in the bottom of the sixth, his first inning of work out of the bullpen. After Indiana went back up by a run in the top half courtesy of a Matthew Ellis RBI double, Tucker allowed the first two Terps to reach before chaos ensued. The Maryland batter, Maxwell Costes, showed bunt on a 2-0 pitch, but did the last thing he wanted to do: Popped it up. Turns out, the ball was placed perfectly over the mound on the third base side. Tucker was hesitant to get off the mound for a ball he should have caught in the air, and then it got worse. Tucker rushed to the ball, picked it up, and then fired an errant throw past the second baseman Doanes, who was covering first base. The ball trickled into right field, allowing two runs to score as the Terps had their first lead of the game, 4-3. Tucker settled down and retired the next three hitters in succession, limiting the damage to just a self-inflicted wound. Both runs were unearned because of his error, but it appeared the mistake would cost Indiana the game, and ultimately its season. But, in the top of the ninth, down by one, Indiana tied the game with the top of the order at the dish. Phillip Glasser hit the first pitch of the inning down the right field line for a leadoff double, and advanced to third through a Bobby Whalen single the next at-bat. Evan Goforth came off the bench, and despite grounding into a double play, got the job done as Glasser scored to tie the game at four. In the bottom of the ninth, Maryland was one pitch away from walking it off again against the Hoosiers. The Terps had the bases loaded, one out, and a full count against Tucker. With the infield in, Nick Lorusso chopped a ball to the third-base side. Josh Pyne went back a step and fired the ball home off his back foot, in time to Peter Serruto for the fielder’s choice. Tucker got the next hitter to ground out to first, allowing Indiana fans to breathe a deep sigh of relief. For the second time in three days, Indiana and Maryland were tied at four after regulation, meaning extra innings were required. Neither team got close to scoring in the 10th, but in the 11th, Pyne got the hit the Hoosiers were looking for, and it turned out to be the game-winner. With two outs and the bases loaded, the freshman singled up to middle to score Whalen and Ethan Vecrumba, giving Indiana the 6-4 lead. Tucker got the Big Ten Player of Year Chris Alleyne to strike out for the final out, eliminating the nationally seeded Terps and pushing Indiana over the finish line after a grueling four-hour, 20-minute battle. Say what you want about the Indiana pitching all year, but credit Jeff Mercer and his staff going all the way back to the offseason. Mercer brought in a lot of pitching after losing the top three starters to graduation last season. Many of them came out of the bullpen this year, including Tucker, despite having experience starting in years past. With the conference losing a day in the tournament because of rain, the rotations were going to be taxed. With Indiana entering the losers' side of the bracket right off the jump, that meant the pitching wasn’t going to be allowed much time to relax between games. Thursday night it was Sharp. Friday night it was Brehmer. On Saturday afternoon, it was Tucker that ate up the majority of the innings to save the pitching staff. Indiana fans, get your caffeine ready, and cancel any Sunday morning plans. The Hoosiers are set to take the field again late Saturday night at approximately 11 p.m. ET, this time against the two-seed, Rutgers, in another must-win game. Pending any schedule changes, the Hoosiers have the rare opportunity to win two games in 24 hours. Rutgers is one of just two teams alongside Michigan that is 2-0 in the tournament thus far. The Hoosiers got swept in New Jersey by the Scarlet Knights in the regular season, despite leading in the eighth inning in all three games.
What a difference a day makes. Twenty-four hours after a backbreaking extra inning loss to top-seeded Maryland, Indiana baseball turned in one of its best performances all year to keep its season alive on Friday Night at Charles Schwab Field. The Hoosiers knocked out the 4-seeded Illinois Fighting Illini 8-1 behind a complete game from Bradley Brehmer on the bump to secure Indiana’s first win in the Big Ten Tournament, as IU advanced in the losers bracket. Illinois joins Purdue as the first teams eliminated after losing twice in as many days. Always nice to finish ahead of those Boilermakers, right? Brehmer needed 112 pitches to record all 27 outs, conceding just four hits while striking out six in the masterful performance, his fifth win on the season and just his second career complete game. Brehmer had everything in his arsenal working, and dominated the Illini offense. It was the first time in nine years that a Hoosier starting pitcher went the distance in the Big Ten Tournament -- the last time being Will Coursen-Carr's complete game against Nebraska to give the Hoosiers the tournament title in 2013. As great as Brehmer was, the Illinois starter Riley Gowens was just as good through five innings, giving up just one earned run while striking out five Indiana batters. Both starters pitched much better against the opposition compared to the regular season meetings between the two state schools April 30 and May 1. Brehmer took the loss in an 18-10 game, giving up six earned runs in just over five innings, while Gowens gave up seven runs in the 11-7 Indiana victory, although he avoided taking the loss in that game. It was looking like it was turning into a pitcher’s duel in Omaha, as Indiana had a 2-1 lead after six innings. Phillip Glasser got the scoring started in the bottom of the third with an RBI single to score Tyler Doanes. A Brendan Comia RBI groundout in the Illini half of the sixth tied the game at one before Indiana responded with one of their own in the next half inning. For the second straight day, Indiana took advantage of mistakes by the opposition. Bobby Whalen began the bottom of the sixth reaching on an E4 to knock Gowens out of the game. Three batters later, Carter Mathison hit a sac fly to score Whalen in an inning where Indiana didn’t record a hit. The Hoosiers got more than enough insurance, putting up a six spot in the bottom of the eighth to extend the lead to 8-1 and allow Brehmer to finish the game. Josh Pyne and Mathison both had RBI hits to give the Hoosiers breathing room. It seemed as if that was all Indiana was going to get as Doanes appeared to hit a tailor-made inning-ending double play, but the ball was bobbled by the shortstop, allowing Pyne to score and the parade to continue. Peter Serruto walked with bases loaded, and then Glasser hit an RBI single to score Ethan Vecrumba, and Doanes scored on an error from the right fielder. All in all, Indiana plated six with just four hits and courtesy of two key Illini errors. Illinois made four errors in total on the night. Brehmer sat for a long time, but made the ninth uninteresting, finishing off a career night and becoming the first Hoosier to throw a complete game on the season, even more impressive given their backs were against the wall. The "win or go home" motto applies again tomorrow, when Indiana will play Maryland again for the second time in three days at around 2 p.m. ET in the second game of the day. The Terps were upset by Michigan and now join Indiana in the losers bracket.
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.
The Big Ten Tournament has finally arrived. Here’s what you need to know ahead of Indiana’s first round game against Maryland
After a four-month grind, the stage is set for postseason play to begin for eight Big Ten teams the Big Ten Tournament, which is set for May 25-29 in Omaha, Nebraska, the home of the College World Series. For Indiana, a strong second half in Big Ten play propelled the Hoosiers to finish with a record of 25-30 overall, 10-14 in conference play, earning a berth to the double-elimination tournament. The Hoosiers won key series against Nebraska, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota that turned their season around. Indiana had a chance to clinch a spot in the Big Ten Tournament last weekend in Iowa City, but got swept by the Hawkeyes in the final regular season series, including a 30-16 loss in a game where they led 13-2. I thought the football season started in September… Regardless, the Hoosiers got help elsewhere around the league that allowed them to sneak into the tournament. Indiana will begin its quest for its eighth Big Ten Championship as the eight seed on Wednesday, taking on the top-seeded Terrapins from Maryland, who won their first-ever Big Ten regular-season baseball title. The Terps went 44-10 and 18-5 in the Big Ten, are currently riding a seven game winning streak, and are currently ranked No. 15 in the national rankings. The two teams will meet for the first time this season at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday in the first round. Winning the first game in a double-elimination tournament is crucial and of course would be ideal for Indiana to pull off the upset. But, no matter what Indiana does against Maryland, its second opponent will be a team IU beat earlier this season in a weekend series. That team will either be the No. 4 seed Illinois or the No. 5 seed Michigan on Thursday at either 2 p.m. or 10 p.m. Baseball is a game that is played in series, not single games. Given that the Big Ten Tournament is played in single-game rounds, it can become unpredictable. Any of the eight teams can come away with the championship. Here is how Indiana can shock the conference and earn the automatic NCAA bid: 1) Hitting the long ball Indiana ranked fourth in the conference with 71 home runs on the year, and nearly half of them were hit by catcher Matthew Ellis (18) and outfielder Carter Mathison (17, a record for an IU freshman). Maryland pitchers gave up the fourth-most home runs in the conference, so if the Hoosiers can take the Terps deep, they give themselves at least a shot at upsetting the favorites to win the tournament. Sure, playing half the schedule at Bart Kaufman Field certainly helps, but this team can turn other ballparks into Home Run Derby sites as well with the power that’s constant throughout the Hoosier lineup. 2) Ty Bothwell and Reese Sharp being on their games Yes, believe it or not, a couple of Indiana relievers can be the X-factor in this tournament. Even though Indiana has lost plenty of games because of the bullpen — all three games against Rutgers, the final game versus Minnesota just to name a few — one reliever has stood out the last few weeks. Bothwell has turned into the shutdown reliever Indiana has been desperately looking for since fellow southpaw Grant Holderfield started to struggle in mid-March. Bothwell sports a team-best 4.03 ERA and earned Big Ten Pitcher of the Week after throwing a career-high seven innings and 111 pitches against Minnesota, not allowing a single run. Sharp has lived up to his last name and has allowed just two earned runs in the past month while taking the reins as the Indiana closer, racking up four saves, tied for the team lead in that category. If these two can be as good as they’ve been, it takes a ton of pressure off the shaky Indiana rotation. 3) Continuing to be the comeback kids Say what you want about the Hoosiers this season and how they’ve been a mild disappointment, but one thing hasn’t changed all year: This team won’t go down quietly. Scoring six runs in the bottom of the ninth against Northwestern back in early April when down 7-0 was the first sign that this team never gives up. Sure, they fell one run short of a remarkable comeback, but it was a sign in what felt like a lost season that they were going to fight until the last out was recorded. The turning point of the season was the win against Indiana State in Terre Haute back on April 12. Down to its final strike, Indiana scored four runs on back-to-back home runs against the Sycamores to win 6-5. Mathison hit a pinch-hit, game-tying, three-run bomb and then Tyler Doanes followed up with a solo shot of his own to cap off arguably the best Indiana win on the season. Since that game, Indiana has won four of six series, all against fellow Big Ten schools. So I’m saying, there’s a chance. It would take a remarkable five-day, full-team effort to pull off the impossible, but as this sport has taught us in years prior, don’t count anyone out. This team is coming in with plenty of confidence and the “why not us” mentality. The Hoosiers won the last Big Ten Tournament held in 2019, and there is an outside chance they hoist the trophy again on Sunday.
After seeing its lead evaporate, Indiana baseball hit its first walk-off of the season courtesy of Big Ten Freshman of the Week Josh Pyne to fend off the Illinois Fighting Illini 7-6 in a game where IU led 4-0. Early was the key word in this game. Indiana got out of two bases loaded jams in the first two innings, and followed them both up with two runs in each of the first two innings to lead 4-0. The game was originally scheduled for 7 p.m., but with inclement weather on the horizon, first pitch was pushed up to noon ET. Hunter Jessee knocked in Bobby Whalen in each of the first two innings. Whalen would come around again to score his third and the winning run in the ninth as Pyne delivered his first career walk-off hit — a single down the left field line — to send the crowd home happy.
Indiana picked up its third series win of the season, and its first in Big Ten play, taking the first two games of a home series against the reigning conference champion Nebraska Cornhuskers. In a battle of two teams that have thoroughly underperformed this season, the Hoosier bats came alive on Friday and Saturday, winning 8-7 and 8-1. The weekend was all about the first running of the Little 500 with fans in three years, but Indiana quietly put together two much-needed performances at home. Maybe there should be a bike race every weekend in Bloomington. Indiana got off to a quick start Friday night, jumping out to a 7-0 lead after four innings, highlighted by a Josh Pyne three-run home run to left. Jack Perkins pitched six scoreless innings before giving up four runs in the seventh, finishing with 6 1/3 innings pitched and eight punchouts. Nebraska wouldn’t go away quietly, scoring two on Grant Holderfield in the ninth before Braydon Tucker had to shut the door for his fourth save of the season. Perkins got the win on the mound to improve to 3-2 and begin the weekend on the right foot. “You just don’t know which one it’s going to be,” head coach Jeff Mercer said to his ballclub after the game, referring to the seventh inning, when Indiana stretched the lead to 7-4 via a Tyler Doanes RBI single after Carter Mathison beat the shift with a drag bunt single with two outs. That turned out to be the game-winning run. Indiana was able to win the series on Saturday behind another solid pitching performance, this time from Bradley Brehmer. He tossed a quality start, six innings of one-run ball to pick up his fourth win of the season. Offensively, Indiana scored eight unanswered runs after falling behind 1-0 early. The Hoosiers took advantage of an error in the second inning and made the Huskers pay by plating five, as Bobby Whalen had a 2-RBI single and Josh Pyne cleared the bases with a double, both to right-center field. A Carter Mathison solo shot in the third and a Bobby Whalen triple in the eighth accounted for the other runs. “When we get a quality start we are a really good team,” Mercer said. Pitching has been the glaring weakness for a team, and given the way they play defensively and can hit the ball, a quality start gives this Indiana team a chance to beat anyone in the country, and Mercer reflects the same attitude. The problem is the depth in the rotation, and the length, especially on Sundays, and that problem popped up once again in this series. The Sunday struggles continued for the Hoosiers as they lost a shootout 19-7 Sunday, finishing the weekend with a 16-23 record, 4-8 in conference play. Nebraska went 20-44 (.455) at the plate, clubbing four home runs, 20 hits, and sent 63 batters to the dish to win by a dozen. Max Johnson collected the first two RBIs of his career with a double down the left field line in the fourth to cap off a four-run inning, Indiana scored in only two other innings and all five Indiana pitchers had earned runs charged to their name. “You can’t take a positive situation and turn it into a negative because today didn’t go our way,” Mercer said, referring to the fact that his goal this weekend was to win the series and defend their home-field advantage. Indiana gains much-needed momentum by winning the series, but losing again on getaway day has been an issue all season long, and certainly puts a dent in any of the confidence created in games one and two. Indiana has another busy week ahead, with five games next week, beginning with a trip to Indianapolis to play Butler at Victory Field on Tuesday.
From hard work at home to hitting home runs as a Hoosier: The journey of Indiana catcher Matthew Ellis
“Do everything to the best of your ability, no matter what.” Growing up in Kentucky, Matthew Ellis was raised into a family where hard work was the name of the game, and his father's words reflected that. His father, Mike, left the house every day at six in the morning to go to work, and Matthew says Mike “is the hardest worker I’ve ever met in my entire life. I couldn’t have asked for a better dad.” Matthew quickly adapted to his father’s way of life, even if that meant living with a competitive father who wouldn’t take it easy on his son. “He would always make it hard on me when we were competing. Whether it was basketball, ping pong, he would never let me win, and I would get so mad,” Ellis said. “But I think that fueled me as I got older, especially when you’re competing against someone else.”
Everything was finally looking like it was going in the right direction for Indiana entering Saturday’s game against Northwestern. After starting 0-8 in games decided by less than three runs, Indiana won three straight games, all being decided by a single run. After taking the series against in-state foe Evansville with a doubleheader sweep, Indiana began Big Ten play 1-0 with a tight 5-4 win over Northwestern on Friday night. But that proved to be the sole win of the weekend for IU, as the Hoosier offense was inconsistent and the bullpen struggled once again. In Friday’s win, Jack Perkins tossed a quality start with six innings with just two earned runs, but was outmatched by Wildcats starter Sean Sullivan, who tossed six shutout innings with 11 strikeouts. Entering the seventh inning stretch, Indiana trailed 2-0. However, Indiana pounced on the Wildcats ‘pen, batting around in the seventh to plate five. Hunter Jessee got it all started with a pinch-hit single, and RBI hits from Phillip Glasser, Bobby Whalen and Josh Pyne gave the Hoosiers a lead they nearly relinquished in the next half inning but held onto in the end for a nail-biting win, with the save coming from Braydon Tucker. Head coach Jeff Mercer said it was a “relief” when Sullivan exited the game, and credited the southpaw for his outing. “I hope we never see him again,” Mercer said with a wide smile and a chuckle. “But seriously, he was outstanding tonight. He’s got such an interesting fastball that keeps hitters off-balance.” Glasser said his approach at the plate didn’t change when the reliever came into the game, which led to him slapping a double down the left field line to tie the game at two. Scoring in only one inning was the case again for the Hoosiers on Saturday, this time ending in a 7-6 loss. After trailing 7-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth, Indiana found a second wind, scoring six runs in the final half but ultimately falling short. Carter Mathison and Tucker Schank each had two-RBI hits but the top two Hoosiers in the lineup struck out to end the game. Too little too late, but better late than never. Heading into the rubber match, Indiana had only scored in two of the 17 innings the offense had come to the plate. They scored in five of the nine innings on Sunday, but only scored multiple runs in a frame once, losing 13-6. The ‘Cats scored 11 of their 13 runs with two outs as Indiana couldn’t get out of innings before the damage was done. The Hoosiers used five pitchers, and only the starter Nathan Stahl faced fewer than 10 batters. Stahl got just four outs and took the loss, giving up three earned runs. Once again, Indiana doesn’t have a strong Sunday starter, and bullpen games aren’t going to win this team many matchups given the way relievers have handled the ball on the mound. Unless they can consistently outslug teams, Indiana is going to have trouble winning on getaway day with this current system. There simply just isn’t enough talent and depth to win games, given that bullpen arms are seeing three or four innings of work a weekend, and they usually get dinged up in the tail end of their appearances. Mercer addressed this question after the game Sunday, explaining that they have the talent to get through bullpen games, but need to do better keeping opposing offenses in check, which is exactly what Northwestern did to them. Indiana will attempt to win the season series when the team travels to Evansville on Tuesday for a single game on the road before a trip to West Lafayette looms over the weekend.
Big Ten play is upon us. Here's everything you need to know about Indiana baseball before its first conference matchup against Northwestern
With the calendar turning to April, it’s officially baseball season. For Indiana, that means the focus shifts towards Big Ten Play, which begins at 5 p.m. Friday with a three-game series at home against Northwestern. We have learned a lot about this team 23 games into this season, filled with ups and downs en route to a 10-13 record thus far. Coming off of a 26-18 2021 campaign where an NCAA bid slipped through their fingertips, the Hoosiers lost A LOT of production to graduation, including their top three starting pitchers. Despite the losses, the team was quite busy in the transfer portal, and to this point several of them have made key impacts, while others are trying to see more time on the diamond. Here’s what we know a month and a half into the 2022 season: 1) This team can hit the cover off the ball. In the month of March alone, Indiana reached double digits in runs eight times in just 17 games played. The main reason: Catcher Matthew Ellis, who has smacked 11 homers, tied for sixth in the country and the best among backstops in the NCAA. The Hoosiers’ hit-to-run ratio is quite low, but they are very patient, draw a plethora of base on balls and are aggressive on the basepaths. When they get on base, most of the time they end up coming around to score. 2) The bugaboo has been the bullpen. A big reason why this team is 2-8 in games decided by three runs or less is because of the pen. They’ve scored first in a lot of their games but have been unable to keep opponents off the scoreboard in the late innings. They are forced to use the same bullpen arms multiple times a week and teams who scout well can jump on the fatigued arms. 3) IU has a home-field advantage. Indiana is 7-4 at The Bart this season and has exploded for an average of over 10 runs offensively and for the most part has struck early and often. It’s a much different story away from home, as IU only averages five runs a game and has only scored 10+ runs once. In summary, this team seemingly can’t find a way to win on the road, doesn’t win too many close games, and doesn’t have a very deep bench. A really smooth transition from basketball season, right? Regardless of this rollercoaster ride, Indiana is 0-0 in Big Ten play with the hopes of having a winning record in conference play when Sunday evening rolls around against a Northwestern team that didn’t finish in the top half of the standings in the last decade. The Wildcats are 9-11 this season.