By all accounts, IU (8-7) had the right man in its batter’s box with two hitters on base in the eighth inning of its 8-7 loss to Kentucky on Wednesday.
All-American IU catcher Josh Phegley batted with just as much fervor as he has all season Wednesday when he faced Kentucky pitcher Logan Darnell. Phegley worked Darnell up to a full count before flying a single out to left field that scored junior outfielder Evan Crawford and brought IU within one point.
With IU sophomore Matt Carr dismissing nearly every batter that stepped within the diamond, the Hoosiers had one last shot in the ninth inning – three consecutive outs ended any opportunity for a win.
IU coach Tracy Smith said his team couldn’t have asked for a better setup to end the game.
“He’s been a guy that we’ve leaned on for a couple seasons,” he said of Phegley. “We had the right guy in the right position.”
The Hoosiers doubled the Wildcats in hits with 14 but left nine batters stranded. Their inability to get timely hitting allowed Kentucky to post four uncountered runs in the sixth inning.
But the game was ultimately decided by mistakes on the defensive side. Smith blamed four errors for IU’s loss.
“If you look at the statistical sheet, it doesn’t make sense,” Smith said. “If you double the team’s amount of hits, get 12 strikeouts and score seven runs, you’d think that’d be good enough to win. The one statistic that seems to be rearing its ugly head for us is our errors, and it cost us.”
The Hoosiers have underachieved all season but finally seemed to play up to their potential against Kentucky, a power in the Southeastern Conference, widely considered the best conference in college baseball.
IU’s pitching was on par with Kentucky’s until the sixth inning. From then on, Carr separated himself from any other player to touch the mound. He threw for two innings, facing 11 batters and striking out six. Even in defeat, Carr said he was proud of his team’s performance.
“We kept fighting after we were down four, and that says a lot about this team,” he said.
Sophomore first baseman Jerrud Sabourin, who went 3-for-5 on the day, said IU was capable of scoring against heightened competition but simply faltered in the ninth inning.
“We tried to get guys to put balls in the gaps,” he said. “Their closer was a pretty good pitcher, and we just couldn’t get it done.”