A rough day for most of IU’s mid-week pitchers and a sluggish offensive performance contributed to a blowout loss for IU baseball at the hands of an in-state foe and left the Hoosiers’ head coach displeased with the current competitiveness of his squad.
The Hoosiers (20-19, 6-6) fell 17-4 to Indiana State (27-12) Wednesday at Sembower Field; their fourth loss in five games.
“My concern isn’t the (losing) of the baseball games,” IU coach Tracy Smith said. “My concern is our intent, our focus and how (we) drop them. That’s the part that has my fire a little bit.”
As has been the case for much of the season, Smith opted not to throw his top pitchers in an effort to save them for the weekend conference series. Wednesday, his pitchers included a player recruited to be an infielder in Jerry Kleman, a former club team pitcher in Alex Zerman and a player preparing for his high school prom in Casey Smith.
“You’ve got to keep your other guys fresh for the weekend,” Smith said. “But, I fully expect that when guys go out on the mound, when we put you in there, that you can help us win the ball game. That clearly didn’t happen today.”
The Hoosiers’ pitching staff of record on Wednesday – one that also included freshmen Greg Heban, Mike McKinley and Derek Roof – allowed 15 hits and 12 walks while striking out just two hitters.
Those pitching woes came early – very early – as the Sycamores wasted no time putting the right field scoreboard to work.
A Kyle Burnam one-out double in the first inning started the Sycamore damage before Kleman issued a four-pitch walk to Luke Fieser. A second-straight four-pitch walk to ISU’s Robby Ort then loaded the bases for Jeremy Lucas.
Lucas worked Kleman to a 3-1 count before slapping a ground ball to IU shortstop Michael Basil. Lucas earned a fielder’s choice on the play, but then advanced to second base on a Basil throwing error during an attempted double play – allowing two runs to score.
ISU’s Tyler Graham followed with a double to score Lucas before a Phil Liniger single scored Graham, giving the Sycamores a four-run lead in the first frame.
Alex Dickerson, who was in the designated hitter role, started the Hoosiers’ offense in the bottom of the second with his 14th double of the season.
A one-out walk to IU sophomore Josh Lyon set up runners on first and second for senior Tyler Rogers, who promptly struck a 2-1 Blake Drake pitch to right center field for a double to score Dickerson.
Dickerson, who had started every game this season in left field, ceded that position Wednesday to Lyon due to a sore throwing arm.
“I’d be out there if it wasn’t hurting too bad,” Dickerson said.
Dickerson, who leads the Big Ten with 17 home runs, was 1-for-2 with a walk and an RBI against the Sycamores.
Wes Wilson continued ISU’s second-inning scoring with a sacrifice ground out to shortstop Ben Ferrell, scoring Lyon and pulling the Hoosiers within two.
That margin, however, would be as close as the Hoosiers would come to winning another game in the now 113 year-old series between the two schools.
The Sycamores added two more runs when a two-out Ryan Strausborger single to left field plated Grant Grgurich and Ferrell, moving the score to 6-2.
Smith replaced McKinley in the top the sixth.
He didn’t fare well.
The recent Bloomington High School North graduate worked two-thirds of the sixth inning, facing the entire Sycamore order and then some. Smith walked three, gave up five hits and allowed five runs before Zerman replaced him and finished the inning.
IU then got back on the board with two runs in the bottom of the seventh, but two runs in the eighth inning and four runs in the ninth from the Sycamores erased any ideas the Hoosiers had of coming back with big rally.
“I’m just a competitive person and want to win every contest,” Smith said. “You put an Indiana uniform on and it should mean something. Clearly, we’ve got to get better mid-week.”