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Monday, Feb. 26
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

IU remains in Big Ten race with series win against Northwestern

Baseball vs. Northwestern

The IU baseball team entered the weekend with its postseason hopes hanging in the balance.

The Hoosiers sure seemed like they recognized it.

Playing with efficiency that had been lacking during a seven-game losing streak, IU (27-20, 8-10) kept itself in the race for the Big Ten tournament with its fourth conference series win of the season against Northwestern.

“You’ve got to win series,” coach Tracy Smith said. “We’ve played six series, and we’ve won four and lost two in destructive fashion. But again, if you just take care of business and keep trying to win the series, I think at least you give yourself a chance; so, it was very important for us to take care of that.”

The Hoosiers won two of the weekend’s three contests at Sembower Field, claiming a 5-0 shutout victory Friday, May 6, an 8-2 win Sunday, May 8 and jump in  to the coveted sixth position in the Big Ten standings — the final spot of eligibility for the conference tournament. The Wildcats took the Saturday, May 7 game at a 9-6 tally.

IU managed to correct defensive issues that plagued it while losing seven straight games dating back to April 23. The Hoosiers surrendered no unearned runs against Northwestern after allowing 15 such scores during the skid.

Sophomore second  baseman Micah Johnson said the team wanted to get back to exercising the fielding prowess it had shown for much of the season.

“We got away from what we do,” Johnson said. “For a while we were leading the Big Ten in fielding percentage, and we were winning at that point, but last weekend and the past two weekends, we kind of got away from that. This weekend we were really focused on minimizing the big innings.

“It was just fun. We got back to having fun. For a while, I think for everybody, it just wasn’t fun.”  

Sunday’s win perhaps most strongly exemplified how things turned around
for IU.

Leading that affair 3-2 with runners on second and third bases in the bottom of the seventh inning, Northwestern made the decision to intentionally walk Johnson with heavy-hitting junior Alex Dickerson on deck.

“That was the biggest compliment I’ve ever had,” said Johnson, who hit .700 on the weekend.

Dickerson made the Wildcats pay, hitting a single to bat in two runs. Johnson also scored on that play after Northwestern erred on a wild throw, opening a 7-2 lead.

Two at-bats later, senior Wes Wilson's double brought Dickerson home to cap a five-run seventh frame for the Hoosiers.

“You always try to make people pay,” Dickerson said. “You try to make people pay for just letting people on during that situation.

“It was a good situation to get another guy on, and he ends up scoring, so it’s good for me.”

While IU continued to struggle in situational hitting at times – the Hoosiers left 20 men on base over the weekend after stranding 57 runners during the losing streak – the hits translated to runs each game. IU never recorded fewer than nine hits against the Wildcats and then batted in the seventh inning on Sunday and a three-run clincher Friday.

IU also enjoyed some charity within the conference; Iowa’s walkoff win Sunday against Penn State vaulted the Hoosiers into the last qualifying standing for the Big Ten tournament with two series remaining.

Smith said it’s up to the players whether they ultimately make it there.

“You won’t hear me talk much about these guys the rest of the way because talk is cheap,” Smith said. “They will finish it how they want to finish it, regardless of what I say about them.”   

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