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Saturday, April 20
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

IU rallies in the 9th to top ISU

baseball

After trailing by four runs, the IU baseball team completed the comeback against the Indiana State University Sycamores behind a freshman Chris Sujka walk-off base-hit bunt in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 8-7 victory.

“He’s a good bunter, and we wanted to take advantage of his bunting skill and speed,” IU Coach Tracy Smith said. “He has been struggling lately, so we thought percentage-wise that was the best opportunity to score a run.”

In the bottom of the ninth, freshman Ricky Alfonso drew a one-out walk for IU, and junior Micah Johnson stole second base after entering as a pitch-runner for Alfonso.

After the Sycamores walked junior shortstop Michael Basil and junior Trace Knoblauch grounded out to move the runners to second and third, Sujka ended the game with base-hit bunt down the third-base line for a 8-7 IU victory.

Smith said Johnson’s ability to steal a base, which changed the complexion of the ninth inning, is something IU has been missing.

“What he did there is indicative of how much we have missed Micah Johnson’s abilities on this team,” Smith said. “His ability to steal a base without having to give up an out put us in a position to win the baseball game. It was well executed all the way around.”

Johnson, who has been limited to only pinch running this season because of surgery he had earlier this year, said Smith gave him the green light to steal in the first three pitches. It only took him one.

“I’ve been waiting around too long to not steal and only go station to station,” Johnson said. “Skip told me to look to go in the first three pitches, which I usually do anyways, so I was off and I got in there.”

To begin the game, freshman starter Colin McEnery worked out of trouble in the top half of the first inning, and the Hoosiers struck first in the bottom half.

With two outs and men on first and second, Basil drove a tailing line-drive out to deep right center field that fell out of the reach of ISU center fielder Lucas Hileman and gave the Hoosiers a 2-0 lead.

The Sycamores responded in the top of the second with three runs, including two that came when IU sophomore third baseman Dillon Dooney airmailed a throw to the plate with the bases loaded.

In the third, a freshman first baseman Sam Travis throwing error on what looked like it could have been a three-six-three double play led to two more runs for ISU as shortstop Tyler Wampler stung a two-run double down the right field line to make it 5-2.

On the mound, ISU’s starter, Kyle Rupe, settled down after a shaky first inning to pitch five innings by only allowing only one hit and no runs from the second through fifth innings. Once he exited, the Hoosiers jumped on the Sycamore bullpen.

In the sixth inning, the Hoosiers sent 10 men to the plate and plated five to regain the lead 7-6. A pair of two-run singles by Travis and redshirt freshman left fielder Will Nolden highlighted the inning in which the Hoosiers had five hits while facing four different ISU relief pitchers.

Basil, who finished 3-for-4 with two RBI and a run, said the Hoosiers did not try to change their approach at the plate once the bullpen entered. Instead, the players began to really focus once they sensed they could have a big inning in the sixth.

“It took us a little while to wake up and get in the game,” Basil said. “As soon as we got one run in (the sixth), we were telling each other that it was the time to bust the game open because we had guys on base, and we took advantage of our opportunity.”

After IU took the lead, the bullpen shut the door. IU’s junior Jonny Hoffman struck out the side in the seventh inning and sophomore righty Ryan Halstead worked around a lead-off Sycamore single in the eighth to preserve the lead heading into the ninth.

With the game on the line, Halstead could not be as effective in the ninth, as he surrendered the lead by allowing a one-out single, a wild pitch and a RBI double to third baseman Koby Kraemer.

Despite blowing the save, Halstead recorded his second win of the season (2-2) — a win Smith said was because the team finally focused.

“What changed for our dugout was that a lot of guys began the day not concentrating, and their heads were out of the game,” Smith said. “It was guys that haven’t played that much this year that showed what we can do with a little focus. To me, it wasn’t what we were doing, it was what we weren’t doing in the first couple innings.”

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