The fastball cruised into the zone, and Hartong smashed it over the left field wall for his first home run of the season.
The two-run shot came at just the right time and gave the Hoosiers the lead — one they would not give back.
The home run capped off the comeback as IU beat Kentucky 11-7 Tuesday at Cliff Hagan ?Stadium in Kentucky.
“Brad’s (home run) was a no-doubter,” senior infielder Casey Rodrigue said. “I think I was jumping over Roger (Rodeheaver) in the dugout when that one went over.”
Hartong wasn’t the only one with a late inning home run, as freshman Logan Sowers hit a bomb over the scoreboard in left-center field. It was one of 16 IU hits in the four-run win.
“Both guys have power,” IU Coach Chris Lemonis said. “We talked a lot this week about being ready to hit the fastball, and I think you saw both guys do that.”
After the Hoosiers (17-8, 1-4) scored two runs in the first inning, the defense and pitching collapsed. The Wildcats scored five runs in a long second inning, all off of IU junior Christian ?Morris.
“(I was) frustrated,” ?Lemonis said. “We just have to play better defense, and that’s the hard part. It felt like there were ways we could’ve stopped it.”
Morris pitched 2.1 innings and gave up six runs, all earned, on eight hits while striking out one.
Several of the runs could have easily been unearned, but the plays were ?ruled hits.
“(Morris) was okay,” ?Lemonis said. “He’s fighting it a little bit. He’s a great pitcher. We have a lot of confidence in him. I’ve told him we need him to be great at the end of the year.”
The win was an important one for IU. After being swept last weekend by Iowa, Lemonis stressed his team needed to rebound against Kentucky.
“It’s a good feeling,” ?Lemonis said. “Especially after we were down early and things weren’t really going our way. A lot of credit to our kids to keep fighting.”
Junior Scott Effross came in for Morris and pitched 2.2 innings, giving up one run. Then the rest of the bullpen slammed the door.
Sophomore Thomas Belcher and senior Luke Harrison combined to throw four innings without allowing a single hit, let alone a run.
Kentucky (18-11) threw six different pitchers. All six allowed at least one run.
Sowers had three hits with a triple on top of his home run. He also had three RBIs.
Hartong had two hits and two RBIs, as did ?freshman Isaiah Pasteur.
Rodrigue had himself a day as well, with three hits, two RBIs and four runs scored.
“It was a very offensive day here, both teams kept battling and putting balls in play,” Lemonis said. “The infield plays fast, the wind was blowing out, and it’s beautiful weather. I think our mindset was the same, we just felt like we could hit all day.”
In an effort to generate some more offense, Lemonis moved Rodrigue down in the lineup and played him at shortstop to help the infield defense instead of his usual second base. He said he played shortstop in the summer and felt ?fine there.
“I’ve hit anywhere from one to nine in my career, so anywhere they put me in the lineup, I feel comfortable,” Rodrigue said.
Things weren’t all good for IU, however, as sophomore infielder Austin Cangelosi was injured after beating out an infield single midway through the game.
Lemonis said Cangelosi has a sprained left ankle and will be re-evaluated ?Wednesday.
Cangelosi was batting .307 with three home runs and 10 RBIs entering ?Tuesday’s game.
“We’ve been next guy up all year,” Lemonis said. “It’s been a little challenging, but we’ll keep it going.”
The Hoosiers now return to Bloomington, where they will have seven consecutive home games.
“It’s been a long stretch for us, big road trips with Penn State, Iowa,” ?Rodrigue said.