From the moment the ball left the bat of Cincinnati senior Connor McVey, it was apparent the inconsistent starting pitching for IU was back.
McVey stepped up against the IU starter, sophomore Andrew Saalfrank, as the second hitter in the Hoosiers’ home opener and hit a line drive over the left field wall to give the Bearcats a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
By giving up three runs in the first two innings, Saalfrank marked the ninth time a Hoosier starting pitcher has given up a run in the first three innings this season.
Saalfrank faced similar struggles in his only other start this season, when he gave up three runs in three innings against South Alabama.
“We seem to give in and throw one right down the middle, and they hit it out,” IU Coach Chris Lemonis said. “He has good stuff and he makes some really good pitches, but the really good guys never give you the ball down the middle of the plate.”
Despite the struggles from the starting pitching, IU has managed a 9-3 record to start the season and has nine consecutive home games ahead of them.
“Wins, we want wins,” Lemonis said. “We’ve been road warriors for the first three weeks, but we’re just trying to get back home and play good baseball.”
IU was fresh off of a road trip to San Diego in which the team took three of four games against the Toreros.
The Hoosiers came back to Bloomington scheduled to play their home opener Wednesday. However, due to expected snow, the game was moved up to Tuesday afternoon giving IU less time to prepare.
“That’s just the game of baseball,” sophomore outfielder Matt Gorski said. “You’ve got to be ready back-to-back days. You’ve got to be ready to go every day and play all nine innings.”
The IU offense is still averaging six runs per game, but the Hoosiers struggled to get timely hits against Cincinnati, leaving seven men on base.
The Bearcats’ starter, junior A.J. Kullman, delivered five shutout innings to earn his first win of the season.
“We haven’t really faced a big sinker ball pitcher this year and he really had that working for him today,” Gorski said. “We swung a little bit out of the zone so that hurt us.”
One notable play for the Hoosiers came in the second inning when Gorski dove for a ball down the left field line with two outs and two runners on base.
Gorski was unable to make the catch allowing the ball to roll to the wall and the two runners to score and give Cincinnati a 3-0 lead.
“Coach Lemonis and I have talked about it, he said probably not dive for that ball all the time,” Gorski said. “If it’s in the gap you have your centerfielder behind you, but if it’s in the corner I save a run if I don’t dive for that ball.”
Utility player Matt Lloyd was stretching in the dugout following a lineout to center field. Lloyd was then replaced by senior infielder Colby Stratten.
Lemonis said Lloyd was experiencing tightness in his back and is doing fine. He was removed due to precautionary measures.
After dropping the opening game of a 10-game homestand, IU will play the University of the Pacific for a three-game series beginning Friday.
“The game of baseballl sometimes will punch you right in the nose when you feel good,” Lemonis said. “We’ve got to be able to come back out and be ready to play.”
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