IU baseball sat on the turf of Bart Kaufman Field on Friday night, enjoying a fireworks show with two more conference wins in its pocket.
In a doubleheader against the Northwestern Wildcats, IU was able to record a 12-0 and 6-3 win to improve its overall record to 25-6 and its conference record to 5-2.
The warm weather IU baseball had been searching for came around, and the Hoosier offense took advantage of it.
With the help of four home runs, IU opened its doubleheader with a dominant 12-0 victory.
Junior utility player Matt Lloyd provided two of those home runs. Despite recent struggles at the plate, Lloyd was able to go two-for-two with two walks in addition to the two home runs.
“He had been struggling a little bit, but Northwestern — he hit well against them last year,” IU Coach Chris Lemonis said. “Sometimes that’s what you need in this game, and just get your head right.”
Junior catcher Ryan Fineman and sophomore leftfielder Matt Gorski hit the other two long balls for IU.
On the mound for the Hoosiers was junior Jonathan Stiever. Stiever went up against Northwestern’s freshman ace, Quinn Lavelle, but Stiever was able to cruise compared to Lavalle.
The Hoosier starter recorded his sixth consecutive outing of six or more innings while giving up two runs or less. Against the Wildcats, Stiever threw seven shutout innings and five strikeouts, despite giving up eight hits.
“He just competed,” Lemonis said. “It keeps us in the game.”
Sophomore shortstop Jeremy Houston also had a good day for the Hoosiers. After being benched in a series against Butler two weeks ago, Houston has returned to the Hoosier starting lineup and recorded just his third multi-hit game of the season.
The turnaround for Houston seemed to begin when he was brought into the final game of a three-game series against Purdue last Sunday. Houston made a big defensive play for the Hoosiers in the 12th inning against the Boilermakers, and has only seen his play improve since.
“It was a confidence booster, that's all I can say,” Houston said. “This game, it'll knock you down quick, but have confidence and it'll bring you back up really fast.”
After the strong offensive display in Friday afternoon's game, IU was kept in check at the plate for most of the evening game.
Until the eighth inning, that is.
Trailing 3-1 to Northwestern, IU exploded for five runs in the bottom of the eighth to earn a 6-3 victory and secure the doubleheader sweep.
A pair of two-RBI singles through the right side of the infield did the damage for IU. Sophomore infielder Jeremy Houston tied the game at 3-3 with his hit, while junior outfielder Logan Kaletha's hit scored the game-deciding runs for the Hoosiers.
"Tried to put something hard through the middle of the field," Houston said of his hit. "Luckily it went through the right side."
IU scored all of its eight-inning runs with two outs against the team.
"We preach it all the time," Lemonis said. "The last swing every day at BP is a two-out hit. It’s hard to win at a high level if you don’t get some.”
Junior pitcher Pauly Milto kept IU within touching distance of Northwestern throughout the game thanks to another seven-inning start from the right-hander.
It was the fourth time this season and the second straight start in which Milto went at least seven innings on the mound for the Hoosiers. Milto compiled three innings in which no Northwestern batters reached base during his start.
Sophomore Cal Krueger replaced Milto in the eighth and allowed Northwestern's third run on a two-out double to left field. He remained in the game after IU's offensive flurry in the bottom half of the inning, and despite allowing the Wildcats to load the bases in the ninth, he steadied himself to strike out junior infielder Jack Dunn to end the game.
"We played a great game," Houston said. "Pauly pitched his butt off. Cal came in and shut it down. Just wanted to do something for the team."
Houston's big hit continued his recent upswing. In IU's last three games, Houston has five hits and five RBIs.
"Happy for Jeremy," Lemonis said. "It’s been a tough start for him. Really good player, and he’s been working on that swing. It’s like the world’s lifted off of him when you get some hits like that.”
IU and Northwestern will conclude their three-game series at 2:05 p.m. Saturday at Bart Kaufman Field.
Sophomore Cameron Beauchamp is scheduled to start for the Hoosiers.