Indiana Daily Student

IU baseball wins eighth straight game

<p>Then-freshman pitcher Tommy Sommer pitches the ball during IU's 9-8 win against Ball State on April 18 at Bart Kaufman Field.</p>

Then-freshman pitcher Tommy Sommer pitches the ball during IU's 9-8 win against Ball State on April 18 at Bart Kaufman Field.

Jeremy Houston let out a short, exasperated breath.

The IU sophomore shortstop wasn’t recovering from the celebration he caused after delivering the game-winning single in the bottom of the 14th inning against Ball State on Wednesday night at Bart Kaufman Field.

Instead, the reality of ending the marathon game made an impression on him.

“That’s ridiculous,” Houston said after being told the game lasted five hours and 34 minutes. “That’s a long game.”

IU’s 9-8 midweek victory against Ball State featured 14 pitchers, 21 walks, 29 hits and more than 100 plate appearances between the Hoosiers and Cardinals.   

Neither team’s starting pitcher made it out of the third inning. The game featured a second seventh-inning stretch during the 14th inning, prior to Houston’s heroics.

“Thank god we could just get this win,” Houston said.

A strong wind made playing conditions difficult for the Hoosiers and Cardinals, with several potential home run balls kept inside the ballpark. Regardless, three home runs still left the park as the two teams combined for 13 runs in the game’s opening four innings.

Freshman starting pitcher Connor Manous only pitched two innings for IU before being removed by IU Coach Chris Lemonis. IU’s next two pitchers, seniors Brian Hobbie and Kade Kryzsko, allowed six Ball State runs to score during their combined 1.2 innings of work.

Needing a calming influence on the mound, Lemonis turned to freshman Tommy Sommer out of the bullpen. Sommer provided his best and longest outing as a college player, lasting 4.1 innings while allowing just one run.

“The early part was really tough for us,” Lemonis said. “I thought Tommy Sommer did a great job of getting us a hold and getting us to just stabilize the game.”

After finding itself in an early 6-1 hole, patience proved to be a virtue for IU on offense.

The Hoosiers scored three times in the third inning, each time via a bases-loaded walk with two outs. In total, IU drew 16 walks from Ball State pitchers, with senior outfielder Logan Sowers walked five times himself.

However, IU had difficulty converting once reaching base. The Hoosiers stranded 20 runners on base during the game.

“It’s frustrating cause I thought a lot of times we swung out of the zone in that situation,” Lemonis said. “They would walk us to get in those situations and then we would swing out of the zone to get them out of the situation.” 

Starting in the bottom of the fourth, IU scored four consecutive runs to take an 8-7 lead into the eighth inning. Sommer then allowed his lone run in that inning, tying the game for Ball State.

Opportunities were presented to IU late in the game to score the go-ahead or winning run. In the eighth, 12th and 13th, IU had runners reach as far as third base. On two occasions, IU had a runner thrown out at home.

Far less drama occurred while Ball State batted. Freshman Grant Sloan, sophomore Cal Krueger and sophomore Andrew Saalfrank pitched the final six innings of the game for IU. Ball State managed just two hits during this period.

Saalfrank was particularly impressive, striking out seven of the nine batters he faced.

“Good job for him and his stuff looked really good too,” Lemonis said. “It was nice to see.”

In the 14th, it appeared another run-scoring situation was about to evade IU’s grasp. Junior catcher Wyatt Cross and freshman infielder Justin Walker both struck out with senior pinch runner Laren Eustace at second base.

Houston’s single through the right side of the infield made sure the opportunity wouldn’t go to waste. It was his 11th hit in his last six games.

The single gave IU a victory in its first 14-inning game since February 2016. It also extended IU’s winning streak to eight games, the Hoosiers’ longest run of wins since April 2016.

IU has also won its last seven games against Ball State, with each of those last three wins coming due to an extra-inning, walk-off hit. 

“I’m just glad he got it because I’m tired and hungry,” Lemonis said.

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