Indiana Daily Student

Defense and home runs power IU baseball to series win

<p>Junior Tim Herrin pitches the ball during the Hoosiers' game against the Indiana State Sycamores on Tuesday, April 10. IU defeated Nebraska 8-6 on Sunday.</p>

Junior Tim Herrin pitches the ball during the Hoosiers' game against the Indiana State Sycamores on Tuesday, April 10. IU defeated Nebraska 8-6 on Sunday.

When Tim Herrin was a freshman, IU Coach Chris Lemonis said he couldn't pitch an inning without walking a batter.

The Terre Haute, Indiana, native also struggled with delivering long pitching outings for the Hoosiers. Prior to April 17, he had not pitched into the sixth inning of a game.

The past two weeks have seen Herrin earn two victories for IU. One came against Notre Dame when Herrin pitched six shutout innings while walking just one batter, and the other came Sunday at Bart Kaufman Field.

Herrin pitched a career-high seven innings, allowing two runs and walking no batters, as IU (31-10, 9-5) defeated Illinois (25-14, 10-5) 9-2 to earn a 2-1 series win against the Fighting Illini. 

"He's just come so far," Lemonis said. "When he was a freshman we couldn't pitch him, and now to go out there. He pitched like that against Notre Dame last week and he was really good at Ohio State, too. Big piece for us right now."

Of the 21 outs forced by Herrin, only one came via strikeout. This meant he relied heavily on the IU defense, which committed one error in the win, to take care of groundouts and flyouts.

"I was going in there trying to execute pitches," Herrin said. "Throw strikes, pitch to contact and I had a lot of good play behind me."

As Herrin cruised on the mound, the IU offense put together two big innings at the plate.

Consecutive home runs in the second inning from sophomore infielder Scotty Bradley and sophomore outfielder Matt Gorski gave IU a 3-0 lead. 

"Back-to-back jacks is kind of a good feeling for the pitcher," Herrin said. "You have a cushion, more than one-run cushion. Just want to go out there and throw more strikes and execute."

IU entered the bottom of the seventh inning with a 4-2 lead, but the Hoosier bats exploded, getting five hits and five runs to put the game out of reach.

The nine runs scored were the most by the team in a conference game since April 15.

"Hitting those two home runs back-to-back kind of took it off everyone's shoulders," Lemonis said. "We could relax and play the game."

While IU's offense improved as the weekend series progressed, the same couldn't be said for the most feared hitter in the Illinois lineup.

Junior Bren Spillane entered the series leading the Big Ten Conference in batting average with a .444 mark and in home runs with 16. However, he collected just two hits during the three games.

"Don't let him beat us. That was our biggest approach going into this weekend," Herrin said. "We knew he was one of the best in the country and we wanted to go into this weekend, not pitch around him, but execute pitches.

The two wins for IU came as the team also began to work two important players back into the rotation from injury. Junior infielder Luke Miller made a pinch-hit appearance in each game and collected two hits, while junior pitcher Pauly Milto threw in the bullpen and was available to play Sunday.

Miller has been out of the lineup due to a foot injury while Milto has been dealing with arm soreness.

With no midweek games scheduled for IU prior to next weekend's series at Minnesota, Lemonis said Miller will take part in team scrimmages this week. He also said he expects Milto to pitch in some capacity next week.

Because of its series win against Illinois, IU will remain in the top half of the Big Ten standings entering the Minnesota series. The Hoosiers are fifth in the conference standings and are among the top 25 teams nationally in RPI.

"We had a rough week, so coming in and winning and fighting after that really tough Friday night loss was huge for us," Lemonis said.

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