When the top two seeds in an NCAA Tournament regional go head-to-head, the game is generally expected to be a good one, and that’s what IU and Texas delivered Sunday night.
After a back-and-forth contest, the Hoosiers fell 3-2 in Austin, ending their season and sending the Longhorns to the super regional round.
Texas took an early 1-0 lead, as junior catcher DJ Petrinsky crossed home plate while the Hoosiers turned a double play in the top of the second inning.
IU struck back in the third, with sophomore shortstop Jeremy Houston hitting an RBI single to left field to tie the game. Then, junior third baseman Luke Miller hit a grounder up the middle for another RBI single to take the lead, 2-1.
Sophomore starting pitcher Andrew Saalfrank had a strong start for IU. The left-handed pitcher limited the Longhorns to just one run over the first five innings of the game. However, in the top of the sixth, he gave up a game-tying home run to Texas freshman designated hitter Zach Zubia. Saalfrank ended his outing having given up a pair of runs across 5.1 innings pitched. He gave up six hits and struck out eight batters.
Texas struck its final blow in the seventh when Big 12 Player of the Year, junior infielder Kody Clemens, hit an RBI double to right field to give the Longhorns a 3-2 lead.
Despite Texas taking the lead late in the game, IU had multiple opportunities to tie the score and even take a lead. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Miller singled to center field for the Hoosiers with two outs.
Sophomore outfielder Matt Gorski followed the single with a line drive to left field that narrowly hopped over the short outfielder fence for a ground-rule double.
If the ball had stayed in play, Miller almost certainly would have scored on the play, tying the game for the Hoosiers. Instead, senior outfielder Logan Sowers grounded out to third base with runners on third and second, ending the inning with the Hoosiers still behind.
In the bottom of the ninth, IU had another chance to tie or win the game. Junior catcher Ryan Fineman started the inning with a leadoff single. His single was followed by a hit-by-pitch against sophomore infielder Scotty Bradley.
With a pair of pinch runners, freshman Cole Barr and senior Colby Stratten, replacing those two on the base paths, it seemed like the Hoosiers were set up for success. Freshman infielder Justin Walker struck out swinging in IU's next at-bat after failing to get an bunt down, but Houston then drew a walk, loading the bases with just one out.
Needing just a sacrifice fly to tie the game, or a base hit to likely win the game, the Hoosiers couldn’t deliver.
Freshman Sam Crail pinch hit for senior outfielder Laren Eustace, but was called out on strikes on a controversial call. In IU's final at-bat of the season, junior utility player Matt Lloyd struck out swinging to end the game.
The loss means IU ends the season with a final record of 40-19.
This is the first season in which the Hoosiers have won at least 40 games since 2014, when a squad led by Kyle Schwarber and Sam Travis won 43 games before losing to the Stanford Cardinal in the championship game of the Bloomington regional in the NCAA Tournament.