It was almost a night to forget for senior outfielder Logan Kaletha in Friday’s game against Iowa. However, it ended with a Gatorade bath during his post-game interview.
Kaletha, who had missed time with an injury, returned to the lineup Wednesday against Indiana State University. His first three at-bats Friday produced nothing, but he played the role of hero when he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth.
With sophomore infielder Cole Barr on second base, Kaletha laced a single to right field that grazed off Iowa second baseman Mitchell Boe’s glove allowing Barr to score, giving IU a 3-2 win to begin conference play.
“It’s always nice to start with a win,” IU Coach Jeff Mercer said. “You show up everyday the same but it is nice for the guys and for all the work they put in. Especially to start off with a win in dramatic fashion."
Barr delivered the first punch with his home run to right field in the second inning. That hit gave IU the lead, but senior infielder Matt Lloyd added some insurance in the fifth inning.
Lloyd hit a two-out single to right field to drive in junior outfielder Matt Gorski.
After Barr put IU on the board in the second inning with a solo home run, senior pitcher Pauly Milto settled into the game, turning in an eight and one-third inning, 10-strikeout performance.
Milto cruised through eight innings, but met a feisty Iowa offense in the top of the ninth inning. The end of the eighth inning provided a tough decision for Mercer. Without enough time to warm up senior closer Matt Lloyd, Mercer sent Milto back out to finish his start.
However, after back-to-back hits and a hit by pitch loaded the bases, Milto allowed two runs, one of them earned, to cross the plate and tie the game.
“There was a lot of moving pieces,” Mercer said. “We didn’t feel like we could get Lloyd hot in the seventh and into the ninth. I felt like Milto was the best option in that situation compared to anyone else. You just trust the guy that’s earned the right to be trusted and Pauly has.”
Milto has become almost machine-like on the mound this season. Each start of his has gone at least six innings, and he holds a 4-1 record on the season with a 2.28 earned run average. His 10 strikeouts tied a career high as he shutdown the Iowa lineup for the first eight innings.
IU’s victory extends its win streak to six games as it heads into the second of three games against Iowa tomorrow. Junior Tanner Gordon will get the ball at 2:05 p.m. Saturday as IU looks to continue the momentum from tonight’s walk-off victory.
“Getting that first win got some more juice flowing through us, some motivation to keep things going and to get that series win tomorrow,” Milto said.