It fulfilled every coaching cliché, but it also got the job done for IU baseball against Purdue on Wednesday night.
With one out and the bases loaded in the 10th inning, senior Cade Bunnell stepped up. The first two pitches, his strides and swings were mistimed, and he fell behind 0-2.
But a few days before, IU Coach Jeff Mercer saw Bunnell in the batting cages practicing hitting fastballs without taking strides.
So with the infielder behind in the count, Mercer told Bunnell the cliché of sticking to what he practiced and to widen his stance. Bunnell did just that, and the next pitch landed in left field and gave IU a 7-6 win.
“You show up to work every day because you don’t know what day it’s going to be that you figure it out for the rest of your career,” Mercer said. “If Cade Bunnell is not in the cage working his butt off on a no-stride so that when he needs it against a guy throwing the ball 94 and overpowering him, he’s not prepared to go to that.”
The hit sealed the win in a game IU was one strike away from winning in the ninth. With two outs, sophomore Justin Walker couldn’t field a ground ball to shortstop. Then Purdue's Cole McKenzie hit a double to nearly the same spot Bunnell eventually would with the count at 1-2 to tie it in the ninth.
The hit capped off a comeback for Purdue, as the team trailed 6-2 after six innings.
The game started in catastrophic fashion for IU as freshman pitcher McCade Brown gave up two runs and four walks without recording an out. Luckily for IU, sophomore Tommy Sommer was able to come in, inherit a bases-loaded-no-outs jam and give up no runs.
Sommer would go on to pitch six innings while giving up no runs and striking out six batters.
“He won the game for us in the first inning,” Mercer said. “Such a competitive guy, can execute a pitch from both sides of the plate.”
IU was able to regain the lead in the first with sophomore Elijah Dunham hitting an RBI-double and sophomore Cole Barr hitting a two-run home run — his Big Ten-leading 12th home run of the year.
IU tacked on in the sixth with a home run from junior Scotty Bradley and a two-run single from junior Matt Gorski.
IU is now 20-12 on the season while Purdue falls to 10-21. IU’s next game is Friday at the University of Evansville.