Matt Lloyd let his helmet fly into the air as he approached a mob awaiting him at home plate.
IU baseball Coach Jeff Mercer referred to his senior utility player as the “baddest man alive." It came after Lloyd’s three-run walk-off home run Saturday against Minnesota.
Lloyd sent a 3-2 pitch to right field to give IU a 7-6 win and even up the series after a loss Friday.
“Top of the world,” Lloyd said of what he felt when he rounded the bases. “No better feeling than that.”
Lloyd’s home run also capped off a comeback for IU, now 29-14 overall and 10-4 in the Big Ten. His team was down 6-1 after six innings.
That’s where the nation’s top home-run-hitting team flexed its power once again. Senior catcher Ryan Fineman cut into the lead with a two-run home run in the seventh.
“That helped us get back into our approaches, competing better in the zone and hunting our pitches,” Lloyd said.
After freshman outfielder Grant Richardson started off the ninth inning with a solo home run, IU had the next two hitters go down in order.
But when the lineup card flipped back to the top of the order, Drew Ashley and Matt Gorski were able to work walks and get on base for Lloyd.
“It just came down to everybody doing their job,” Lloyd said.
While IU has struggled at times to score when it is not hitting home runs, Mercer said he does not think his team relies too much on the long-ball. Rather, he thinks the home runs come as a result of the team’s approach at the plate.
“I want to get into counts where we can do damage,” Mercer said. “Damage to me is a head-high line drive back to the big part of the field with good spin at 100 miles per hour. If you do that, balls hit the ground and roll to the fence. And if they carry, they go over the fence.”
This is IU’s first win against Minnesota since April 16, 2017. The Golden Gophers won the last six meetings against the Hoosiers and appeared to be on their way to another sweep.
Mercer said numerous times postgame that the result of the game does not always matter to him. Rather it is his team’s competitiveness. Throughout the series, he felt his team was rattled, but IU was able to flip the switch late and put itself in a position to win the series Sunday.
“Emotion makes us crazy,” Mercer said. “We have to be emotionless. We have to be black and white. We have to work in fact. As we do that more, we’ll continue to get better.”
However, Mercer didn't mind the emotion his team showed after the game.
“I was out of emotion at that point,” Mercer said. “I was so stunned.”
With a win tomorrow, IU could win its fifth straight conference series. First pitch will be at 12:05 p.m. with Andrew Saalfrank on the mound for the Hoosiers and Joshua Culliver going for the Golden Gophers.
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