IU baseball Head Coach Jeff Mercer said you have to fail to learn in a postgame press conference following Saturday’s game against Michigan.
Mercer’s team traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the midst of failure after losing three of its last four games and appearing to be out of the Big Ten title race.
After winning its series against Michigan, Mercer’s team is right back in the Big Ten mix.
IU clinched a series victory over Big Ten leaders, the Michigan Wolverines, with wins Friday and Saturday. IU put itself within striking distance of Michigan in the Big Ten standings heading into the final weekend of the season.
IU won Saturday’s game 10-8, as the offense found success against Michigan star junior pitcher Tommy Henry. It marked the second straight day that IU scored 10 runs against a Michigan pitching staff that had the nation’s second-best earned run average entering the weekend.
IU, the nation’s leading home run hitting team, hit three home runs in the game. Senior Matt Lloyd hit his 15th home run of the season to take sole possession of the Big Ten lead in that category before sophomore Cole Barr hit his 15th two batters later. Sophomore Elijah Dunham hit a home run as well, his seventh of the year.
Six of the 10 runs scored by IU were in response to runs scored by Michigan the half inning prior. In the bottom of the fourth, Michigan scored two runs, and IU answered with four in the top of the fifth. In the bottom of the sixth, Michigan scored three, and IU responded in the top of the seventh.
Junior Tanner Gordon, IU’s starting pitcher, allowed two runs over five innings pitched while striking out four. Michigan worked its way back into the game, but sophomore Grant Sloan and Lloyd protected the IU lead in the final two innings of the game to preserve the 10-8 win.
However, IU couldn’t capitalize on an opportunity to sweep Michigan, falling 6-5 in an 11 inning marathon Sunday.
IU went up 2-0 before Michigan scored four unanswered runs to take a 4-2 lead, its first lead of the weekend.
IU junior starting pitcher Andrew Saalfrank began the game well, but struggled in the fifth and sixth inning and relinquished the lead. He finished the game with six innings pitched, allowing four runs on eight hits while striking out eight.
IU struggled to get much going offensively against Michigan sophomore pitcher Jeff Criswell, and he held IU to two unearned runs over six innings and just three hits while striking out six.
When the Michigan bullpen entered the game, IU’s offense bounced back.
IU regained the lead with three runs in the top of the seventh. Junior Matt Gorski singled to left field with the bases loaded, his line drive just getting over the glove of Michigan sophomore Jack Blomgren, scoring two runs. IU took the lead as Barr walked with the bases loaded.
The lead, however, was short lived. Blomgren tied the game at five in the bottom of the seventh with a double. The score stood at 5-5 as the game moved into extra innings.
It took until the 11th inning for either team to break the deadlock.
The first three hitters for Michigan in the bottom of the 11th inning all reached base. The bases were loaded with no outs.
Michigan junior Jordan Brewer drove in the winning run as IU senior catcher Wyatt Cross was unable to corral a bouncing throw to the plate from sophomore Drew Ashley. Michigan senior Ako Thomas stepped on home plate as Michigan won the game 6-5.
IU finishes the weekend with a 33-18 overall record and a 14-7 mark in the Big Ten. Michigan is 15-5 in the Big Ten and 37-13 overall. IU will head into the final Big Ten weekend 1.5 games behind Michigan in the conference standings.
IU has the weaker final opponent based on the Ratings Percentage Index. IU will face Rutgers, which is ranked 175th as of Sunday, while Michigan will face Nebraska, which is ranked 42nd as of Sunday.
Though before IU plays for a chance to catch Michigan for a Big Ten title, it will host the No. 6 Louisville Cardinals at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in Bloomington. Neither team has announced a starting pitcher for the game.
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