On Senior Day at Bart Kaufman Field, it was two of IU’s seniors leading the celebration as a dogpile ensued in the middle of the infield.
Senior catcher Ryan Fineman flipped the ball in the air and tossed his mask to the ground as he caught the final strike. Senior pitcher Pauly Milto was the first one out of the dugout.
With a 13-3 win Saturday over Rutgers, IU clinched the outright Big Ten regular season title.
In his final game in Bloomington, it was Fineman who first lifted the Big Ten trophy.
IU’s Big Ten title is the seventh in program history and the third over the last seven years. IU's last title was in 2014. IU also won the 2013 title.
IU Head Coach Jeff Mercer becomes the first Big Ten coach to win a conference title in his first year since 1982. Mercer’s team lost just one series in Big Ten play this season.
Mercer’s team put itself in position to win the Big Ten when it took two of three games from Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. With that series victory, IU was able to cut into Michigan’s lead in the conference standings and put itself with striking distance in the final weekend.
Just after 2 a.m. Saturday morning, over 650 miles away from Bart Kaufman Field, Michigan won its series finale against Nebraska, a result that made IU’s scenario simple. It had to win Saturday afternoon to clinch the Big Ten title. A loss would give the title to Michigan.
A six run fourth inning led IU to that necessary Saturday win.
That inning that put IU ahead for good in a game it trailed early at Bart Kaufman Field. IU fell behind 1-0 in the first inning and didn’t have a hit until the fourth.
Senior Matt Lloyd’s infield single in the bottom of the fourth kicked off a rally.
Sophomore Cole Barr drove in Lloyd with a double to tie the game, and Fineman gave IU the lead with a RBI single.
IU sophomore Justin Walker extended the lead driving in two runs with a single, and the next batter, sophomore Drew Ashley, drove in two more with another single. IU flipped the script from struggling through the first four innings to a commanding 6-1 lead.
Rutgers added two runs in the top of the fifth, but IU got those runs right back when Barr hit a two-run home run over the College World Series banner in center field.
IU continued to pad its lead over the remainder of the game, scoring two runs in the seventh and three in the eighth to reach its 13 run total.
On Friday night, IU cruised to an 11-4 win. IU junior Tanner Gordon struck out six over seven innings pitched. He allowed just two runs on three hits. The Hoosier lineup hit four total home runs in the game, including two from junior Scotty Bradley.
Junior Matt Gorski hit a home run in the top of the first inning to given IU a 1-0 lead. His home run was the 86th of the season for IU, setting a new team single-season record. IU finished the weekend with 90 total home runs.
Milto kicked off the series Thursday with a six inning outing where he struck out six in his final home start. Milto recorded the win, his eighth of the season. Though it was a different senior that led IU to a 7-5.
Though the crucial moment was a sixth inning home run from another senior, Matt Lloyd. IU faced deficits of 4-2 and 5-4 in the game. Trailing by one run in the sixth, IU tied the game on a Gorski double before Lloyd hit a long home run out to straight-away center field to give IU a 7-5 lead.
IU finishes the regular season with a 36-19 record overall and 17-7 in the Big Ten. By virtue of winning the regular season title, IU will be the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Baseball Tournament beginning Wednesday in Omaha, Nebraska. IU is scheduled to begin tournament play against the No. 8 seed Iowa at 6 p.m.
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