Indiana senior reliever Braydon Tucker's right arm hung loosely by his side. He gently shifted his weight forward on the pitching mound, waiting for the sign from senior catcher Peter Serruto.
Tucker examined closely and then set himself up for the pitch, his right hand gripping the ball in his glove. He fired toward home, and the ball shot off the bat towards shortstop. Senior infielder Phillip Glasser quickly reeled it in his mitt, and the celebration began.
Hoosiers poured out from the dugout and convened near the mound to start their long high-five line. By that time, Tucker tossed his glove over 15 feet — a less fiery reaction than when he struck out a batter to end the seventh and eighth innings en route to his first win of the 2022 season.
After losing the series opener 17-14 in slugfest fashion on Friday night, Indiana baseball swept Sunday's doubleheader against the University of Evansville with back-to-back narrow 6-5 victories to clinch the series 2-1.
Indiana's two tense wins were filled with multiple pitching changes once Evansville scored and continued threatening. Head coach Jeff Mercer scrambled to find relievers who could resist Evansville's sluggers, who had scored 17 runs only a few days prior.
But the Hoosiers remained composed and hung on. Tucker and freshman left-handed pitcher Ryan Kraft stunted Evansville's offense in the finale, hurling seven innings while only allowing one run.
In the first game earlier on Sunday afternoon, senior Bradley Brehmer pitched by example for the Hoosiers.
"It started with Brehmer," Mercer said. "When you have a dog that walks out first and says, ‘I'll go through the wall first, watch me,’ and competed like crazy, it's much easier for everyone else to follow the lead."
The veteran right-hander held Evansville hitless through the first five innings and pitched his second consecutive quality start, hurling six scoreless innings.
"The first inning, I threw only fastballs and sinkers," Brehmer said after Sunday's first game. "Getting ahead in the count, that really felt good."
Brehmer and other pitchers cruised on the mound until the eighth inning, when Evansville scored five runs to pull within one run of Indiana’s lead. However, freshman lefty Grant Holderfield entered the game and got the Hoosiers out of the jam with a crucial strikeout.
Holderfield went back out to the mound and pitched a flawless ninth inning to earn his second save of the season, evening the series one apiece.
"It was huge for us," Mercer said of Tucker and Holderfield. "Both those guys coming back on short rest (were) incredibly competitive, executing pitches, and that's what we ask of those guys."
After Indiana's pitching staff allowed 12 earned runs in Friday's series-opening loss, it could be expected that the coaching staff would not ask, but demand the remaining pitchers give the Hoosiers offense a chance to hit its way into victories.
Junior catcher Matthew Ellis hit his 11th home run of the season in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader, a two-run blast over the right-field wall. In the series finale, leadoff hitter Tyler Doanes went 3-for-3 and upped his batting average to .264.
"(Doanes) just continues to get more comfortable," Mercer said. "He's been able to relax and settle in and use the whole field."
Sunday's doubleheader marked the third straight weekend Indiana completed a series with two games in the same day. Doubleheaders can be exhausting, as Mercer made clear after the game.
"I hate these Sunday doubleheaders," Mercer said. "If I never see a Sunday doubleheader again, it would be too soon."
Much against Mercer's dismay of doubleheaders, Indiana's wins on Sunday were the team's first in games decided by three runs or fewer this season after it failed to do so in all of its first nine attempts.
Indiana improves to 10-13 with their first series win since the first week of March. The Hoosiers look to continue the momentum when they welcome Northwestern for their conference-opening series this upcoming Friday at Bart Kaufman Field.