Two batters, four pitches and two solo home runs over the left-field wall into the bullpen extended Indiana's lead to 7-0 in the fifth inning against the University of Cincinnati Tuesday evening. The score remained the same through the final out, earning Indiana its first shutout victory of the season.
Freshmen infielders Brock Tibbitts' and Josh Pyne's back-to-back home runs in the fifth inning were the exclamation point to Indiana's fifth win of the season.
The home run was Pyne's first of the season.
"It was a surreal moment, something that I've dreamed of ever since I committed to play baseball here at Indiana University," Pyne said after the game. "I'm really happy it was here at the Bart (Kaufman Field)."
However, Pyne isn't a stranger to hitting back-to-back home runs. Pyne said he also achieved the same feat last year during his senior season of high school.
The two home runs were two of the Hoosiers’ five hits throughout the game. However, the Hoosiers didn't need to hit their way into a win. They scored five runs in the first inning even after a trio of Bearcat pitchers didn't give up a single hit.
By the time the Bearcats got their first hit of the game, the Hoosiers already had a commanding 5-0 lead, marking the fourth consecutive game where they got on the board first and pressured opponents early.
"Coach Weatherford does our scouting report and does a great job of preparing those guys for what's coming in that game," head coach Jeff Mercer said.
Indiana freshman right-handed pitcher Luke Hayden made his second career start on Tuesday and hurled three innings of one-hit baseball while striking out five batters and walking zero.
The five-run first-inning burst was a gift and a potential curse for Hayden. He had a cushion, but he also endured a 30-minute half-inning in the cold dugout on a brisk evening.
Still, Hayden confidently walked out to the mound, striking out the side in the second inning and pitching a 1-2-3 third inning.
"Luke set the tone in the top of the first," Mercer said. "Get out there and execute pitches, get us back in here (the dugout) quickly."
The Hoosiers' bullpen followed Hayden’s lead and only allowed one hit after his exit. The pitchers following him also did not walk nor hit a baserunner.
Junior right-hander Nathan Stahl almost matched Hayden's outing, pitching three innings of relief and striking out four batters.
Stahl's bounce-back performance avenged his two outings earlier in the season when he allowed eight earned runs in five innings pitched.
"Felt great after the last couple of weeks, (I was) just struggling a little bit," Stahl said. "It felt good to go out there and dominate for a few innings and give the team the best chance to win."
Cincinnati finished batting 2-for-29 at the plate and struck out 14 times at the hands of Indiana pitchers.
"We pitched terrific today,” Mercer said. “I was really excited for Luke, really good start. Nate Stahl was outstanding (and) did a really good job. Those guys are getting a lot better (and) executing a ton of pitches."
Indiana has now won three consecutive games with the shutout victory and improves to 5-6 on the season. Indiana has also won two games in a row against Cincinnati, dating back to March 11, 2020.
Indiana returns in action at Bart Kaufman Field on Wednesday in back-to-back games to face Purdue University at Fort Wayne. Sophomore Jack Walker is the projected starter in the 4 p.m. matchup.