With a high of 65 degrees, everything fell into place for the first day of Hoosier baseball in Bloomington. Indiana welcomed in Miami University (Ohio) for the first home game of the year Tuesday afternoon and won easily by a final score of 15-2.
This was the first game that fans were allowed to attend since the COVID-19 pandemic. The last time Bart Kaufman Field saw fans was March 11, 2020, against the University of Cincinnati. In homecoming fashion, 1,984 fans made their way to the stands to set an Opening Day record for Indiana.
After Tuesday's record setting crowd, head coach Jeff Mercer said he knew how much his team means to the city and the university.
“It’s a terrific fan base,” Mercer said. “We are incredibly proud to represent the state of Indiana and it's something we've talked about a lot with the players — understanding how much people care about baseball here.”
Both teams came into the game after losses from the previous weekend, as Miami dropped two games to Rider University and Indiana lost to Stanford University and the University of Arkansas.
Freshman Luke Hayden took to the mound for his first start of his collegiate career, and saw a bit of trouble in the first inning as two Miami batters reached base after an error and a walk.
However, in the next at bat the Indiana defense turned a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
After his first start in his hometown, Hayden said it meant a lot for him to get the start on the hill.
“It was awesome,” Hayden said. “I grew up five minutes down the road. Obviously I've been out the last couple weeks but getting my first start here in Bloomington was awesome.”
Indiana erupted in the second inning to score six runs thanks to home runs from freshman Brock Tibbitts and sophomore Kip Fougerousse. Junior Matthew Ellis and sophomore Morgan Colopy reached the baseson a walk and a single, respectively, setting Tibbitts up for a home run to deep right field to give the Hoosiers a 3-0 lead.
Just three batters later, the Hoosiers extended their lead off of a three-run home run from Fougerousse.
The balls continued to fly out of the ballpark, and Indiana totaled four home runs in Tuesday's win. A two-run home run from Ellis in the fourth inning and another solo shot from Tibbitts in the fifth gave Indiana a 11-2 lead after five innings.
Tibbitts batted in five total runs for Indiana, the most by a single player this season. The offensive production for Indiana continued throughout the game as the team scored four more runs, with two in the seventh and two in the eighth. Indiana finished the game with 15 runs on 13 hits.
Indiana entered the game hoping to secure its first win at home, and it did just that.
“I think all wins are a big deal, obviously in this environment it was a big deal for us,” Mercer said. “Being able to come out at home in front of a bunch of people that love your program and to be able to play well is a big deal. (The players have) earned the right to play well.”
This was the second game of an intended home-and-home series between the two teams. Indiana was set to face Miami in Oxford on Feb. 22, but due to inclement weather the game was postponed. The game will be scheduled for a later date.
With the win, Indiana improved its record to 2-5 and now looks toward the weekend, set to travel to Springfield, Missouri, to face Missouri State University in a three-game weekend series from March 4-6.