For the second time in four days, Indiana hitters strode to the batter's box in the ninth inning, facing a seven-run deficit.
Despite three consecutive one-out singles and a wild pitch pushing three runs across the plate, the Hoosiers fell 8-4 on the road against the University of Evansville on Tuesday night.
The near four-hour midweek clash was halted in the second inning for over thirty minutes due to an unorthodox mound fixture delay. The field issue was only recognized once Evansville hitters swiftly knocked Indiana starter Nathan Stahl out of the game with two leadoff singles and two walks in the second inning.
Evansville players and coaches tried multiple solutions, including packing the ragged landing spot with sand, placing another turf slab on top of the original mound and adding water. Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer helped, holding a shovel and a broom at separate points during the delay.
"It's been a different day, but you never know what you're gonna see when you come to the ballpark and today's no different," Mercer said during an in-game interview in the middle of the fifth inning with the broadcast crew.
Indiana left-hander Ty Bothwell, who entered the game for Stahl, attempted to warm up multiple times. After a lengthy discussion between the head coaches and the umpires, the mound was deemed playable.
However, Bothwell threw a wild pitch to the second batter he faced and a runner scored from third base to extend Evansville's lead to 2-0. Eventually, Bothwell escaped the prolonged inning without allowing another run.
Indiana sophomore Bobby Whalen, in the leadoff spot, countered in the top of the third inning with a deep solo home run to left field for his second of the season. The deep drive snapped Evansville's lead in half to make the score 2-1.
"Bobby's a great player," Mercer said. "He has good at-bats, (can) hit for a little bit of average, hit for a little bit of power. I'm glad he's a Hoosier. That's for sure."
By the middle of the fifth inning, the score remained unchanged. After Bothwell threw the wild pitch, he and fellow left-handed reliever Ryan Kraft kept the Purple Aces at bay.
"(Evansville's) had some baserunners, and our guys have managed their way through it and made quality pitches when they had to," Mercer said during his mid-game interview. "Hopefully we can continue to do that."
But not even a half-inning later, Evansville pounced on incoming pitcher junior John Modugno. Evansville’s Brent Widder homered down the left-field line in the bottom of the fifth inning to extend his team’s lead to 4-1.
In the sixth inning, Simon Scherry hit a three-run home run off Modugno to left field to give the Purple Aces a 7-1 advantage. However, the three runs were unearned because what should have been the final out of the half-inning turned into a fielding error, allowing Scherry to come up to bat and clear the bases.
Evansville tacked on another run in the eighth inning off another wild pitch to bring its final run tally to eight. Indiana's pitching staff recorded 14 strikeouts but also walked nine and hit four Purple Aces.
Evansville’s two home runs in the middle innings provided enough insurance, and the hill was too steep for Indiana to climb by the time it tried to claw its way back in the meager ninth inning.
Indiana falls to 11-16 on the season with the loss and splits the regular-season four-game series against Evansville 2-2.
The Hoosiers will head to West Lafayette, Indiana, this weekend to take on rival opponent Purdue in its second conference series of the season. The first pitch of the series is slated for 4 p.m. on Friday and will be broadcast on Big Ten Network.