It was the ninth inning. Indiana loaded the bases, there were two outs and the count was even at 2-2. The next pitch went right past the batter’s knees for a strike. In an instant, the ballgame was over, and the tension subsided.
Indiana baseball was one swing away from potentially taking the lead in a one-run loss on the road against Purdue. Instead, Indiana split the Sunday doubleheader with the loss in the 16-15 slugfest and dropped the rivalry series.
"We came here for the series," head coach Jeff Mercer said in a team huddle after the early game’s 10-3 victory and before the 16-15 defeat. "I was absolutely thrilled with the way we played in all phases of the game."
Mercer awarded outfielder Sam Murrison player of the game honors in the same huddle as fellow teammates cheered. The sophomore went 3-for-5 with a team-high five runs batted in and hit his first collegiate career home run.
"You never know when it's your day," Mercer said. "You never know when your team is gonna need you. Sam Murrison changed the ballgame. He changed the attitude. He walked up, he was undeterred, he was mean as hell and got his job done."
Mercer also commemorated left-handed reliever Grant Holderfield, who induced an inning-ending double play to strand the bases loaded in the sixth inning of the first game on Sunday. The freshman only allowed one run en route to his second individual win of the season.
As the second game got underway, Indiana would find itself looking for Murrison and Holderfield to produce runs and shutout innings once more. Once again, the duo delivered.
Murrison hit 2-for-5 with three more runs batted in, including another home run. In 14 games this year, Murrison hadn't hit a home run and within eight hours, he hit two.
“Sam was incredible," Mercer said in a press conference following the second game of the doubleheader. "What a day from that guy. He was able to get pitches in the areas that he likes on the plate. When he got them, he didn't miss them."
Holderfield locked it down on the mound and hurled two scoreless innings, only allowing one hit.
"I was a little bit apprehensive to throw him there in the second game but his pitch count was low in the first one and he felt great and he was rather adamant that he was going to throw," Mercer said.
It's unusual to see the same pitcher head to the mound for both games of a doubleheader, so Holderfield’s appearances point to Mercer’s significant amount of faith in the freshman.
"You got a couple of guys that you trust, and they did a great job — super competitive — just like they're expected to do, and they were outstanding," Mercer said.
If a few more Indiana batters had reached base during the bases-loaded situation in the ninth inning, Murrison could have come up to the plate with a chance to extend the lead created by the previous batters. In turn, Holderfield could have also shut the door in the bottom of the ninth inning to clinch the series.
However, Indiana came up short, its three stranded base runners heading back to the dugout in defeat. The Hoosiers fall to 12-18 overall and 2-4 in conference play with the loss.