After multiple schedule changes earlier in the week, Indiana baseball made its way to West Lafayette, Indiana, to take on in-state rival Purdue in a weekend series.
The Hoosiers played a three game series against the Boilermakers with game one taking place on Saturday and doubleheader on Sunday. A tough 17-0 loss on Saturday and a controlling 10-3 win in game two set up the Hoosiers for a series win, but they fell in the final game 16-15.
The first game of the series started in Purdue’s favor and stayed that way for the remainder of the game. Purdue loaded up the bases in the first inning and brought in four runs on three hits to jump to an early 4-0 lead. Heading into the eighth inning, Purdue led 7-0.
Purdue took over the game in the eighth inning, scoring 10 of its 17 runs. However, Purdue only had two hits in the inning; 7 batters reached base either by walk or a hit-by-pitch.
Five different Hoosier pitchers appeared on the mound Saturday, and only one pitched more than one inning. Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer said he expects better performances from his pitching staff.
“The reality is at a certain point in time, you have to take some personal accountability for your ability to do what you do in practice, what you do on a midweek and then walk onto the field and be competitive enough to go out and execute those pitches,” Mercer said.
Indiana pitchers combined for nine walks, six wild pitches and seven hit batters.
“My frustration was just having seen those guys be able to compete and know they can compete, having confidence that they can go out there and do those things and then to not have them go out and be able to compete to the strike zone,” Mercer said.
Things changed for Indiana in Sunday’s first game.
The Hoosiers went down 2-0 after the first inning, but managed to take back the lead in the third. They allowed the Boilermakers to score only one run after the first inning and held them to eight hits for the rest of the game. Half of Indiana’s runs came from sophomore Sam Murrison, who went 3-5 with two singles and hit a two-run home run.
“Sam was incredible,” Mercer said. “What a day from that guy. He was just able to get pitches in the areas that he likes on the plate and when he got them he didn't miss them.”
Indiana’s pitching staff also saw new life in the second game. Freshman Grant Holderfield and senior Brayden Tucker teamed up for 4.2 combined innings to earn the win and the save. The two pitchers only gave up four hits and one earned run, and they each recorded two strikeouts.
“Those guys have both been terrific and they were both terrific again today,” Mercer said. “(They were) super competitive and executed just like they're expected to do.”
Indiana played its second game of the day just shortly after its 10-3 win, and just like Saturday’s game, the offense showed up — but this time, it showed up for both teams. Both teams combined for a total of 31 runs, 37 hits, 10 walks and 6 home runs. Purdue managed to take the series.
The final game was a back-and-forth battle between the two rivals. Indiana loaded up the bases in the top of the ninth with two outs and down by just one run. However, the Hoosiers failed to bring home the tying run.
“It's honestly the best offensive performance I've ever seen in my life,” Mercer said. “I've never seen an offense execute like that. I've never seen an offense compete like that. I've never seen a team compete like that.”
Mercer said he was proud of the team’s performance on Sunday. Mercer said.
“I just can't overstate how incredibly proud of them I am,” Mercer said. “I don't care what anybody else thinks, I really don't. We competed like absolute warriors, the entire day.”
Indiana is still in search of its first Big Ten series win and now sits with a record of 12-18. Indiana will now go on the road for its next six games and will take on Indiana State University at 6 p.m. Tuesday.