Matthew Ellis nearly knocked the cover off the ball, crushing a 433-foot home run to right-center field to break a scoreless tie in the second inning.
The ball anchored right in front of Victory Field's scoreboard in downtown Indianapolis and the score changed to 1-0 in Indiana's favor like clockwork. The blast was Ellis' conference-tying 13th home run of the season and first in nearly three weeks.
On Tuesday evening, the junior kept slugging from the left side, batting 3-for-4 while plating two more runs in Indiana baseball's commanding 9-1 victory against Butler University. All the while, Ellis was behind the plate catching pitches for seven consecutive innings.
"He catches 80% of our games," head coach Jeff Mercer said. "That's a hard thing to do, is anchor a lineup and catch every day, but he's very mature."
Graduate infielder Tyler Doanes also had a productive game at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a team-high four runs batted in. Doanes' two extra base hits were driven to the opposite field down the right-field line.
"Just the whole season, I've been losing my barrel on the outside pitch, so in the last week or so, I've just taken a little bit more pride in just staying on top of those balls and going that way," Doanes said.
Doanes batted first in the order for most of the season and consistently drew walks, improving his on-base percentage. However, sophomore outfielder Bobby Whalen has recently hit in the leadoff spot as Doanes has dropped to the final third of the lineup.
"I don't think anything changes," Doanes said. "I had a talk with Mercer — going into the bottom of the lineup, trying to turn it back over to Bob and the other guys. I'm having that approach and I just try to take the job that's given."
Ellis and Doanes batted 5-for-7 and drove in seven of Indiana's nine total runs combined. While the two recorded hit after hit, Hoosier pitchers Braydon Tucker and Ty Bothwell struck out countless Bulldog batters.
Tucker, a senior right-hander who typically takes on a relief role, started Tuesday’s game and hurled four scoreless innings with seven strikeouts.
Losing by three runs in the fourth inning, Butler threatened to get on the board with the bases loaded and one out. However, Tucker calmly controlled a ground ball hit back to the pitching mound and turned a double play to end the top of the inning.
Bothwell entered in the fifth inning and, despite allowing a solo home run in the ninth inning to spoil the Hoosiers’ shutout, pitched a season-high five innings while only allowing two hits and striking out a season-high eight batters.
"Ellis came out and talked to me," Bothwell said. "It's just challenging them with the fastball and work from there. Especially just getting ahead (in the count) — that's the biggest thing for our pitching staff."
The junior isn't a stranger to Victory Field's pitching mound, previously winning an Indiana state title in high school.
"Especially with high school and then now, it means a lot to me, and I know it means a lot to the Indiana guys here that are born and raised," Bothwell said. "Everybody else here really appreciates coming to this place."
Mercer has a history with the stadium, too, recognizing not only the pitching mound but the entire field as a former member of the grounds crew during an internship in his senior year of high school.
"Every other day, I drove up here," Mercer said. "I have an affinity for the place, and it's such an incredible location."
On top of knowing the stadium, Mercer knows how to win inside its walls. Indiana has a perfect 2-0 record at Victory Field since Mercer’s first year in 2019.
Tucker and Bothwell’s longevity on the mound provided Indiana with much-needed rest for its entire pitching staff. Coming up quickly for the Hoosiers is another midweek matchup against Illinois State University on Wednesday and a home series against Illinois this weekend.