Losing by three runs in the ninth inning, Indiana baseball was down to its final out. Then, to its last strike.
"We'll see if (Carter) Mathison can keep this inning alive for Indiana," the ESPN+ broadcast crew said.
The next pitch in a full count could have loaded the bases with a walk or struck out the last Hoosier to end the ballgame. Instead, the ball landed over the left-center field wall into the treeline, and the scoreboard at Indiana State University's Sycamore Stadium read 5-5.
On the brink of defeat, freshman outfielder Carter Mathison swung at a high fastball and smashed a three-run home run. The rookie delivered at the plate in what turned out to be a deja vu moment from the series-finale loss to Purdue.
In Sunday evening’s matchup against the Hoosiers’ in-state rival, Mathison watched a fastball go by his knees for the final out that stranded the loaded bases in a one-run loss.
But instead of watching the decisive pitch go past him again on Tuesday evening, Mathison watched the ball exit the stadium — the clutch hit that kept Indiana afloat in his first at-bat of the game.
Head coach Jeff Mercer elected to pinch-hit Mathison for sophomore outfielder Samuel Murrison in the ninth inning.
Murrison had a dominant performance across Sunday's doubleheader against Purdue, batting 5-for-10 with two home runs in the two games. However, the sophomore was hitless in three trips to the plate on Tuesday against Indiana State.
"You never know when it's your day," Mercer said about Murrison after the first game of the doubleheader on Sunday. "You never know when your team is gonna need you."
It was Mathison's night. Indiana needed him, and the substitution worked in the Hoosiers’ favor.
The magic didn't stop there. Graduate infielder Tyler Doanes followed in Mathison's footsteps, striking a solo home run to left-center field far over the 372-foot mark to give the Hoosiers their first lead, 6-5.
Sycamore reliever Joey Hurth pointed to the sky during the pair of home runs, signaling to the outfielders that the ball would be in play and catchable. Once Hurth turned his head toward the outfield, he quickly brought his arm back down to his side as Mathison and Doanes began to round the bases.
It was only Doanes' third home run of the season, but the most memorable.
Indiana only had one hit up leading up until the ninth inning. Indiana State starting pitcher Brennyn Cutts hurled six innings, allowing one hit while striking out 10 Hoosier batters. Cutts set himself up for an individual win for his pitching record, but it never came.
Indiana reliever Braydon Tucker watched Mathison and Doanes’ special moments for their team while warming up in the bullpen, waiting for his time to shine. Tucker entered the game in the bottom of the ninth inning and struck out the last Indiana State batter to earn his third save of the year.
Indiana senior catcher Peter Serruto pumped his fist and yelled in excitement. Tucker had tossed his glove and briefly hugged Serruto in celebration before more Hoosiers jogged onto the field from the dugout.
While Mathison connected on a high fastball, Indiana State’s final batter swung and missed on the same pitch to strand the tying base runner in scoring position and secure the win for Indiana.
Indiana improves to 13-18 with the midweek victory and heads to the East Coast this weekend to play Rutgers in a three-game series.