After defeating Butler University at Victory Field on Tuesday evening, Indiana baseball won its second consecutive midweek matchup with a 3-1 victory over Illinois State University Wednesday.
Indiana’s two-run lead hung in the balance in the seventh inning. Hoosier sophomore left-handed reliever Jack Walker stood on the mound, prepared to face the next batter after an infield single to second base loaded the bases.
Illinois State outfielder MacCallan Conklin stepped into the batter's box. With two runners in scoring position, one swing could have tied the game. A bases-clearing extra-base hit, and the Redbirds could have taken a 4-3 lead. Conklin had tripled down the right-field line off Walker just one inning prior.
Walker delivered the next pitch behind in the count. Conklin responded and hit a ground ball to second base that Indiana graduate infielder Tyler Doanes fielded cleanly before firing to first base for the out.
The threat was over — Walker capped off a performance where he earned a career-high five strikeouts and escaped Illinois State's best scoring opportunity of the evening.
Fellow left-handed reliever Grant Holderfield entered for Walker and pitched a scoreless eighth inning. Sophomore reliever Reese Sharp took over in the ninth inning and earned his second consecutive save.
Freshman right-handed pitcher Luke Hayden started for Indiana and hurled four innings while allowing one unearned run, earning his fourth individual win and improving to 4-0 on the season. The freshman also struck out five batters to tie his season-high.
Hayden and Walker's combined seven-inning performance without allowing an earned run was equivalent to a quality start. In total, all four pitchers allowed zero earned runs, walked one and struck out 13 Redbird batters.
In a continuing trend for Indiana this season, an excellent start on the mound leads to a higher probability of igniting Indiana’s bats.
"The big part of it is, as we've gotten starting pitching, we've been able to have more success," head coach Jeff Mercer said after Indiana's 9-1 win over Butler on Tuesday. "That's been a big deal. As we've gotten quality starts, we've got a good offense."
The Hoosiers scored only one-third of the runs Wednesday compared to Tuesday's commanding victory, but it was enough to secure a win.
In his third career start, freshman infielder Evan Goforth recorded his first collegiate hit and run batted in by doubling down the left-field line. The extra-base hit in the second inning scored Doanes and put the first run on the board.
The next batter, senior catcher Peter Serruto, grounded out but was credited with his third RBI of the season. In back-to-back games, Indiana had a multiple-run lead after the second inning.
Doanes batted 2-for-3 and scored two of Indiana's three runs. He turned a base hit into a run in the sixth inning, stealing second base and advancing home on a pair of errors by Redbird fielders.
The scoring for both sides ended after the sixth inning. Illinois State failed to capitalize on its only bases-loaded scenario of the game after Walker induced the inning-ending groundout.
Indiana improves to 18-23 overall with the two consecutive midweek non-conference victories. The Hoosiers have won five of their last seven games and will host Illinois in a pivotal three-game conference series this upcoming weekend.