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Monday, March 4
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

Indiana baseball struggles to hang onto late leads, suffers series sweep at Rutgers


Indiana sophomore reliever Reese Sharp struck out the first batter in the eighth inning and walked off the mound as senior catcher Peter Serruto pumped his fist and yelled in excitement. 

The scene was tense and emotional. The Hoosiers had a one-run lead over Rutgers, the first-place team in the Big Ten standings, but it felt like their backs were against the wall in Sunday’s series finale. 

In each of the first two games of the series, Rutgers scored three runs in the eighth inning to take the lead and clinch the series with a game to spare. 

Indiana found itself in the same position in the third game. The next Scarlet Knight batter hit a double off Sharp, and it looked like the same fate would befall the cream and crimson. 

No one knew a far worse outcome was brewing at the time. 

Related: [Indiana baseball leaves runners stranded on bases in weekend series loss]

Sharp escaped the eighth inning unscathed, but the Hoosiers’ batters stranded the loaded bases in the top of the ninth inning and failed to gain insurance runs. Sharp returned to the mound for the bottom half of the inning with more pressure than before. 

The sophomore recorded the first out by forcing a flyout to left field. However, the next Rutgers batter who made contact left the ball uncatchable for left fielder Sam Murrison as it sailed over the outfield fence. 

With one swing, sophomore Tony Santa Maria tied the game at 9-9 with a home run to left field. 

Two batters later, sophomore Jordan Sweeney hit a walk-off solo home run to left field. Scarlet Knight players swarmed home plate, jumping up and down repeatedly to celebrate their 15th consecutive win. 

Indiana held the lead heading into the bottom of the eighth inning in all three games over the weekend and all three times, Rutgers rallied to sweep the series. 

Indiana junior right-handed pitcher John Modugno started his second game of the week in the series opener Friday and cruised through four scoreless innings.

Left-handed pitcher Ty Bothwell entered in relief for the Hoosiers and allowed two solo home runs. Two minor hiccups aside, Modugno and Bothwell combined for seven innings pitched while only allowing two runs, equivalent to a quality start.  

Left-hander Grant Holderfield was the third and final pitcher to throw for Indiana on Friday. The eighth inning started with a hit batter and an error in the outfield that eventually turned into three unearned runs for the Scarlet Knights. 

Related: [Mathison, Tucker uplift Indiana baseball in ninth-inning comeback win over Indiana State]

Indiana hitters were thrust into a quick turnaround in the ninth inning, with only three outs remaining at the plate to manufacture two runs. The Hoosiers were retired in order as Rutgers took the opener 5-3. 

Saturday starter right-hander Jack Perkins pitched a solid outing for the Hoosiers. The junior hurled seven innings while only allowing one run and striking out eight Scarlet Knight batters.  

Though Perkins went deep into the game, the Hoosiers’ offense didn't provide sufficient run support. By the time he exited after the seventh inning, having thrown 120 pitches, Indiana had a slim 2-1 lead. The Hoosiers finished the game batting 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. 

The infamous eighth inning rolled around, and Sweeney hit a bases-clearing triple to give Rutgers a 4-2 lead. Again, Rutgers retired the first three Hoosier batters in the ninth inning as the Scarlet Knights clinched the series with one game in hand. 

Indiana senior right-hander Bradley Brehmer started the finale and allowed seven earned runs in just over four innings pitched. Brehmer's outing was the opposite result of his performance against Purdue the previous weekend, when he hurled four and one-third scoreless innings. 

The Hoosiers led 8-3 in the top of the fifth inning after freshman Carter Mathison hit his first collegiate grand slam. 

Rutgers responded in the bottom half of the same inning by scoring four runs to pull within one, knocking Brehmer off the mound. 

Sharp entered in relief and only allowed one run until the bottom of the ninth, when Rutgers hit two home runs to earn the 10-9 victory and 3-0 series win. 

After suffering the sweep, Indiana drops to 13-21 overall and 2-7 in Big Ten play. The Hoosiers' next chance to grab a win will come on the road against Miami University on Tuesday in Oxford, Ohio. First pitch is slated for 5 p.m.

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