Bradley Brehmer fired his 112th pitch toward home plate on an 0-2 count. The ball flew into the air before Indiana senior infielder Phillip Glasser caught it in his mitt for the final out of the game.
The senior right-handed pitcher turned toward his teammates, who rushed in from the dugout as Brehmer roared with excitement. The Hoosiers celebrated their 8-1 victory over Illinois Friday night to survive elimination in the second round and advance in the Big Ten Tournament.
Brehmer was nearly flawless on the mound, allowing just four hits and one earned run while striking out six Illini batters in a nine-inning complete-game performance.
"Executing the fastball to both sides of the plate, landing both my breaking balls and having the change-up today played well for me," Brehmer said during a postgame interview on the Big Ten Network broadcast.
Earlier in the day, Brehmer was unsure of the effectiveness of his pitches, he said.
“It was kinda rough in the bullpen earlier today, landing that curveball,” Brehmer said. “I haven't had the change-up all year, but it was good to have them all today.”
Brehmer's outing Friday was the first complete game thrown by any Hoosier pitcher in the Big Ten Tournament since Will Coursen-Carr on May 26, 2013, in the championship game.
Though nine years apart, both complete games have a connection. The Hoosiers won that championship game in walk-off fashion, 4-3 over Nebraska. Nine years later, Brehmer's complete game came one day after Indiana suffered a 6-5 walk-off loss against top-seeded Maryland in the first round.
Last year, pitching for Wright State University, Brehmer allowed two earned runs in a complete-game win on May 28, 2021. That performance advanced his team into the Horizon League Championship title game.
Almost a year later to the day, Brehmer threw his second collegiate career complete game against Illinois in a similar playoff game. He only allowed four hits in both games one year apart at different schools. The postseason magic seems to follow wherever he goes.
“Brad’s performance today was one of the best I’ve ever seen in person on the biggest stage,” head coach Jeff Mercer said postgame. “Great execution, great courage, great determination. A great day to go out and represent Indiana the right way.”
The first of Illinois' four hits came in the first inning. The Fighting Illini threatened with two runners on base and no outs, but Brehmer induced a double play before another groundout ended the danger.
Brehmer then retired the next six batters in a row while his pitches per inning decreased in number. He threw 11 pitches in the first inning, eight in the second, and seven in the third.
A groundout with a runner on third base scored Illinois' first run to tie the game 1-1 in the top of the sixth inning. However, Brehmer struck out the last batter to limit the damage. Illinois finished the game batting 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and 1-for-9 with runners on base.
Indiana held a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth inning while Brehmer's pitch count was nearing 100. Indiana could have either thrown another reliever once the top of the ninth rolled around or left Brehmer to face Illini batters for the fourth time.
The decision became easy once Indiana’s offense exploded for six runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to take a 8-1 lead. Brehmer was dealing with a comfortable lead, and Indiana had the luxury of not needing to use additional relievers Friday when playing in a day-by-day tournament.
With the win, Indiana will play the loser of the Michigan-Maryland game on Saturday afternoon in another elimination game. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m. CT and will air on Big Ten Network
“Keep doing what we’re doing,” Brehmer said. “We’ve been fighting all year. Keep doing what we’re doing and I think we’ll be alright.”