Indiana sophomore outfielder Hunter Jessee rounded third base and sprinted home. The race was on.
The throw from the outfield beat Jessee to home plate, but it was off target. He scored safely. Freshman Carter Mathison's opposite-field single in the top of the sixth inning cut the deficit to 3-2 against No. 7 University of Louisville on Tuesday evening.
After the run-scoring single, freshmen Brock Tibbitts and Mathison occupied second and first base with no outs.
Louisville reliever Garrett Schmeltz then balked, an illegal move that allowed Tibbitts and Mathison to move up one base and into scoring position. However, the Hoosiers still failed to convert.
Schmeltz struck out the next three batters swinging to escape the half-inning unscathed. The over-the-top hurling lefty threw multiple breaking balls that froze Indiana's hitters.
"We haven't done that all year where we've left guys in scoring position like that, especially with less than two outs," head coach Jeff Mercer said after Tuesday's game.
Indiana eventually lost 7-2 and batted 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position overall. The Hoosiers’ first of two offensive conversions came in the first inning. Junior designated hitter Matthew Ellis singled through the right side, and sophomore outfielder Bobby Whalen, who led off the game with a single of his own, scored.
Louisville had an even lower percentage, batting only 1-for-9 in the same category. However, the Cardinals had three extra-base hits compared to the Hoosiers' zero.
Louisville's first extra-base hit came off Indiana junior left-handed starting pitcher Ty Bothwell in the bottom of the third inning. Junior Dalton Rushing smashed a two-run home run to centerfield to give the Cardinals their first lead of the game, 2-1.
Mercer replaced Bothwell after 51 pitches for right-handed reliever Nathan Stahl. The junior allowed a two-out double in the fourth inning, and Louisville extended its lead to 3-1.
Indiana brought in its third pitcher of the night, Ryan Kraft, starting in the fifth inning. Though the Hoosiers got one run back in the top half of the sixth inning, Cardinal leadoff batter senior Ben Metzinger hit a solo home run in the bottom half. Metzinger's second hit of the game and RBI gave Louisville a 4-2 lead.
Indiana only had two hits across the seventh and eighth innings combined before Mercer brought in freshman Grant Holderfield, the fifth Hoosier pitcher of the evening, for the bottom of the eighth inning.
Louisville hit back-to-back singles off Holderfield and later scored one run after senior catcher Peter Serruto committed a throwing error to first base on a sacrifice bunt. Two more total runs crossed the plate on a sacrifice flyout and groundout. Louisville led 7-2 — a score that carried to the final out.
"Holderfield has, I think, three guys on 0-2, 1-2 counts and wasn't able to put those guys away," Mercer said. "That's part of being young. Grant's got to be able to get to locations, get to spots and then utilize his off-speed better than he did today. And he will."
Mercer said that everyone pitched well on Tuesday overall and despite the loss, said the team put up a good fight over Louisville, who he believes is worthy enough to host a regional in the NCAA Tournament.
"That's the team that is going to host your regional," Mercer said. “You're toe to toe with them there into the ninth, and you have a chance to win the game.”
Indiana drops to 22-26 overall with the midweek loss. Next, the Hoosiers return to conference play and will host Minnesota for a three-game series at Bart Kaufman Field this weekend.