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Tuesday, Feb. 27
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

Indiana baseball wins fourth straight series, sweep spoiled by late loss in finale


Indiana baseball seized a one-run lead as Minnesota retreated to its bullpen. The Hoosiers' chance of securing their first sweep of the year looked promising after trailing 6-1 to open the series finale against Minnesota on Sunday afternoon. 

With no outs and the bases loaded, the heart of the batting order was due up next. Freshmen Josh Pyne, Carter Mathison and Brock Tibbitts dug into the batter's box with an opportunity to extend the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. 

"If you look at our group over the course of the year, and you're in that moment, there's really not any other three guys you wouldn't want up," head coach Jeff Mercer said. 

However, the trio came up empty-handed despite Indiana hitters batting 4-for-10 with runners in scoring position up to that point in the game. Indiana batted 5-for-13 in each of the first two games en route to clinching the series 2-0 with one game to play.

"It's a big-time learning situation in the moment when you have a chance to put somebody away and (are) not able to do it," Mercer said. 

Still, Mercer acknowledged that, aside from Sunday’s fluke, the freshmen have performed well in the clutch. Earlier in the three-game series, Pyne drove in the go-ahead runs to complete a comeback that gave the Hoosiers a 1-0 series lead.

A bittersweet feeling lingered throughout the air. Indiana had a 8-7 lead, but lacked the insurance runs needed to put the game out of Minnesota’s reach. 

Then, Minnesota sophomore infielder Kyle Bork smashed a two-run home run in the ninth inning to regain a 9-8 lead. The crowd fell silent. The score remained unchanged through the final out as Minnesota held on to win. 

The Hoosiers lost the finale, but took the series after winning Friday's opener and the first game of the doubleheader on Sunday.

During the second game of the series on Saturday, inclement weather postponed the contest for the rest of the evening. Both teams agreed to mold the final two games into a doubleheader and resume play on Sunday. 

After a 22-hour delay, Indiana junior left-handed pitcher Ty Bothwell hurled seven no-hit innings while matching his season-high eight strikeouts to clinch the series with a 12-0 shutout victory.  

"I came in treating it like a start," Bothwell said. "Brad (Brehmer) gave us two really good innings yesterday, and I was trying to fill in the great work that he put in. I wanted to do my job for the team.” 

It wasn't a no-hitter in the books, since Brehmer allowed a hit in the first two innings before the postponement. The Hoosiers still treated it as a genuine no-hitter, though, and mobbed Bothwell after pouring out from the dugout at the conclusion of the game. 

“The guys were just so excited and so genuinely happy for (Bothwell) as their teammate," Mercer said. "They just loved and supported him for a terrific outing." 

Indiana has now won four consecutive conference series, slingshotting them into a tie for sixth place in the conference standings alongside Michigan. The top eight teams contend for the Big Ten Tournament and, with the race so tightly packed, every win coming down the stretch is precious. 

Sweeping last place Minnesota could have taken pressure off the Hoosiers, who play on the road against third-place Iowa this weekend. Two games separate Indiana from eighth place Nebraska heading into the final conference series of the season. Before that, Indiana will face Illinois State on Tuesday evening in the final home game of the season. 

"We're focused on Iowa or Illinois State,” Indiana graduate infielder Tyler Doanes said, “And we're gonna go game by game and try to win every single one here on out."

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