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Monday, May 20
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

Indiana baseball dodges sweep at Auburn behind Mathison’s slam, Sinnard’s pitching

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Sophomore outfielder Carter Mathison sliced the ball down the left-field line, hustling to beat the impending throw to second base. Mathison dove head first onto the dirt, with his hands and forearms gliding over the bag.  

Well, that slide on the lead-off double looked fun. It had to have been. But surely, it wasn't as soothing as Mathison's first trip around the bases Sunday afternoon — jogging after belting a grand slam into the bullpen.  

Neither was Indiana baseball's first two games of the season-opening weekend — falling to No. 22 Auburn University 8-4 on Friday, and 6-1 on Saturday.

Just last season, fellow southern school Clemson University swept Indiana during the season-opening weekend. Yet, on Sunday, Mathison's first hit of the year provided Indiana with a 4-0 lead in the first inning, which carried into an 11-2 victory, avoiding the three-game sweep at Auburn.  

"We had left several guys on base," Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer said postgame of the series. "We hadn't had that big hit where everybody can take a breath and a sigh of relief and say ‘Okay, we can go through it now.’ That's what Carter's hit was for us where it was like, ‘Okay, we can do this. We're back. This is how we play offense at Indiana.’"  

During Sunday's finale, Indiana's bats totaled 14 hits, going 7-for-20 in at-bats with runners in scoring position. On Friday and Saturday, the Hoosiers combined for just nine hits. Freshman outfielder Devin Taylor knocked his first collegiate hit, and senior catcher Matthew Ellis drove his first home run of the season. Lead-off hitter senior shortstop Phillip Glasser accounted for nearly half of the nine.  

Besides Glasser at the top of the lineup, senior outfielder Hunter Jessee and sophomore third baseman Josh Pyne went 1-for-14 at the plate in the two losses — Pyne even stranded the bases loaded on Saturday.

But on Sunday, the two players batted 7-for-10 and drove in five runs. Outside the top three lineup spots, junior outfielder Bobby Whalen shared comparable progress. Whalen was hitless in four trips to the plate on Opening Day, yet knocked two hits on Sunday.  

And, don't forget about Mathison, who batted 0-for-9 at the plate combined in the two losses. The outfielder's slam put Indiana on the board first in the 11-2 victory. And by doing so, Mathison supplied cushioning for tall sophomore transfer Luke Sinnard, pitching his first game in an Indiana uniform. Sinnard's breaking pitches, paired with high-angled fastballs, attacked batters in the one-run five-inning outing.  

"We knew Luke was a good matchup," Mercer said. "He's got three or four pitches he can go to in any count. And once you give that guy a little bit of a lead and you allow the defense to settle in and relax — it was a really good opening for us." 

The right-hander allowed two-out doubles in the first two innings, but calmy retired the next batter to escape. Even after allowing one run off three hits in the fourth inning, Sinnard subsequently stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent additional runs.  

Sophomore left-hander Ryan Kraft and junior right-hander Seti Manase relieved Sinnard, tossing the final four innings. The pair allowed just one run to close out Sunday's game comfortably.  

Following the lengthy offseason in colder weather, Indiana delivered an apex performance on Sunday — batting in 11 runs, while withstanding an SEC lineup that scored 14 runs in the prior two contests. It's undoubtedly one victory that will bolster Indiana's resume in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament berth. Auburn reached last year's College World Series.  

"You become what you compete against on a day-to-day basis," Mercer said. "By today, you could see us just very confident and believing in ourselves and going out there and being competitive in all phases of the game. I was just really pleased. We lost the first two, but we did a lot of really good things."  

Indiana's season continues Tuesday, Feb. 21, in the team's home opener against Miami University (Ohio). First pitch is slated for 4 p.m., and the game will be broadcasted on Big Ten Network+.  

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