Indiana baseball dropped to 5-6 on the season after taking just one of three games at the Keith LeClair Classic this weekend. On Friday, they fell to No. 9 East Carolina University by a score of 17-4.
“We fell behind early,” Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer said after Friday’s game. “We had our chances offensively to get back into it, and we didn’t capitalize.”
Mercer’s point shows through Indiana’s double-digit hit total, as the Hoosiers left 13 runners on base. These stranded baserunners, 16 East Carolina hits and defensive miscues made the difference.
“You lose some ballgames,” Mercer said. “I was more disappointed in some of the uncharacteristic things that we did.”
Indiana was throwing the ball all over the yard, missing cutoff men and double plays that Mercer said the Hoosiers usually execute.
No. 9 East Carolina was quick to take advantage of Indiana’s miscues in the field, and they hung a crooked number on the board, plating eight runs between the fourth and fifth innings.
Mercer said that although Friday’s follies didn’t go down as errors in the box score, Indiana made several key mistakes in the field and compounded them with mishaps on the mound.
“They played really well,” Mercer said of East Carolina. “But we put ourselves behind the 8-ball from the beginning with free bases and opportunities.”
One bright spot in Friday’s lopsided loss was senior shortstop Phillip Glasser. Batting in the leadoff spot as he so often does, Glasser was a perfect 4-4 at the plate with a pair of doubles, a home run and two runs batted in. He had four of Indiana’s 10 hits.
Glasser was the only Indiana batter who could crack East Carolina’s hurler. “That first dude was a really good arm,” he said of East Carolina sophomore Trey Yesavage. “He was as advertised.” Yesavage threw six innings of one-run ball, striking out 11 Indiana hitters.
“He was the best right-handed arm I’ve seen in a long time,” Mercer said.
He said the Hoosiers chased too many pitches outside the strike zone and strayed away from their offensive gameplan.
Indiana rebounded on Saturday against Georgetown University, using a three-run sixth inning to squeak by the Hoyas 4-3. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Luke Sinnard shone once again for Indiana, going six innings and allowing just three runs on four hits. Although he was not credited with the win, Mercer recognized Sinnard’s contributions.
Indiana committed three errors in the ballgame, and Mercer said that these defensive miscues caused Sinnard frustration. However, he battled back.
“Luke’s a warrior, and he’s super competitive. That’s what we’ve come to expect from him,” Mercer said Saturday. “He did a really good job. He’s really shown to have ace stuff and an ace mentality.”
Sinnard’s ability to limit the damage in his six innings of work allowed Indiana to plate three runs in the pivotal sixth inning. With the Hoosiers trailing 3-0, senior outfielder Hunter Jessee plated two baserunners on a single to left field, and sophomore Carter Mathison tied the game on a groundout to the shortstop.
One inning later, Indiana took the lead for good on a Glasser fielder’s choice, scoring freshman second baseman Tyler Cerny who had a good day of his own. The Center Grove High School product went 3-3 at the dish.
“He just got into good counts and hit the ball hard in the middle of the field,” Mercer said. “(Tyler is) very talented, and he’s worked really hard. I was really, really happy for him.
The final three innings were all zeroes for the Hoya offense thanks to Hoosier hurlers redshirt senior Craig Yoho and sophomore Ryan Kraft. Kraft pitched the eighth and ninth innings, not allowing a single hit and fanning three.
“He’s nails,” Mercer said. “(Ryan’s) as tough as all get-out. He’s unflappable, he's tough, and you can kind of see him developing into our back-end guy.”
Kraft earned his second save of the season Saturday and shut the door on Indiana’s lone victory of the weekend.
Sunday saw another double-digit run total go against Indiana as the Hoosiers dropped the final game of the weekend to Long Beach State University, 10-4. The Dirtbags, much like Eastern Carolina just two days earlier, took the win thanks to an offensive explosion and some inopportune Indiana mistakes. The game was over by the third inning.
Long Beach State’s first seven runs were scored with two outs. Mercer said Indiana has to execute defensively and on the mound to get the third out and cull offensive threats.
Indiana had multiple opportunities to stop the bleeding in the early going versus Long Beach, but they failed, and it proved costly. “We just have to put guys away. We have to execute better given those opportunities,” Mercer said.
Indiana’s four errors and two wild pitches resulted in the Hoosiers surrendering a season-high six unearned runs. “You can’t do that and expect to win,” Mercer said.
After multiple weekends away from Bloomington playing against some of the toughest competition in the country, Mercer said Indiana will return to Bart Kaufman Field having learned lessons that will benefit this young ballclub going forward.
Mercer said as a young team, Indiana has yet to take the next step.
“We’re capable of doing it,” he said. “We just have to learn and grow. If you don’t ever do this, if you don’t ever go play and go travel the country, you’re not exposed to it. We’ll get better as we go.”
Indiana returns home with two days off before their next game, and Mercer said practices will focus on stringing together consecutive quality at-bats, getting better defensively and getting pitchers more comfortable in high-leverage situations.
The Hoosiers are home all week long: They host Purdue Fort Wayne University at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Bart Kaufman Field and play a four-game weekend set against Bellarmine University with a Friday night game, Saturday afternoon doubleheader and a Sunday matinee. All games will be available for viewing on Big Ten Plus.