Five. That's how many home runs Indiana baseball hit in Thursday afternoon's series-clinching 23-5 victory over Morehead State University. If that's not remarkable enough, well, the Hoosiers struck all five in one inning — the fourth.
That's happened just eight times at the Major League level: the first occurrence was in 1939, and the latest in 2022. Of the eight, half have taken place in the fourth inning — just like Indiana's home run derby on Thursday. Now, that's bizarre.
"I've never seen that before," Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer said postgame. "Maybe two or three, I've seen that. But I've not seen five in an inning before. Especially balls that were hit, like hammered. Because sometimes you see balls that are wind-aided."
It's true that, at least for part of the game, the wind at Bart Kaufman Field blew outward from home plate, favoring hitters. Still, Mercer sounded convinced that freshman outfielder Devin Taylor's home run would have exited the ballpark regardless. Taylor had hit two game-tying home runs in Wednesday's 6-5 walk-off series-opening victory.
"Devin's home run to left went over the back wall of the bullpen," Mercer said. "Wind or not, that ball is getting out of here, and the rest of those balls were hammered. So no, I have not seen that before. But those guys are really talented. It's a really talented offense."
Sophomore infielder Brock Tibbitts, who had lined Wednesday’s game-winning hit, also hit the team’s first home run Thursday. Sophomore outfielder Carter Mathison followed, then senior catcher Matthew Ellis, followed by sophomore infielder Josh Pyne. Taylor capped off the home run fest.
Tibbitts and Mathison went back-to-back, and so did Pyne and Taylor. Five consecutive home runs would’ve been unbelievable. It's yet to happen at the Major League level, but if it does, surely it would occur in the fourth inning. Last season, Pyne and Tibbitts hit back-to-back home runs in the team's 7-0 shutout win over the University of Cincinnati on March 8, 2022.
Thursday marked Indiana's largest margin of victory so far this season. The now-runner-up is the team's 15-1 victory over Purdue University Fort Wayne — coincidentally on March 8, 2023. Though, just this past Tuesday, the Hoosiers scored two runs in their 12-2 run-rule defeat in seven innings at the University of Kentucky.
"Short memory," Pyne said after Thursday's 23-5 win. "We know what we can do offensively. We really haven't done it to the best of our ability this year as a whole, and this weekend it's really starting to click. It's just short memory. You're gonna lose some games of baseball, you're not gonna hit 1.000 (batting average)."
Indiana's 20-for-45 day at the plate seemed closer to an 1.000 batting average, but that's likely due to the team's 10 extra-base hits, which were evenly spread out in the lineup. Ellis led the team with two extra-base hits, finishing 4-for-6, with a game-high five runs batted in.
As Indiana went up 3-0 in the top of the second, Taylor hit an infield fly, meaning that the freshman was ruled out despite the ball not being caught in the shallow part of the outfield.
The infield-fly rule prevents teams from intentionally creating force plays, when runners would stay at their bases anyway on routine fly outs. Usually, senior infielder Phillip Glasser, standing on second base and Pyne at first, would've stayed put.
Mercer explained postgame that the umpires signaled it, but he and the baserunners didn't hear it. Due to the miscommunication, Glasser and Pyne assumed they had to advance. Pyne was caught in a rundown but evaded the tag, which would've been the third out.
Later in the inning, Ellis, Mercer's player of the game, drove in a bases-clearing 3-run double to extend the team's lead to 8-0 — timely insurance. In the next few innings, Morehead State cut Indiana's lead to 9-5. However, the Hoosiers scored 14 unanswered runs.
"It was huge for the offense to see (Ellis) step up and have a big hit," Mercer said postgame. “A lot of things could have gone sideways had that not gone our way, but it did, and we were able to capitalize on it."
Indiana clinched the three-game series following Thursday's 23-5 victory. The Hoosiers will attempt to complete their second sweep of the season at 4 p.m. Friday, barring any schedule changes due to the weather.