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Monday, June 17
The Indiana Daily Student

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Indiana baseball scores 14 unanswered runs in conference-opening win after trailing 6-0


Evan Whiteaker strode off the mound and steered toward Indiana's dugout. Teammates wearing sweatshirts and jackets huddled near the entrance and consoled Whiteaker, who walked past and entered the bathroom.  

Whiteaker came back into view. Holding his glove in his right hand, Whiteaker tossed it aside. The freshman turned around, positioning himself at the farthest end of the row of teammates resting on the dugout's padded netting. Whitaker stared at the ground.  

The freshman had walked four consecutive batters to begin Indiana's conference-opening game against Ohio State. By the end of the first inning, Ohio State scored six runs on just two hits to lead 6-0. Then, Indiana scored 14 unanswered runs to defeat Ohio State 14-6.  

Ten of those runs were charged against Ohio State left-handed starter Isaiah Coupet. The junior had entered Saturday's game owning the lowest earned run average in the conference — around one run per nine innings. By the fifth inning, that ERA spiked to around eight.

"I want us to score 15 runs a game and blow everybody out," Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer said postgame. "I think being in so many of those close games and having to come from behind, it was like, hey, here it is again. We've done this six times in the last 10 games."  

Indiana right-hander Gabe Levy was swiftly pushed into the game for Whiteaker — with the bases loaded and Ohio State leading 1-0 in the first. The Buckeyes tallied five more runs off Levy, though most of those runners reached base when Whiteaker was on the mound.  

Levy held Ohio State scoreless across the next three innings. Saturday marked Levy's longest outing this season, and by the numbers, his most effective: four innings, allowing just one earned run. Simultaneously, Indiana scored eight runs to take an 8-6 lead.  

Sophomore Brock Tibbitts poked a 372-foot home run and freshman Tyler Cerny hit a one-run double in the second inning. Tibbitts struck again in the third, hitting a one-run single. Freshman Devin Taylor knocked the go-ahead hit in the fourth, a two-run single.  

"When Gabe came in… the second and third (innings) where you go zero, zero quick, and it was like okay, and you could feel the light come back into the group a little bit," Mercer said. "We started talking about, ‘Okay, when do we go to Kraft.’"  

Sophomore left-handed reliever Ryan Kraft entered during the fifth inning right after Levy walked the leadoff batter. Kraft's five saves this season point to the sophomore's ability to protect leads. That didn't keep the outing from being stress-inducing. Indiana only led 8-6.  

Kraft escaped the bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning, and left two runners on base in the sixth — when Indiana led 10-6. Then in the eighth inning, Kraft stranded two runners on the corners. In that final instance, Kraft clenched his body and yelled.   

Like Levy, Kraft's four-scoreless inning performance was the lefty's longest outing this year.   

"Just relief to get out of the inning," Kraft said postgame. "Sometimes when you have that one inning you don't want to have, and you get out of it, it's just a sigh of relief."  

Levy and Kraft combined to pitch eight innings, allowing just one earned run.  

Indiana improves to 12-0 at home following the 14-6 series-opening victory to begin conference play. The three-game series against Ohio State will conclude with Sunday's doubleheader, beginning at 11 a.m. 

Follow reporters Matthew Byrne (.@MatthewByrne1) and Nick Rodecap (.@nickrodecap) for updates throughout the Indiana baseball season.

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