Indiana baseball's Josh Pyne peeled from the first baseline, solidifying his 0-for-5 Friday night at the plate by routinely flying out to center field. The sophomore third baseman turned to the dugout, removed his helmet with his left hand, and punched it twice with his right.
Pyne tossed the helmet aside and sat on the bench. Four batters later, No. 9 East Carolina University closed out the 17-4 victory. East Carolina out-hit Indiana 16-10, which may not have seemed enough to win by 13 runs. Yet, half of East Carolina's hits were for extra bases. Indiana batted just 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
"Well, we fell behind early, and then we did have our chances offensively to get back into it," Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer said postgame. "We didn't capitalize that first-and-third a couple of times, had the bases loaded and didn't do it."
Friday's game marked the first for both teams in the 20th Annual Keith LeClair Classic — a three-game round-robin event hosted at East Carolina's Clark-LeClair Stadium in Greenville, North Carolina. Indiana lost 17-4 to ECU Friday, beat Georgetown University 4-3 Saturday and fell 10-4 Sunday against California State University, Long Beach.
ECU sophomore starter Trey Yesavage tossed six complete innings against Indiana, allowed just one run and struck out 11. Indiana senior shortstop Phillip Glasser was one of two players with multiple hits. Glasser went 4-for-4 — a triple shy of the cycle. On Saturday, Indiana had just two hits until the sixth inning against Georgetown's left-handed starter Andrew Williams.
This time, however, Indiana denied Williams from finishing the sixth inning, scoring three runs to tie the game 3-3. Freshman infielder Tyler Cerny, who went 3-for-3 at the plate Saturday, started the rally by doubling down the right-field line. Cerny singled in the following inning, circling to score the go-ahead run. The Hoosiers held on 4-3 over Georgetown.
"You have to be intentional about how you go about producing offense on different days," Mercer said. "Today, it was going to take small ball, it's going to take your hit-by-pitches, and walks, and, singles the other way. We didn't do a good enough job of that early. In the middle innings, guys were far more engaged in what needed to happen."
On Sunday, playing Long Beach State, Indiana once again chased away the opposing team's starter, Nico Zeglin, before the sixth inning. Long Beach State defeated No. 9 ECU 3-2 Saturday. Indiana repeated another three-run sixth inning, but Long Beach State had already led 9-1, highlighted by its six-run third inning.
The Dirtbags led 10-4 by the top of the seventh inning. Indiana's first two runners in the frame reached base, yet both were left stranded. Junior infielder Jonathon Long's diving catch robbed Indiana senior outfielder Hunter Jessee from recording his second hit in two innings.
Had the Hoosiers assembled another multi-run inning in the seventh, that likely would've put them in reasonable reach of staging another comeback victory. Instead, Long Beach State's six-run lead held to finish undefeated in three games, winning the Keith LeClair Classic.
Indiana's poor situational hitting Friday improved in Saturday's victory. Yet, the lineup lacked power in Sunday's loss. Long Beach State's six-run inning came after a two-out error charged against Phillip Glasser. Mercer said he expected Glasser to make the challenging play. Still, the Dirtbags capitalized by smashing three consecutive extra-base hits: one double, and back-to-back home runs. Zero of Indiana's eight hits Sunday were for extra bases.
“We have to be able to continue to string at-bats together against good pitching,” Mercer said. “We’ve seen a ton of good pitching. You can’t have one or two or three at-bats in an inning and then have a stop.”
The Hoosiers finished 1-2 in three games, the same result as the past two weekends at Auburn University and the University of Texas. Indiana, now 5-6, continues the season Wednesday at home against Purdue University Fort Wayne. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.
Follow reporters Matthew Byrne (.@MatthewByrne1) and Nick Rodecap (.@nickrodecap) for updates throughout the Indiana baseball season.