Indiana players started streaming from the dugout, even before freshman infielder Tyler Cerny's headfirst slide over home plate. Cerny overlooked the premature celebration, but heard teammates saying “c'mon, Cerny!”
Their words only stirred Cerny to run faster, who already thought to himself he had to score. The outfield's throw was late. Cerny scored. The crowd, withstanding the brisk weather, cheered. Junior outfielder Bobby Whalen spiked his helmet at first base. The mob closed in.
Whalen's base hit secured Indiana baseball’s 5-4 walk-off victory Friday, the team's second walk-off win in their three-game sweep over Morehead State University. In Wednesday's series-opener, the Hoosiers won 6-5 via a walk-off in extra innings. And, between the two walk-off wins, Indiana won 23-5 Thursday afternoon, hitting five home runs in one inning.
"There is something to be said for learning how to win, building a winning culture, and building a winning attitude,” Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer said postgame. “A confidence and a belief, not only in yourself but in your teammates. We've had a bunch of different guys do it. Today was Bobby's opportunity to do it. He came up in a huge moment."
Indiana jeopardized Luke Sinnard’s quality start. The sophomore threw six innings, mitigating the two-run home run he allowed by impressively striking out 13 batters. Indiana led 4-2 entering the top of the ninth inning, though the first two Morehead State hitters reached base. Junior outfielder Jacob Ferry's one-out double into the gap tied the game.
Indiana junior right-hander Seti Manase blew the four-out save, though the inning did start with an infield error — not in the pitcher’s control. Sophomore infielder Brock Tibbitts was hit in the nose when attempting to scoop Phillip Glasser’s one-hopped throw, the team’s senior shortstop. Mercer said postgame that the team would continue monitoring Tibbitt's status.
Following Ferry's game-tying double in the ninth, freshman Carter Owens, who hit that two-run homer earlier in the game off Sinnard, hit the ball off the end of the bat down the left-field line. Glasser raced to catch it but overran the ball, which easily could've bounced in fair territory upon investigating the single-camera replay. The call was close.
Certainly, Morehead State's third base coach thought the ball was fair, immediately jumping up and down. Had it been ruled fair, the go-ahead base runner at second base, running on contact with two outs, would've scored without a throw to give Morehead State a 5-4 lead.
Indiana may have been on the lucky side of the call, though the Hoosiers produced the winning run independently. Cerny knocked a two-out base hit to right field, the freshman’s third of the game, and then advanced to second base on a passed ball.
Whalen's game-winner was Indiana's first hit with a runner in scoring position through 12 attempts Friday. Tibbitts' one-run-triple in the first inning scored the runner from first base — only those on second and third count as scoring position. Indiana then scored three runs in the fifth inning via three-bases-loaded walks to lead 4-2.
Indiana has now swept back-to-back home series at home, winning eight of nine games in the past 10 days. The Hoosiers will remain at Bart Kaufman Field this Tuesday, facing Indiana State University. The first pitch is slated for 5 p.m.