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Monday, April 15
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

Indiana baseball’s late rally beats Iowa 4-2 Sunday, takes series 2-1 after losing opener

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Indiana freshman second baseman Tyler Cerny, known for his back-handed sliding grabs and flashy off-balance throws, braced for the incoming lively ground ball. Cerny bent his knees and puffed his chest, at least trying to keep the ball in front, had he not fielded it smoothly.  

The ball danced from Cerny's mitt, then to his shoulder, then to the ground. It was too late. Iowa's Ben Wilmes sped over first base while Michael Seegers scored from third. Iowa won Friday's game 7-1, Indiana's 2-0 walk-off victory evened the series and via Cerny's uncommon error, Iowa went up 2-1 in the eighth inning of Sunday's series-deciding game.  

Come-from-behind wins are common for Indiana baseball — they’re the team's identity. As Cerny fielded the next ground ball cleanly to transition into the bottom of the eighth, Indiana junior outfielder Bobby Whalen said teammates told Cerny they had his back in the dugout. 

Senior catcher Peter Serruto's fourth base hit then tied the game 2-2 in the bottom of the eighth. Two batters later, Whalen poked a 2-run single through the left side — the go-ahead hit in Sunday's 4-2 victory — as the Hoosiers secured their fifth consecutive series victory.  

In the latest two weekends against conference opponents Penn State and Iowa, Indiana lost the Friday series-opener, only to come back and win the next two games. Muffled cheers sang through the walls of Indiana's clubhouse Sunday. Last season, Iowa swept Indiana.  

"Just help my team win," Whalen said postgame of his thoughts while going berserk after the go-ahead hit. "That's basically all everyone in the dugout tries to do is win. Big Ten series wins are huge for us. We're best friends in the locker room we sometimes just go crazy."  

Shades of Indiana's 2019 NCAA Tournament team are evident in this year's group. The 2023 NCAA Tournament berth is uncertain. The 2019 team, in three of its eight Big Ten series, won the final two games after dropping the opener.  

That identical situation happened in two of Indiana's first three conference series in 2023. The 2019 team won the regular-season conference title in current head coach Jeff Mercer's first season. This season, the Hoosiers now sit at 7-2 in first place in the Big Ten.  

Iowa provided quality adversity, entering the three-game series scoring the most runs while allowing the fewest in the Big Ten. Hawkeye starting pitchers, highlighted by top-100 2024 MLB Draft prospect Brody Brecht, combined to throw 17⅓ innings, allowing just one run.  

"I don't know what happens the rest of the way out," Mercer said postgame. "As of today, we have the ability to stay emotionally stable, to stay calm, and just use all 27 outs. We preach that every day. I know that we didn't get started the way we wanted to."  

Indiana went just 4-for-30 with runners in scoring position in the entire series.  

During Saturday's series-evening victory, the Hoosiers were 0-for-4 in that category. Morgan Colopy's walk-off two-run home run didn't count as the runner wasn't standing in scoring position. On Sunday, the Hoosiers went 3-for-15 in that category — not great, but enough to win, thanks to the pitching staff holding Iowa to just two runs over the final two games.  

"The focal point that we've we've really tried to institute in the last couple years and we've talked about is the ability to pitch and play great defense," Mercer said.  

Sunday marked Serruto's first career four-hit game. Whalen added three hits and led the team with three runs batted in. Freshman outfielder Devin Taylor likewise deserves credit. From Saturday's run-saving relay in the 10th inning to robbing a three-run home run in the first inning of Sunday's game, Taylor's defense has led to a more accessible path to the two wins.   

Following the 2-1 series win over Iowa, Indiana improves to 22-10 overall and remains in first place in the conference at 7-2. The team's schedule continues this Tuesday against Ball State at home. The first pitch is set for 6 p.m.

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