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Saturday, June 15
The Indiana Daily Student

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‘Let them cook’: Indiana baseball notches 30th win, sweeps Ohio

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Indiana baseball is now 30-11 on the season following a three-game sweep of Ohio University over the weekend. Indiana holds the top spot in the Big Ten standings with its 9-3 conference record remaining unchanged since April 14-16 at Illinois. Sunday’s victory was the Hoosiers’ 22nd win at home, which is a new Bart Kaufman Field record.  

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Indiana won the series opener 9-8 in a nail-biter. Junior Brooks Ey pitched 3.1 innings, allowing four runs on eight hits. Very few Ohio base knocks left the infield, and there were many odd deflections that went against Indiana.

“I’m just going to chalk it up to wet turf and weird bounces,” Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer said Friday night. “We gave away a couple of runs early.”

These fortuitous plays kept the Bobcats in the game. Their batters strode to the plate in a seemingly never-ending procession. Redshirt sophomore AJ Rausch, Ohio’s leadoff man, faced Ey twice in two innings, the Hoosiers’ starter securing just four outs before the lineup turned over. Ey was pulled from the game with one out in the fourth inning, and sophomore Ryan Kraft took his place.

Like his predecessor, Kraft surrendered four runs on eight hits, though just three of these runs were earned. With a three-run lead heading into the top of the ninth inning and his pitch count south of 80, Kraft was tasked with securing the final three outs of the contest.

After a leadoff homer and a pair of defensive miscues, Kraft’s pitch count was approaching the century mark, and freshman flamethrower Connor Foley strode out of the bullpen with a one-run lead and two runners on base. Foley rose to the occasion, getting the first two outs of the inning via strikeouts and getting senior second baseman Alex Finney to pop out to redshirt junior outfielder Morgan Colopy to end the game.

“You watched a guy grow up today,” Mercer said of Foley after Friday’s game. “He went for it.”

With no bases open, Foley was forced to fill up the strike zone, something he said he thrives on.

“Getting into those pitcher’s counts makes all the difference in my confidence out there,” Foley said.

***

Friday's game was the only contest decided by fewer than seven runs. In stark contrast to the events of the night before, Saturday’s game was as decisive as they come. Sophomore right-hander Luke Sinnard returned to dominance after a rare misstep at Illinois on April 15. Against the Illini, the Western Kentucky transfer allowed five runs in three innings. Versus Ohio, he threw a season-high seven innings and gave up just two runs on four hits.

“I came in pissed off,” Sinnard said after Saturday’s game.

Sinnard said he was focused on pitching with more intent, a plan not too dissimilar to the approach he employed prior to striking out 12 hitters in a dominant performance against Iowa on April 8.  

The two runs Ohio managed to score against Sinnard both came via solo home runs, one from fifth-year infielder Colin Kasperbauer in the second inning and the other from fifth-year outfielder Will Sturek in the sixth.

“Giving up home runs is part of pitching,” Sinnard said. “You’ve got to not even think about it and go back out there.”

After the first home run in the top of the second, Indiana responded with a four-spot in the bottom of the inning and did not surrender the lead after a three-run blast from freshman second baseman Tyler Cerny. Cerny’s first homer of the day was one of 18 hits the Hoosiers put up in the lopsided 17-2 affair that saw them lock up their seventh-consecutive series win.

Cerny went three-for-five with a pair of home runs and six runs batted in on Saturday. After a mid-season slump, Cerny went back to the basics in the batter’s box and said he has done a better job of laying off of pitches outside of the strike zone.

Cerny was not the only Indiana hitter with a long ball in Saturday’s contest – sophomore outfielder Carter Mathison blasted a 457-foot solo shot in the sixth inning as part of a 2-3 day which included two RBIs and a pair of walks. Mercer said tighter swing mechanics and better plate discipline contributed to Mathison’s success.

The Hoosiers scored ten runs between the second and fourth innings, giving Sinnard all the run support he needed to carve up Bobcat hitters with precision. He was able to catch the visiting bats off balance with well-located offspeed pitches in fastball counts and did so with confidence.

“Whenever my offense has the lead, I feel like the other team gets down,” Sinnard said. “It’s just easier to pitch.”

***

The Hoosiers entered Sunday with a chance to clinch their fourth series sweep of the season and did just that thanks to strong showings from freshmen Ethan Phillips and Brayden Risedorph. Phillips picked up right where he left off on Tuesday against the No. 12 University of Louisville, tallying his third win of the season in dominant fashion.  

Phillips mowed down one of the nation’s best lineups on Tuesday, pitching 4.2 innings of shutout ball. Following 3.2 no-hit innings in relief of junior righty Seti Manase on Saturday, Phillips’ earned-run average now sits at 1.74.  

Much like Phillips, Risedorph carried over his midweek success in the Sunday matinee. Against the University of Cincinnati on Wednesday, Risedorph locked up his second win of the season with four shutout innings versus the Bearcats.  

On Saturday, Kendallville native allowed one hit in the final three innings of the game, striking out three hitters. Over his last two outings, Risedorph has pitched seven shutout innings, allowed three hits and struck out ten batters.  

After surrendering eight runs in the series opener, Indiana’s young pitching staff halved that total in the next two games combined. After the 17-2 win on Saturday, the Hoosiers brought out the brooms with a 9-2 win in the series finale. 

{RELATED: 'Indiana baseball's underclassmen spark five-win week'}

Risedorph said after Sunday’s game that he relied heavily on his slider and succeeded because of his ability to get ahead in counts.

“We just want to get that first strike,” Risedorph said. “Once you get in a pitcher’s count, it makes things a whole lot easier.”

The offense also stayed hot Sunday, led by senior shortstop Phillip Glasser and sophomore third baseman Josh Pyne. Glasser hit safely in every game this week, including multi-hit performances in every game this weekend and a 2 RBI day on Sunday.

Pyne was on fire in the box, posting a batting average of .667 with eight hits in the series.

“Josh had an awesome weekend,” Mercer said Sunday.

Mercer named Pyne Sunday’s player of the game after the Bloomfield native showcased his abilities on both sides of the ball.

Tibbitts raised his batting average to .386 this weekend, reclaiming the team lead from freshman outfielder Devin Taylor.

Taylor belted a pair of towering home runs versus Ohio, including a two-run shot that catalyzed Indiana’s offense in the series finale.

He now has 11 home runs this season, leading all Indiana hitters in the category.

Mathison seared a pair of seeing-eye doubles, further hammering home Mercer’s point about more refined swing mechanics.

The top half of Indiana’s lineup has produced all year, and with hitters like Pyne and Mathison providing quality at-bats at the bottom of the order, Mercer said that Indiana now possesses more lineup depth than they did previously.

This depth is a big reason why the Hoosiers went 5-5 in the win column this week. Mercer said on Sunday that having production beyond the first four hitters in the lineup is crucial to long-term success. Players have stepped forward and taken leadership roles, meaning Mercer often leaves them alone for most meetings.

“Let them cook,” Mercer said. “Let them have their moment. Every good team I’ve ever been a part of has been player-led."

***
The Hoosiers have won 30 games in a season for the first time since 2019, when they finished first in the Big Ten and clinched a berth in the NCAA Louisville Regional. They finished that season with a 37-23 record. 

There are eight home games remaining this season. Because of their top-15 RPI ranking, every game from now until the end of the season is critical for Indiana.   

“Every game is a postseason game,” Pyne said Sunday. “We’re taking it one game at a time.” 

Indiana faces off against Ball State University for the second time this season when they visit Muncie at 3 p.m. Tuesday.  

After their trip up I-69, the Hoosiers host a weekend series against Maryland from April 28-31. 

Maryland currently sits second in the Big Ten with an 8-4 conference record, and they are 25-15 overall. The series kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday, continues at 1 p.m. Saturday and concludes at noon Sunday. All three games versus the Terrapins will be available to stream on B1G+.  

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