LEXINGTON –– Ty Bothwell pitched superbly, but Indiana baseball wasn't Super Monday.
Fifth-year senior Phillip Glasser sat hunched over on the bench, as Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer tried his best to console his starting shortstop. Redshirt-junior Bobby Whalen embraced first-base coach Zach Weatherford in the dugout. Players clasped the dugout rail.
Heading into Sunday, the Hoosiers were undefeated in the Lexington regional. Each player on Indiana's starting lineup made their postseason debuts, and still, the Hoosiers began regional play 2-0 for the first time since the 2014 NCAA Tournament, beating Kentucky 5-3 Saturday.
Indiana required one more victory over Kentucky in two tries –– either Sunday or Monday, if necessary –– to advance to the program's first Super Regionals since 2013. The Hoosiers lost by double-digits Sunday 16-6, then fell 4-2 in Monday's Game 7 winner-take-all matchup.
Ty Bothwell's eyes and nose were swelled speaking in the postgame press conference. The redshirt senior didn't pitch at all from March 15 to April 4. In his welcome-back outing, Bothwell walked four batters. Then, he didn't pitch for two weeks.
When he did return on April 19, Bothwell walked one batter on six pitches and was instantly yanked from that contest by Mercer. But Monday was Bothwell's finest hour –– in perhaps his most crucial collegiate outing. At least, it was for Indiana's program since the 2019 season.
Bothwell gave up two first-inning runs, as the Wildcats went up 2-1. Spanning from the second to fifth innings, however, Bothwell retired 12 out of 13 batters, not counting an error in the field. Bothwell sprung from the mound once striking out the side in the third, flexed his forearms, and yelled at the turf. On Friday, he had closed out Indiana's regional-opening win.
"It meant everything," Bothwell said postgame Monday. "Being in a hole in the beginning of the year, like, everything wasn't working out right. But the fact that I was able to go out and compete and lay my heart out for this team meant everything to me. Just to go out there and compete for my teammates and do what I could for as long as I could meant a lot to me."
Bothwell eventually ran out of fuel in the sixth inning, as Kentucky knocked two doubles in three at-bats to go up 3-2. Kentucky Proud Park erupted. Kentucky players in the dugout were even throwing teammate Evan Byers in the air to the beat of the song "Pump It Up" by Endor.
As freshman right-hander Brayden Risedorph entered the game mid-inning, the Wildcats doubled once more, doubling their lead to 4-2. The run was charged to Bothwell's stat line. Risedorph had labored Friday night, throwing 82 pitches in Indiana's regional-opening victory.
Risedorph pitched 2⅓ scoreless innings after that double, before sophomore left-hander Ryan Kraft relieved in the eighth inning and stranded two runners. Still, Indiana's lineup was unable to come up with many clutch hits. Indiana batted 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
The only time the Hoosiers converted in that category was Whalen's RBI-double in the first inning, which scored Glasser. The fifth-year shortstop beat out what would've been an inning-ending double play in the top of the second inning, which tied it, 2-2. That marked the final time the Hoosiers scored; they were held scoreless across the final seven innings.
Kentucky right-handed sophomore Mason Moore, who threw five no-hit innings in the team’s regional-opening victory Friday, returned in Monday’s fifth inning to pitch the regional finale. Like Friday, Moore tossed five shutout innings, striking out five, while stranding four runners.
“He’s really good, it was going to be tough,” Mercer said. “You have to score early. We had to do what we had to do to keep our arms safe… if I run those guys out (Sunday), they're not going to be as good… but by doing that you also realize that you're going to end up getting their arms back up, too. So it's the roll of the dice. You'll pitch it better, but so will they.”
Glasser tailled Indiana’s final hit of the season in the ninth inning Monday –– he and Whalen went 5-for-9 combined. The fifth-year senior has no eligibility remaining. Mercer said postgame Glasser turned down chances to join an MLB organization two or three times.
“That guy gave his heart and soul,” Mercer said. “He's played every day for five years, and he's still the most motivated, laser-focused, dutiful player I've ever coached. That doesn't happen. It's not normal. He's just wired different and he's elevated everybody else around him.”
Glasser started all 63 games for Indiana this season, including the postseason. The shortstop has batted leadoff in the lineup for almost every, if not, every game, the entire year. Glasser had a .350-plus batting average, walked more than he struck out, and scored 70 runs.
“When you're looking at this guy who's broken, and now you got to try to console him,” Mercer said. “You know how much he's invested and how much he's given to everybody around him. You wanted to send him away in his last college baseball game to go to a Super Regional.”
History repeated Monday night. When the Hoosiers hosted in Bloomington in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, they won their first two games to advance to the Regional Final –– then lost twice to Stanford University –– missing out on back-to-back Super Regional appearances.
The last time Kentucky hosted was 2017. The Wildcats lost their first game in the winner’s bracket, but went on to win three straight games. They beat No. 2-seeded Indiana along the way to advance to the program’s first Super Regionals. They did precisely that this weekend.
Indiana players were motionless against the dugout rail. Kentucky players ran past in their victory lap, also passing by players in Indiana’s bullpen. The Hoosiers ended this year 40-23, reaching the postseason, which is better than last year’s 27-32 postseason-absent season.
Back-to-back victories to open the NCAA Tournament added an exclamation mark to the program’s turnaround this year. The Hoosiers were one win away. They not only gain postseason experience for the majority of their young roster, but the thirst to return.
“We experienced a really young team,” Indiana freshman Devin Taylor said postgame. “We've been here now, got this under our belt. But now we're just going to embrace it. Embrace this loss and then carry it on for motivation for next year.”