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Monday, June 17
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

Oliver’s two homers punctuate Indiana baseball’s win over Middle Tennessee

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Indiana baseball got back on track Tuesday night, defeating Middle Tennessee State University 12-5 behind a two-homer day from second baseman Jasen Oliver, three-hit performances from outfielder Carter Mathison and infielder Brock Tibbitts. The pitching staff did its part with 18 strikeouts, including six in the final two innings from right-hander Brayden Risedorph.  

After dropping two out of three games in the first weekend of Big Ten play, the Hoosiers are now back over .500, 13-12 on the season after their 15-hit midweek performance. Tibbitts, Oliver and designated hitter Nick Mitchell all picked up multiple RBIs, and eight of Indiana’s nine starters reached base safely. Indiana’s pitching staff kept Middle Tennessee’s high-powered offense from breaking the game open, with righty Ty Rybarczyk turning in his second consecutive strong midweek start.  

After Rybarczyk ran into trouble in the fourth inning, fellow right-hander Drew Buhr worked out of the jam. Sixth-year southpaw Ty Bothwell combined with Risedorph to shut down the Blue Raiders over the final three innings, all catalyzed by what Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer described as a candid pregame conversation.  

“I told (the players), I’ll get guys in and get them out,” Mercer said postgame. “But we need your best stuff. You’re just not going to throw the ball 90 miles-per-hour in the middle of the plate and wish that somebody doesn’t hit it hard. (Rybarczyk) set the tone. He was excellent. The rest of those guys followed suit.”  

Over his last two outings, Rybarczyk has pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowed two runs on five hits, struck out six batters and walked none. He attributes this recent success to locating his off-speed pitches for strikes and getting ahead in counts.  

“It’s good to be back out there,” Rybarczyk said postgame. “Last year, I had (Tommy John surgery), but it’s good to be back out there. I really do love this team, and I’m just happy I can be out there for them and give them a chance.”   

With the pitching staff focused on executing well-located pitches on all parts of the plate, Indiana’s offense looked to pounce, and it wasted no time, scoring five runs in the first three innings, the final of which came on Oliver’s first homer of the day. It was no wall-scraper either — the freshman infielder sent an opposite-field solo shot over the right-field wall, demonstrating a veteran approach at the plate.   

His second homer was even more of a hitting coach’s dream: a two-run shot to right-center field that kickstarted a string of three consecutive eighth-inning Indiana home runs that salted the game away.  Senior outfielder Sam Murrison and Mathison completed the trifecta, with Murrison’s no-doubt, scoreboard-shattering home run prompting raucous cheers from the Indiana dugout.  

“It feels great,” Oliver said postgame. “The hard work is paying off. Carter, Sam and I getting the ball rolling, little hit parade. It was awesome.”  

Mercer noted that despite Indiana’s offensive success, it still needs to shore some things up on both sides of the ball. Indiana left 11 runners on base and failed to score with the bases loaded and no outs in the seventh inning. Outfielder Devin Taylor popped out in foul ground and Tibbitts lined out to shortstop, which became an inning-ending double play after Mathison failed to retreat to second base in time.  

Additionally, the Hoosiers committed a pair of errors Tuesday, one of which came on a dropped pop fly that ricocheted off Oliver’s glove in shallow right field and led to an unearned run.  

“We should’ve scored 14 or 15 runs there,” Mercer said. “I’ll take a win, but it’s not good enough. We’ve got to get better.”  

Mercer said Indiana has not done itself any favors with its early-season struggles.  

“We’ve got to go out this weekend and play good baseball,” Mercer said. “We don’t feel sorry for what’s happened. You’ve got to start putting good games together.”  

With a sense of urgency, Mercer talked about the need for Indiana to avoid complacency.  

“Go start kicking somebody’s butt, play the bad guy and get on a run,” Mercer said. “You have to get sick and tired of tiptoeing around ballgames and feeling your way through it. If we do that, we’ll start winning some ballgames. I’m confident of that.” 

Indiana’s weekend features a home-and-home series with Butler University, beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday in Indianapolis. The Bulldogs then visit Bloomington for a standalone game at 5 p.m. Friday and a Saturday doubleheader kicking off at 2 p.m. Thursday’s game will be streamed on FloBaseball and Friday and Saturday’s games will be streamed on Big Ten Plus.  

Follow reporters Matt Press (@MattPress23) and Nick Rodecap (@nickrodecap) for updates throughout the Indiana baseball season.

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