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Sunday, April 14
The Indiana Daily Student

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Bullpen falters as Indiana baseball splits series versus Butler

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Indiana baseball continued its middling performance this weekend, splitting a four-game series versus Butler University. With the series finale tied at five at the top of the ninth inning, Indiana’s bullpen once again sputtered. Butler first baseman Kade Lewis hit a go-ahead three-run home run and southpaw Cole Graverson slammed the door to send the Bulldogs home with an 8-5 victory just hours after being blown out by 19 runs.  

The Hoosiers bookended the home-and-home set with losses, dropping Thursday’s series opener 6-2 as Butler’s pitching staff held Indiana without an extra-base hit. Butler hurlers Ben Whiteside, Andrew Crumbley and Cole Graverson combined to allow just six singles to Indiana hitters, while Graverson earned a three-inning save.  

Butler’s Jack Moroknek and Lewis combined for five hits and five RBIs to lead the Bulldogs’ offense Thursday in Indianapolis. Meanwhile, Indiana’s Devin Taylor was the lone Hoosier to record multiple hits.  

Graduate southpaw Ty Bothwell helped Indiana right the ship Friday, turning in a strong eight-inning performance to help Indiana even the series in an 11-2 victory. He allowed six hits and two runs, striking out eight Bulldog batters in his 97-pitch outing.  

“He’s helped us on the midweeks, and today he was amazing,” Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer said postgame Friday. “Ty is the guy that’s up early in the morning and working all day. He has an insatiable appetite to succeed.” 

Indiana immediately jumped on Butler starter Tyler Banks, with Carter Mathison and Tyler Cerny pushing the Hoosiers to a 1-0 lead two pitches into the bottom of the first.  

The Hoosiers nearly led wire-to-wire, responding to a game-tying home run from Butler outfielder Joey Urban with three runs in the fifth inning and six runs in the sixth, punctuated by a two-run double from Taylor and a home run from Tibbitts, Indiana’s third of the game.  

“We talked about getting into the [late stages] of a two-run game, one way or the other, and being the tougher, more fundamental team, finding a way to win it late,” Mercer said. “They tied the game up, and we’re in that moment where it’s like, ‘Which way do we want to go here?’” 

Mercer said he was pleased with how Indiana pulled away in Friday’s game, and the Hoosiers continued that trend in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, jumping out to a 14-2 lead in three innings. Indiana went on to trounce the Bulldogs, taking a 2-1 series lead on the heels of a 22-run, 20-hit performance in which seven players had multiple hits and five had multiple RBIs, led by Nick Mitchell’s 3-4, 6 RBI day that included a grand slam in the second inning.  

Starting pitcher Connor Foley fought through 5 ⅔ innings, allowing three hits, three runs and three walks while striking out nine Butler hitters on exactly 100 pitches. While his command faltered at times, he still turned in a quality outing and received a standing ovation from the Indiana faithful.  

“Connor wavered a little bit,” Mercer said postgame Saturday. “He has great stuff, but he’s got to go through it, grow up and learn how to manage himself. Then, the game is easier for him. You’re excited that he continues to grow, but he has to continue to have confidence in himself and execute pitches.”  

Whereas Foley overcame adversity with the help of Indiana’s largest offensive onslaught this season, the Hoosier bullpen did not follow suit as Indiana looked to sweep Saturday’s doubleheader and take the weekend series, three games to one.  

Instead, 2023 Freshman All-American Brayden Risedorph suffered his team-worst fourth loss this season after Lewis belted the go-ahead home run with two outs in the top of the ninth inning of Saturday night’s series finale.  

It was the exclamation point on a two-hit, five-RBI performance for Butler’s freshman infielder. Lewis and Urban combined for six of Butler’s 10 hits in the series finale, as the Bulldogs once again held Indiana to just six hits, stranding 12 Hoosier baserunners en route to an 8-5 road victory.  

Graverson, rarely eclipsing 80 miles per hour with any of his pitches, once again nailed down the win for Butler, tossing 1 ⅔ innings of one-hit, shutout ball, efficiently keeping Indiana’s offense at bay.  

“It’s a change of pace,” Mercer said of Graverson’s low velocity. "Offensively, we started off really well. We just didn’t break through.”  

Indiana left six runners on base in the first three innings of the series finale, as Butler pieced together a win with the help of six different pitchers after using seven in the blowout loss earlier Saturday.  

“We had an opportunity to push guys across when guys were (facing) our normal (velocity) range,” Mercer said. “We didn’t do that, and we pressed and got behind.”  

Indiana’s Julian Tonghini started the game strong for Indiana, scattering three hits and one run across three innings. Brandon Keyster turned in a scoreless fourth inning and Drew Buhr allowed one earned run in 1 ⅓ innings, but Ethan Phillips and Risedorph continued their skids: Both allowing multiple hits and multiple earned runs while running into walk trouble. 

“We’re getting guys better,” Mercer said. “They’re starting to find a path, but we just weren’t able to finish it off.”  

Indiana’s inability to push runs across manifested much more harshly than Thursday, as runners left stranded turned into another late-inning bullpen collapse. Butler scored the game’s final five runs, all between the seventh and ninth innings, flipping a two-run deficit into a three-run victory.  

Mercer emphasized lapses in Indiana’s pitch execution and timely hitting to all fields by Butler, taking advantage of ill-timed pitching blunders. Butler’s ninth-inning rally began with a leadoff walk, a cardinal sin of baseball.  

The leadoff free pass was followed by a picture-perfect sacrifice bunt from Urban, a fielder’s choice on a potentially inning-ending double play, and finally the dagger from Lewis: A towering home run to straightaway right field that came to rest just in front of the “408 FT” sign.  

Buoyed by its only dependable starting pitchers in Bothwell and Foley, Indiana continues its see-saw season at 6 p.m., April 2, at home against Indiana State University, which routed Indiana 15-7 when the teams squared off in Terre Haute on March 19.  

The Hoosiers then head to College Park for a three-game series versus Maryland, beginning at 6 p.m., April 5, and capped off by matinees at 2 p.m., April 6 and 1 p.m., April 7. All four 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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