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Friday, May 24
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

Buhr’s strong bullpen outing catalyzes Indiana baseball’s statement comeback win

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Down 8-0 after an inning and a half, things looked bleak for Indiana baseball. The Hoosiers, less than 24 hours removed from a 15-4 shellacking at the hands of Penn State’s high-powered offense, found themselves on the verge of losing their second consecutive home series against a conference opponent.  

Connor Foley, Indiana’s ace and Saturday stalwart, uncharacteristically faltered. He hit the showers with two outs in the second inning after giving up a season-high eight runs. Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer called upon graduate righty Drew Buhr out of the bullpen much earlier than planned, hoping to limit a Penn State offense that scored 23 runs in its first 11 innings against Indiana.  

“There was a lot of adrenaline,” Buhr said postgame. “It was like, ‘Here we go.’ That’s just my role — to be ready whenever my name is called.”  

Buhr went beyond the call of duty, holding the Nittany Lions scoreless over 4 1/3 innings of shutdown ball and striking out a season-best eight batters. He attacked the strike zone efficiently, ramping his four-seam fastball up to 96 miles per hour and mixing in a cut fastball and slider to keep hitters off-balance. Scouts who attended the game to watch Foley were instead treated to a clinical performance from one of Indiana’s impact transfers.  

“Drew came in and caught fire,” Mercer said postgame. “It’s contagious.” 

Indiana responded to Penn State’s eight-spot with five runs of its own in the bottom of the second inning, capitalizing on senior righty Jaden Henline’s command troubles — the Nittany Lions’ starter hit a batter and walked a pair in the frame. The Hoosiers cashed in via a two-run double from junior third baseman Josh Pyne and productive outs from freshman designated hitter Andrew Wiggins and junior outfielder Carter Mathison. 

“We had a little bit of help there,” Mercer said. “We were back in the game. Buhr’s performance gave us a lift. Then it’s like, ‘All right, we’re getting some zeros. We can keep chipping away at this.’” 

The second inning was Indiana’s best chance at equalizing, and the Nittany Lions remained in control. Penn State looked poised to extend its advantage in the fifth inning after sophomore infielder Bryce Molinaro worked an eight-pitch walk to put runners on first and second with one out. 

Calm and collected, Buhr induced an inning-ending double play off the bat of sophomore infielder Bryce Molinaro, who homered twice in Penn State’s 11-run win over Indiana on Friday night. Buhr then worked around a one-out double, fanning a pair of batters in the sixth inning to end his day.  

Indiana pulled within one run after the seventh-inning stretch as Wiggins belted a two-run homer 430 feet to right-center field to reinvigorate the Indiana faithful. Penn State got one run back in the eighth inning on an RBI single from sophomore outfielder Bobby Marsh. In the bottom of the inning, sophomore shortstop Tyler Cerny appeared to bring Indiana back to within a run on a high fly ball to deep right-center that deflected off the top of the wall and was initially ruled a home run.  

However, after multiple arduous minutes of complaining from the Penn State dugout and a conference between all four umpires, the home run was overruled. Redshirt junior catcher Jake Stadler flew out to the warning track to end the inning, missing a game-tying homer by five feet.  

The home plate umpire called a tight strike zone all game and was the subject of many chirps and jeers from the packed bleachers surrounding Bart Kaufman Field.  

Still trailing by two runs after sophomore right-hander Brayden Risedorph spun a scoreless top of the ninth inning, the Indiana fans looked to will their team to a series-tying victory. Pyne struck out looking, Wiggins was hit by a pitch and Mathison popped out harmlessly in foul territory, uppercutting a pitch as he searched for a game-tying home run.  

Down to their final out, the Hoosiers rallied. Freshman second baseman Jasen Oliver put together a veteran at-bat, working an eight-pitch walk to set the table for sophomore outfielder Devin Taylor, who represented the winning run. Taylor worked a favorable 2-0 count and lined a single up the middle, forcing Penn State to go to its bullpen. The Nittany Lions brought in freshman righty Will Perkowski to face Cerny, who just one inning earlier had his home run wiped off the board.  

In the ultimate “ball don’t lie” moment, Cerny delivered a game-tying single to left field, bringing home Oliver and moving Taylor, the winning run, to third base. Perkowski’s first pitch to junior outfielder Nick Mitchell bounced by junior catcher Matt Maloney, and Taylor crossed the plate with his arms in the air, sealing the 10-9 Indiana victory on a walk-off wild pitch.  

Down 8-0 after an inning and a half, #iubase comes back against Penn State, winning on a walk-off wild pitch. Tyler Cerny, in the ultimate “ball don’t lie” moment, singled to tie the game just one pitch before. Unreal ending. pic.twitter.com/lrLkqfe4oO

After clawing its way back from the edge of another home series loss, Indiana has a chance to win the series in the rubber match, set for 1 p.m., Sunday. Mercer kept the big picture in mind when considering the ramifications of Saturday’s win but still acknowledged its importance.  

“We’ll find out how big this was tomorrow,” he said. “This was probably the best comeback I’ve ever been a part of. Going down 8-0 in the second inning, the best offense in the league looks a little bit grim. For a group that’s had some tough knocks [to] fight their way back and have a bounce go their way is a big deal.”  

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

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