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The Indiana Daily Student

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Indiana baseball whiffs on scoring chances, falls to Evansville

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After showing serious signs of progress April 12-14 versus Penn State, Indiana baseball crashed back down to earth Tuesday night. The Hoosiers fell 5-4 to the University of Evansville at Bart Kaufman Field, as many of Indiana’s pitching struggles resurfaced and the offense failed to capitalize on scoring chances.  

Indiana pitchers walked eight batters and hit three, leading to three of Evansville’s five runs. Senior right-hander Jack Moffitt was saddled with the loss after allowing three runs on one hit, two walks and a hit-by-pitch while recording just two outs between the third and fourth innings.  

Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer said neither Moffitt nor starting pitcher Ethan Phillips, who labored through 2 2/3 innings while allowing one run, two walks and two hit-by-pitches, performed well.  

“They weren’t in the zone consistently,” Mercer said postgame. “I didn’t think they were terribly competitive.”  

Junior right-hander Julian Tonghini worked out of Moffitt’s mess, stranding a pair of Evansville baserunners after three men crossed the plate in the fourth inning. As the game went on, Indiana’s bullpen settled down and kept Evansville from extending its advantage. 

Sophomore outfielder Devin Taylor’s offensive woes continued Tuesday. He went hitless for the third time in four games, but no at-bat ended worse than when he bounced into an inning-ending double play in the fifth inning, the second such rally-killer in as many innings for Indiana.  

After entering the bottom of the fifth down 5-1, Indiana plated two runs and looked to either tie the game or take the lead, but Taylor faltered after being moved down in the lineup on account of his recent struggles. 

Despite Taylor failing to keep Indiana’s midgame rally going, the bullpen held serve, setting the table for a Hoosier comeback as junior outfielder Nick Mitchell cut the Purple Aces’ lead to one with a seventh-inning sacrifice fly.  

Junior outfielder Carter Mathison advanced to third base on the play, representing the tying run. However, Indiana’s rally fell short as sophomore shortstop Tyler Cerny grounded out to his opposite number to end the inning, spiking his batting helmet in frustration. Cerny accounted for three of Indiana’s six runners left on base.  

Although Indiana out-hit Evansville seven to four, the Hoosiers repeatedly faltered in high-leverage at-bats. Mercer cited Indiana failing to execute its offensive game plan and taking hittable fastballs as chief causes of his frustration.  

“Offensively, when teams are giving you an opportunity to go and you don’t do those things, you’re not good,” Mercer said. “When those opportunities are given, you don’t get to guess and you don’t get re-dos.”  

After Tuesday’s loss, Indiana is projected to drop to around 80th in the RPI, well outside contention for the 64-team NCAA Tournament field. It is yet another entry in the growing list of bad losses suffered by Indiana this season, filed among home losses to Purdue University Fort Wayne, Illinois State University and Butler University. The Hoosiers are 2-5 in Quad 3 games and 10-6 in Quad 4 games, which will negatively impact their postseason chances. 

RelatedCOLUMN: Indiana baseball is teetering on the precipice of a lost seasonBaseball is a silly game. Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer says it all the time. Some days, the deck is stacked against your team and there’s nothing you can do. On other days, everything you touch turns to gold.

“Earlier in the year, we weren’t good enough on the mound,” Mercer said. “Today, it was not (the pitchers’) fault. It was squarely on the offense. We’re at the top of every offensive category in the Big Ten. But dammit, we weren’t today.” 

Now 20-17 on the season, the Hoosiers will look to rebound Friday-Sunday at Minnesota against a sub-.500 Golden Gophers squad that is just 3-6 in Big Ten play. Games are scheduled for 7 p.m. EDT on Friday, 3 p.m. EDT on Saturday and 2 p.m. EDT on Sunday, all available on Big Ten Plus.  

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

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