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Saturday, June 15
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

Oliver’s home run propels No. 3 Indiana to Big Ten Tournament win over No. 6 Purdue

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OMAHA, Neb. — In the final weekend of the regular season versus Michigan, Indiana second baseman Jasen Oliver made an adjustment to his batting stance, shrinking his once-wide base and setting up with his feet closer together. He saw instant results, belting a pair of home runs in the series finale to seal the series win for the Hoosiers.  

On Tuesday, neither a six-hour rain delay nor Purdue ace Jordan Morales, who pitched 5.2 innings of two-run ball versus Indiana on May 3, could silence Oliver in his Big Ten Tournament debut. The freshman went 3-for-4 with four RBIs, none bigger than the three-run home run that gave Indiana a 3-1 lead and propelled the Hoosiers to a win in their first game of the Big Ten Tournament.  

Oliver, a right-handed hitter, hunted a fastball over the outer half of the plate, sending it over the right field wall at Charles Schwab Field, a notoriously pitcher-friendly stadium.  

“I’m just trying to do anything to help the team win,” Oliver said postgame. “If they’re energetic, it creates momentum (and sets us up) for success.”  

Offense was contagious for Indiana on Tuesday. After Morales worked through four quiet innings, Oliver’s home run opened the floodgates — a fitting symbol considering heavy thunderstorms caused the game to begin at 4 p.m. local time, six hours later than originally scheduled. The Hoosiers tacked on five more runs in the sixth inning, chasing Morales on an RBI double from shortstop Tyler Cerny, who extended his team-leading tally to 57.  

Now facing a suspect Purdue bullpen, infielder Brock Tibbitts doubled home Cerny, picking up his second extra-base hit since March 30 — a leg injury meant Tibbitts did not take any at-bats between April 1 and May 3. Oliver doubled home Tibbitts to force Purdue to make its second pitching change of the inning, and Indiana followed with two more RBI knocks, one of which came from former Purdue catcher Jake Stadler.  

Holding an 8-1 advantage after seven innings, Indiana looked poised to cruise to a win in the Big Ten Tournament opener. However, things worth having did not come easily, as is so often the case when rivals meet. After working four strong innings in relief of a flu-stricken southpaw Ty Bothwell, Indiana righty Drew Buhr returned to the mound to begin the eighth inning. Purdue right fielder Keenan Spence began proceedings with a solo homer that bounced off the 10th-row seats in left-center field.  

Third baseman Jo Stevens followed with a hit and Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer called upon Julian Tonghini, the Hoosiers’ other key right-handed portal pickup, to stop any thoughts of a Purdue comeback. Center fielder Couper Cornblum reached on a fielder’s choice — Stevens was forced out at second base for the first out of the inning. After second baseman Thomas Green struck out, pinch-hitter Logan Sutter followed with an opposite-field single and leadoff man Mike Bolton Jr. worked his second walk of the game to load the bases with two outs for designated hitter Keenan Taylor.  

Following a conference with pitching coach Dustin Glant, Tonghini spiked the first pitch to Taylor well in front of home plate — a wild pitch. With the tying run yet to reach the on-deck circle and the middle part of the Boilermaker lineup waiting in the wings, Cornblum sprinted home, hoping to slide safely across home plate and beat Stadler's tag. Now donning cream and crimson, Stadler tagged his former teammate on the leg before he had a chance to touch home plate, ending the inning and marking the second time Purdue failed to score with the bases loaded.  

Teams that squander multiple bases-loaded opportunities rarely win games, but Purdue tried its hand at a comeback in the ninth. Needing a different look versus a lineup that had figured out his pitching gameplan, Mercer brought righty Jacob Vogel out of the bullpen.  

After having the bat taken out of his hands due to Cornblum’s baserunning blunder in the eighth, Taylor began the ninth inning much like the eighth, belting a solo homer to left field. Catcher Connor Caskenette, the Big Ten’s RBI leader, singled on a one-hop comebacker that deflected off Vogel’s left arm and into shallow right field.  

Hoping to avoid getting burned by cleanup man Luke Gaffney, Vogel walked the Purdue first baseman on four pitches and Mercer went back to the bullpen. Brayden Risedorph jogged in from beyond the left field wall representing the fifth different Indiana pitcher used in the game.  

In a righty-versus-righty, power-on-power matchup, Risedorph faced Spence, who led off the eighth inning with a home run. Risedorph fell behind 2-0, and with runners on first and second, he challenged Spence, who clobbered a 90 mile-per-hour fastball over the left-center field wall to bring Indiana’s lead down to two runs. The scoreboard, which once showed Indiana in front 8-1, now showed the Hoosiers ahead 8-6.  

Stevens blooped a single into shallow left field for his third hit of the game and Cornblum strode to the plate representing the tying run. The same player who needlessly ran into an inning-ending out at home plate with his team down six runs in the eighth inning had a chance to redeem himself and bring the go-ahead run to the plate with no outs in the ninth. 

Instead, Cornblum swung at the first pitch and grounded into a tailor-made 6-4-3 double play, sapping all momentum from the Purdue dugout — a hitting coach’s worst nightmare. Purdue head coach Greg Goff challenged the “out” call at first base, which was upheld after a brief review.  

Risedorph struck out Green to end the game and Indiana escaped with an 8-6 victory, securing an off day Wednesday and remaining in the winner’s bracket. The Hoosiers will play No. 7 Ohio State at 3 p.m. EDT Thursday. The Buckeyes defeated Nebraska 15-2 in seven innings Tuesday night.  

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

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