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Tuesday, May 28
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

Indiana baseball squanders comeback win, loses crucial series to Nebraska

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With a chance to propel up the national rankings and establish a spot atop the Big Ten standings, Indiana baseball faltered in Lincoln, Nebraska, against the Cornhuskers over the weekend, dropping two consecutive games after a 10-5 comeback win May 10. 

The series defeat marked the Hoosiers’ first in conference play since March 22-24 against Illinois. Now two games back of the first place Illini and a game behind Nebraska, Indiana’s path to a Big Ten title is circuitous. 

Only a midweek matchup against the University of Louisville and home set versus Michigan remain in the regular season as the Hoosiers, who now sit at 13-8 in the conference and 28-21 overall. 

For a team that came into the weekend having won 11 of its last 14 conference games and performing red-hot at the plate, May 11’s 5-2 extra-innings loss and May 12's 4-2 defeat certainly extinguished some of that fire. Perhaps more disappointing, the two losses followed one of Indiana’s wildest victories of the season. 

Sophomore outfielder Devin Taylor — who moved to the leadoff spot against Rutgers in late April — set the tone early. Facing one of the top arms in the Big Ten in Nebraska junior righty Brett Sears, Taylor crushed his 13th homer in the first at-bat of the game, continuing his impressive form since the lineup change. 

The Hoosiers took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning via a sacrifice fly from junior Brock Tibbitts, who recently returned to action after missing nearly a month due to a lower-body injury. Meanwhile, graduate lefty Ty Bothwell was keeping the Cornhuskers’ bats quiet. 

After tossing five shutout frames against Purdue on May 4, Bothwell worked 4 2/3 innings of six-hit, one-run ball against Nebraska in the series opener. Though Bothwell did more than enough on the mound, the Hoosiers struggled to accomplish much at the plate throughout the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. 

Nebraska sophomore Josh Caron hammered a two-run homer off Indiana sophomore righty Brayden Risedorph in the bottom of the seventh to give the hosts a 3-2 lead, but the Hoosiers quickly responded.  

With Sears’ night done after an impressive start including seven innings and one earned run, the Hoosiers immediately pounced on the bullpen. In the top of the eighth, Indiana freshman Jasen Oliver launched a solo shot to lead off the inning and knot the score, though it would prove short-lived. 

Risedorph surrendered another pair of runs in the bottom of the frame, bringing the bottom of Indiana’s lineup to the plate in the ninth trailing 5-2. Junior Carter Mathison smacked a double to lead off the inning, and Oliver singled him home shortly thereafter. 

The Hoosiers’ momentum persisted as junior Josh Pyne collected the tying run, knocking a sacrifice fly to drive in Oliver. After a pair of walks, with two outs and the bases loaded, a frenzy ensued. 

Nebraska senior reliever Kyle Froelich attempted to pick off Indiana junior Nick Mitchell — who was well off the bag — behind him at second base, but his errant throw allowed Taylor to score the go-ahead run. 

A pair of singles from redshirt freshman Joey Brenczewski and Mathison produced four total runs and completed a frenetic seven-run Indiana frame. 

Redshirt freshman righty Jacob Vogel came on for Indiana in the bottom of the ninth and swiftly retired Nebraska in order, including a pair of strikeouts to seal the comeback victory.

But so often this season, when the Hoosiers take a step forward, they also take a step back. 

Though Indiana sophomore ace Connor Foley performed admirably on the mound, going five shutout innings and allowing just two hits while striking out eight, the offense did little to back him up. 

Taylor again proved why his powerful bat can be so valuable at the top of the order, hitting his second leadoff homer in as many games, but the Hoosiers were then kept off the scoreboard until the eighth inning. In that span, Indiana notched just three total hits and went down in order in four innings.

Graduate righty Drew Buhr relieved Foley in the sixth and quickly conceded a game-tying solo shot, and he surrendered the go-ahead run in the seventh courtesy of a homer from Nebraska freshman Dylan Carey. Trailing 2-1 in the eighth, Indiana sophomore Tyler Cerny put an end to the team’s offensive drought and tied the contest 2-2 with an RBI double. 

Neither team broke through in the ninth, and Indiana headed to its second extra-innings game of the season. Unlike the matchup against Ball State University that went 12 innings and ultimately resulted in a tie, Nebraska ended the night in the bottom of the tenth, walking off the Hoosiers with a two-out, three-run homer off Indiana junior righty Julian Tonghini.

May 12's series rubber match came with considerable implications for Indiana’s chances at a Big Ten title. But after batting .176 collectively in the series finale, the Hoosiers’ normally sizzling offense cooled at the wrong time and couldn’t back up the serviceable pitching staff. 

Nebraska struck first for the first time in the series finale, knocking two runs off Indiana junior lefty Ryan Kraft in the bottom of the third. Oliver hit his second homer of the weekend in the top of the fifth, and Cerny’s sixth inning solo shot tied the game 2-2. 

Indiana sophomore Aydan Decker-Petty didn’t have his best stuff, giving up two runs —one earned— though filling four innings. The Cornhuskers took a 4-2 advantage after plating a run in the sixth and seventh, giving the Hoosiers a familiar two-run late-game deficit. 

This time, Indiana couldn’t rekindle any magic. Nebraska sophomore righty Drew Christo retired the Hoosiers in order in the eighth and ninth, and after twice swatting leadoff homers in the two previous games, Taylor struck out looking for the final out of Sunday’s loss. 

Despite coming into the weekend in nearly impeccable form, the series defeat is undoubtedly a gut punch. Indiana went from having a chance at the driver's seat of the Big Ten to now sitting in a difficult, though not impossible, scenario to finish atop it. 

Next, the Hoosiers travel to Kentucky to take on Louisville on Tuesday night before hosting Michigan over the weekend to round out the regular season. 

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

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