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Saturday, June 15
The Indiana Daily Student

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No. 3 Indiana baseball outlasts No. 7 Ohio State, moves to Big Ten semifinals

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OMAHA, Neb. — Seasoned sports fans often preach that it is better to win ugly than to lose pretty, and No. 3 Indiana baseball provided living proof versus No. 7 Ohio State on Thursday afternoon at Charles Schwab Field. Despite walking 13 Ohio State batters and loading the bases in four separate innings, Indiana improved to 2-0 in the Big Ten Tournament with a 14-7 victory over the Buckeyes, now two wins away from its first conference title in 10 years.  

After back-to-back hitless games, Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer took designated hitter Joey Brenczewski out of the starting lineup. Citing a problem with Brenczewski’s left-handed pre-swing load, Mercer slotted Andrew Wiggins at the DH spot for Thursday’s game. A sacrifice fly from second baseman Jasen Oliver put Indiana on the board after Ohio State starting pitcher Gavin DeVooght allowed three straight baserunners to begin the second inning.  

Run-scoring knocks from catcher Jake Stadler, outfielder Devin Taylor and infielder Josh Pyne punctuated a five-run second for the Hoosiers, but Wiggins opened the floodgates with a two-run double down the left field line. He reached base safely in all four at-bats Thursday.  

“I was a bit nervous,” Mercer said of Wiggins’ first at-bat postgame. “Typically, that’s Joey’s spot. Andrew battled and came up with a big hit. Andrew’s an incredibly talented kid and moments aren’t too big for him.”  

Ohio State erased the 5-0 Indiana lead after scoring four unearned runs in the third inning. Following a six-up, six-down opening, Indiana starter Connor Foley loaded the bases on a pair of walks and a hit-by-pitch, then committed a throwing error to allow two runs to score.  

An RBI groundout and a balk plated two more, and Foley finished the inning, walking off the mound flustered. The Buckeyes tied the game in the fourth after three singles and a walk, but Indiana did not skip a beat. The Hoosiers responded with two runs in the fifth and one in the sixth, picking up RBIs from Wiggins and infielder Brock Tibbitts to take an 8-5 lead. Wiggins led Indiana hitters with three RBIs and Tibbitts reached base five times in six plate appearances Thursday.  

“We trusted ourselves and our plan,” Tibbitts said postgame. “Going out there, stringing together at-bats and manufacturing runs. Our pitching staff has been great over the last couple weeks, and we trusted them to shut it down.” 

Indiana has allowed seven or fewer runs in 15 consecutive games since April 24, holding a 10-4-1 record in that span and winning four straight contests. That said, Thursday’s game was far from clear-cut. Following a 1-2-3 fifth inning, right-handed reliever Aydan Decker-Petty issued six walks in the next three frames, stranding the bases loaded in the seventh despite not allowing a hit in his outing. He exited the game after allowing one of four Indiana leadoff walks, this one in the eighth inning.  

After giving up a three-run homer and facing the tying run in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s win over Purdue, right-hander Brayden Risedorph once again languished in the late innings. He walked four batters in the final two frames and worked out of bases-loaded jams in the eighth and ninth. Ohio State stranded 14 baserunners Thursday, including leaving the bases loaded in each of the final three innings.  

Risedorph, who needed just 15 pitches to record the final three outs versus Purdue on Tuesday, threw 62 pitches to record the final six outs Thursday. Despite Ohio State’s best efforts, Indiana escaped comfortably after adding four insurance runs in the eighth and two in the ninth. Shortstop Tyler Cerny extended his team-leading RBI total to 59 and Taylor clobbered his team-best 18th home run of the season.

With a tournament resume hampered by injury-induced, surprise losses, Indiana entered the day on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. D1Baseball projected Indiana to be one of the first four teams out of the NCAA Tournament. Following Thursday’s win, the Hoosiers are now within shouting distance of an at-large berth, sitting in the high-50s in the RPI and 2-0 in the double-elimination Big Ten Tournament for the first time since they last hoisted the trophy in 2014.  

“When you’ve gone through the tough stuff, you create an identity and harden yourself,” Mercer said. “We’ve been playing playoff baseball for six weeks. We had to win repeatedly to even be in this position. When you’ve been there before, that helps.”  

The Hoosiers have Friday off and will face the winner of Friday’s elimination game between No. 2 Nebraska and No. 7 Ohio State at 10 a.m. EDT on Saturday. With a win, they move on to the conference championship game at 3 p.m. EDT on Sunday. If they lose, the Hoosiers will play in an elimination game at 6 p.m. EDT on Saturday. All Big Ten Tournament games will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network and on WIUX Sports with Nick Rodecap and Ben Haller on the call.  

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

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