Indiana Baseball Loses Series at Nebraska; Big Ten Title, NCAA Tournament Hopes Dwindle

Indiana baseball made a miraculous rally in the ninth inning to win Friday's series opener at Nebraska. But with losses on Saturday and Sunday, Indiana lost the series and its Big Ten and NCAA Tournament chances took a hit.
Indiana baseball's Brock Tibbitts (9), Josh Pyne (32), Tyler Cerny (8) and Jasen Oliver (2).
Indiana baseball's Brock Tibbitts (9), Josh Pyne (32), Tyler Cerny (8) and Jasen Oliver (2). / Indiana Athletics

Indiana won Friday's series opener, 10-5, but Nebraska came back to win the series with a 5-2 win Saturday and a 4-2 win on Sunday at Haymarket Park in Lincoln, Neb.

Indiana's Big Ten title and NCAA Tournament hopes took a hit with these losses. At 13-8 in conference play, Indiana is now in a three-way tie with Purdue and Michigan for third place in the Big Ten standings. Nebraska is one game ahead at 14-7, and first-place Illinois (14-6) begins an important series finale against Iowa (14-9) on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET in Iowa City

Entering its weekend series at Nebraska, Indiana was projected as the last team in the 64-team NCAA Tournament field by Baseball America. Going 1-2 at Nebraska hurts Indiana's chances of back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, but it certainly does not eliminate the Hoosiers.

Next up, coach Jeff Mercer and the Hoosiers travel to Louisville on Tuesday before concluding the regular season with a three-game series against Michigan at Bart Kaufman Field in Bloomington, Ind. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The Big Ten Tournament begins May 21 at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Neb.

Friday's series opener at Nebraska was a back-and-forth affair that ended with a wild ninth inning.

Lefty Ty Bothwell started on the mound for Indiana and pitched 4.1 innings, allowing six hits, one run, one walk and three strikeouts. Brayden Risedorph was first out of the bullpen, and he gave up three hits, four runs, three walks and four strikeouts in 3.1 innings. The Hoosiers had a tough time against Nebraska's Josh Caron, who had an RBI single and a home run.

Indiana right fielder Devin Taylor homered in the first and second baseman Jasen Oliver went deep in the eighth. First baseman Brock Tibbitts added to the scoring with a sacrifice fly, but the Hoosiers found themselves trailing 5-3 heading into the ninth.

Indiana center fielder Carter Mathison started the inning with a double, and Oliver singled him home two batters later. After a pitching change, Indiana third baseman Josh Pyne tied the game with a sacrifice fly, scoring Taylor. Nebraska walked following two Hoosiers, and the rally was officially on.

The Hoosiers took a 6-5 lead when Nebraska pitcher Kyle Froehlich attempted a pickoff at second base, but his poor throw hit off Dylan Carey's glove and allowed Taylor to score. Indiana blew the game open with singles from Joey Brenczewski and Mathsion, who drove in a combined four runs.

In the bottom of the ninth, 6-foot-7 righty Jacob Vogel retired the Cornhuskers in order with two strikeouts to secure Indiana's 10-5 win.

Nebraska evened the series Saturday night with late-game heroics. For the second straight game, Taylor homered in the first inning for Indiana, but Nebraska took a 2-1 lead with home runs from Tyler Stone and Carey. Indiana tied it back up, thanks to an RBI double from Tyler Cerny in the eighth.

Right-hander Connor Foley gave the Hoosiers five shutout innings on the mound, allowing two hits and three walks while striking out eight Cornhuskers. Foley made a tremendous defensive play in the second inning, ranging to his right and throwing across his body to beat the runner.

Indiana and Nebraska needed extra innings to decide Saturday's game, making for two thrilling finishes in a row. This time it was the Cornhuskers who would come out on top, as left fielder Cole Evans hit a two-out, three run home run to win the game, 5-2.

Indiana right-hander Julian Tonghini gave up the walk-off home run, finishing the game with two innings pitched, three hits, three runs, one walk and four strikeouts. Fellow righty Drew Buhr allowed the game's other two runs during his 2.1 innings of work as the first Hoosier out of the bullpen.

Caron and Evans provided clutch hittig for the Cornhuskers on Sunday to secure the series victory. Nebraska took a 2-0 lead in the third inning, scoring on an RBI double from Case Sanderson, who knocked Indiana starter Ryan Kraft out of the game. Indiana reliever Aydan Decker-Petty allowed a single to Caron, then he threw a wild pitch to bring in another Nebraska run.

Indiana wouldn't go away easily, though, as Oliver hit a solo home run in the sixth inning. Cerny tied the game 2-2 in the seventh with a solo home run, knocking Nebraska starter Jackson Brocket out of the game.

But Nebraska immediately responded in the bottom of the sixth. Caron reached on a throwing error by Decker-Petty, and Evans stroked a double to left field to give the Cornhuskers the lead. Vogel replaced Decker-Petty in the seventh, but he gave up an RBI single to Caron, which put Nebraska ahead 4-2.

Drew Christo was lights out for Nebraska in relief, tossing four scoreless innings and retiring the Hoosiers in order in both the eighth and ninth innings. He allowed just two hits while striking out two batters and walking zero. The win moved Nebraska to 32-18 overall and 13-8 in the Big Ten.


Published
Jack Ankony

JACK ANKONY

Jack Ankony is a Sports Illustrated/FanNation writer for HoosiersNow.com. He graduated from Indiana University's Media School with a degree in journalism. Follow on Twitter @ankony_jack.