All it took was one pitch for Josh Pyne to drive the ball into the left center field gap, and all it took was Peter Serruto coming around to score on Pyne’s double for the Hoosiers to emerge victorious in game one of Sunday’s doubleheader.
That was because Ty Bothwell kept the Minnesota hitters guessing and didn’t allow a hit in seven innings of work. Indiana went on to add plenty of insurance runs throughout the game, but Bothwell and the defense behind him helped the Hoosiers cruise to a 12-0 victory to begin the doubleheader.
This win secured a series victory for Indiana thanks to multi-hit games from Pyne, Bobby Whalen, Hunter Jessee and Carter Mathison. The reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Week, Mathison, extended Indiana’s freshman home run record with his 16th of the season, and Pyne stayed hot after winning the game for Indiana on Friday. Although Indiana wasn’t able to complete the series sweep, losing 9-8 in the series finale, the Hoosiers stayed on track to make the Big Ten tournament.
Bradley Brehmer started this game on Saturday, but thunderstorms forced a Sunday doubleheader. Bothwell’s longest outing of the season also kept the Indiana bullpen fresh in what turned out to be a slugfest in the series finale.
And because he only pitched two innings on Saturday, Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer handed the ball to Brehmer again to start game three. Brehmer pitched 2.2 innings and gave up three earned runs, one walk and three strikeouts.
He only faced seven batters through the first two innings, but ran into trouble with two outs in the third. Minnesota catcher Chase Stanke made Brehmer pay for a pitch on the inner half and belted his 11th home run of the series to give Minnesota a two-run lead.
Indiana would trail by as many as five runs in this game, but the Hoosiers’ rally began with a two-RBI single from Jessee in the fifth. Pyne followed suit with a ground rule double to drive in another run and keep the Hoosiers in the game.
But after Braydon Tucker’s scoreless inning in relief, a couple defensive mistakes and control issues kept the game up for grabs. Grant Holderfield allowed two earned runs in 0.2 innings, and Reese Sharp gave up a run and walked three batters.
But the resilient Indiana lineup kept attacking and eventually took the lead in the eight inning. Tyler Doanes saw a first pitch breaking ball and shot it deep to the left center field wall to tie the game. Doanes said he has been seeing a lot of offspeed pitches lately, and because Phillip Glasser hit a fastball on the previous at-bat, he expected a heavy dose of breaking balls.
Bobby Whalen lined a single to right field to take the lead and score Doanes, who finished 3-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI on his Senior Day at Bart Kaufman Field. Doanes transferred to Indiana this season after playing at West Virginia and has enjoyed his time in Bloomington.
“It’s a great feeling,” Doanes said. “It’s great to wear this script, it’s known across the country. This team and everybody here has really taken me in and I’m really thankful for it. In my last year I really just try to come out and give it my all and have a lot of fun.”
Indiana’s big eighth inning loaded the bases with no outs, bringing up the heart of the order and a trio of freshman – Pyne, Mathison and Tibbitts – who have powered Indiana to four consecutive series wins.
“If you look at our group over the course of the year and you’re in that moment,” Mercer said. “There’s really not any other three guys you’d want up.”
But after two hits and three RBI in game two, plus the game-winning hit in game one, Pyne was unable to add to Indiana’s lead. Pyne’s strikeout marked the first out of the inning, and Mathison made the second out with a pop up to the third baseman. Tibbitts began to run down the first base line, thinking he had just walked with the bases loaded, but the umpire said the ball caught the outside corner for the third out.
“Doesn’t happen very often, but it happened right there,” Mercer said. “It’s a big-time learning situation in the moment when you have a chance to put somebody away and you’re not able to do it.”
Despite this missed opportunity heading into the ninth, Indiana still led by a run. Reliever Nathan Stahl tossed a one-two-three eighth inning and took the mound again in the ninth. But he walked the first batter and allowed a two-run home run to Kyle Bork with two strikes. This gave the Gophers a lead they wouldn’t surrender, avoiding the series sweep and winning their first road game in the Big Ten.
Indiana moved to 24-27 on the season with a 10-11 record in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers are tied with Michigan for sixth place in the conference and maintained pace to qualify as one of eight teams in the Big Ten tournament.
Mercer said he would have liked to sweep the series, but he is proud of how his team has grown this season. He said a way to measure success in any season is by how much the team improves throughout the year, and that is definitely true of this Indiana team. After a rocky start to the season, the Hoosiers have won four straight series and are playing their best baseball of the season.
“Where we were six to eight weeks ago to where we are now,” Mercer said. “I’m very proud of those guys and what they’ve done.”