Ty Bothwell leaped off the mound, pumping his fist into his glove and displaying the pure emotion that built up during seven innings of intense focus. He gave his catcher Peter Serruto a bear hug, and it only took a few seconds before Bothwell was engulfed by a herd of Hoosiers sprinting from the dugout.
Bothwell had just pitched seven innings without giving up a hit. Bradley Brehmer started the game the day before, on Friday, but thunderstorms forced Indiana and Minnesota to finish the contest on Saturday. Bothwell was the only pitcher Indiana would need to finish off its 12-0 win, and no one could touch him.
"Guys were just so excited and genuinely happy for him as their teammate," Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer said. "[They] just loved and supported him for such a terrific outing."
Bothwell struck out eight of the 23 batters he faced on Saturday, which was a season-high for the redshirt junior from Hebron, Ind. He struck out the side in the fourth inning and didn't allow a baserunner until a walk in the sixth inning, but he picked off the runner, anyways.
“It was a fantastic experience," Bothwell said. "I came in kind of treating it like a start. Brad gave us two really good innings yesterday, and I was just trying to fill in the great work that he put in. I just wanted to do my job for the team."
On the final play of the game, Bothwell induced a ground ball to Indiana second baseman Tyler Doanes. The baserunner attempted to sneak under his glove, but Doanes tagged him and quickly threw the ball to first for a double play. Bothwell has struggled at times facing hitters multiple times through the order, but he said Indiana's "brick-wall" defense allowed him to pitch deep into the game for the no-hit performance.
"It wasn’t really about me," Bothwell said. "It was about everybody out there. I couldn’t have done it without any of my teammates."
Saturday was Bothwell's longest outing of the year by two innings. He said he didn't expect to go as far as he did, but he got a boost of adrenaline every time another zero went up on the scoreboard.
Mercer said he chose Bothwell to start in the continuation game partly because it was a favorable matchup. Minnesota stacked its lineup with five left-handed hitters to face the right-hander Brehmer on Friday, and Mercer countered this by starting the left-handed Bothwell when the game resumed on Saturday.
Mercer said the biggest change for Bothwell has been an increased level of confidence. Bothwell's breaking ball has always been his put-away pitch, but Mercer said Bothwell's game reaches new heights when he has the confidence to throw his fastball with conviction.
Bothwell's reliable breaking ball was working all afternoon on Saturday, and the newfound confidence in his fastball kept Minnesota hitters guessing.
"For [Bothwell], he’s anywhere from 86 to 96, and when he’s good he’s 90-93 and really attacking with his fastball," Mercer said. "It just has some really unique properties to it, it garners a lot of swings and misses. When he’s confident and he’s downhill and attacking with it, it’s a really hard pitch to hit for anybody."
Since arriving in Bloomington, Bothwell has added significant speed to his fastball. He said he can't really explain how, but it could be the 50 pounds he's added since his freshman season or his trust in Indiana's throwing program. Bothwell didn't believe he could command his fastball because of control issues at the start of the season. But over the last month, he decided to trust himself to stay in the zone, and it's shown in his descending ERA.
After his first six appearances spanning 6.2 innings, Bothwell gave up 11 earned runs for a 14.85 ERA. But in his six most recent outings, he has covered 21 innings with three earned runs and 31 strikeouts. Bothwell now has an Indiana-best 4.01 ERA.
"Knowing I had guys behind me that believed in me, that really helped me too,” Bothwell said.
With four games left in the regular season, Bothwell is playing his best baseball of the season, and so are the Hoosiers. Indiana defeated Minnesota twice this weekend to win their fourth consecutive series.
At 10-11 in conference play, Indiana is tied with Michigan for sixth place in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers host Illinois State at 6 p.m. on Tuesday night for their final home game of the year before heading to Iowa for a three game series.
The top eight teams in the conference qualify for the Big Ten Tournament in Omaha, Neb. beginning on May 25, and for Mercer, it's all about getting hot at the right time.
"Your goal as a coach is to have your team get better over the course of the year and be playing its best baseball at the end of the season and the last month," Mercer said. "If you do that, as a coach you feel like you’ve accomplished your goals."
Stories related to Indiana baseball:
- HOOSIERS AND GOPHERS SPLIT DOUBLEHEADER: Indiana won 12-0 and lost 9-8 in its doubleheader with Minnesota on Sunday. Ty Bothwell tossed seven no-hit innings, and Carter Mathison extended his Indiana freshman home run record to 16, keeping the Hoosiers on track to make the Big Ten tournament. CLICK HERE
- PYNE DELIVERS IN THE CLUTCH: Indiana trailed Minnesota 6-2 heading into the bottom of the eighth, but a trio of two-rbi hits from Matthew Ellis, Bobby Whalen and Josh Pyne gave the Hoosiers an 8-6 win over Minnesota in game one. CLICK HERE
- SERIES PREVIEW: Indiana and Minnesota will play three games this weekend at Bart Kaufman Field, starting at 7 p.m. ET on Friday. The Hoosiers look to continue their late-season surge to qualify for the Big Ten tournament. CLICK HERE