INDIANA BASEBALL RELEASE
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Houston, we have no problem.
Indiana baseball treated a big Bart Kaufman Field crowd to some pre-fireworks before the scheduled fireworks show Friday night.
The host Hoosiers lit the fuse with a five-run eighth, fueled by clutch two-out hitting, to forge a 6-3 comeback win and complete a double-header sweep of Northwestern.
There were rockets of a different sort during the 12-0 IU romp in the opener, which featured four homers and three doubles among 17 Hoosier hits.
But following feast in game one, for a long time in game two came famine.
After junior leadoff man Logan Kaletha crushed a homer to left in the first inning of game two, the Hoosiers squandered opportunities, including two bases-loaded chances.
They hit in some tough luck, too, with six line-drive outs.
They didn’t score again till the fateful eighth.
“Finally got the hit,” IU coach Chris Lemonis said. ” … But our team does a great job of just ‘keep competing.’ It’s happened all year long.”
And the hit to which Lemonis alluded came off the bat of sophomore shortstop Jeremy Houston.
Houston struggled through a tough start to the season at the plate but came up with a big 2-RBI triple in Tuesday’s win over Indiana State and seemingly continued that momentum into Friday.
Scotty Bradley – one of the Hoosiers’ hottest hitters (now 11 of 22 since the March 30 double-header sweep of Butler – had gotten things going in the eighth with a one-out double up the right-center gap. A pair of walks and a strikeout ensued.
So Houston came up with two outs, the bases loaded and his team still trailing, 3-1. He scorched a 2-1 fastball sharply to right to tie the game, pumping his fist repeatedly at the raucously celebrating IU dugout as he rounded first base.
“It’s all about confidence,” Houston said. “Obviously, I wasn’t having a great season leading up to this, but my team stayed behind me, my coach (did, too). From all the work,
I stayed confident going up to the plate and just did it.
“… It was a fastball right down the plate. I just tried to hit something hard. I didn’t care where it went. Just wanted to make contact with something hard … luckily it went through the right side of the field, thank God.”
Kaletha then went with a two-strike pitch to right, lacing a 2-RBI line drive to give the Hoosiers their first lead of the ballgame, one they would not relinquish. Matt Lloyd’s RBI infield single then capped the rally.
“Turned out to be Jeremy having the big hit there, and then Logan behind him,” Lemonis said. “Happy for Jeremy. It’s been a tough start for him. Really good player. And he’s been working on that swing. It’s like the weight of the world is lifted off you when you get hits like that.”
IU sophomore closer Cal Kruger then gave up a pair of singles and a walk but fanned Jack Dunn, who had scored all three Wildcat runs, with the bases loaded in the ninth to end it.
“He’s been really good,” Lemonis said of Krueger. “Has had to bounce back. In that closer role, everything happens. There’s a chopper, whatever. He’s had a lot of that going on. Always comes out on top, for the most part. Nice to see him keep battling there.”
Northwestern starter Hank Christie had done a fine job of battling through his six innings. He fanned IU’s 3-4 hitters back-to-back with the bases loaded in the IU third.
The Wildcats had taken a 2-1 lead in their half of the third. IU’s Paul Milto only gave up one earned run in seven strong innings, but after a throwing error helped give NU an unearned run in the first, the Wildcats got a 1-out double down the left field line by Dunn and a RBI single to center by Alex Erro to take the lead.
Dunn’s one-out single preceded Jack Claeys clobbing a 2-out RBI double off the wall in left off Krueger to make it 3-1 in the top of the eighth.
But that just set up the Hoosier, and Houston, heroics.
No such late-inning clutch hitting was required in the opener. Because there was all kinds of hitting, all the time, from the home team.
Matt Lloyd hit a pair of homers and had four RBI. Ryan Fineman and Matt Gorski had one homer and three RBI apiece.
There was defense, too. IU turned double-plays in four straight innings to help starter Jonathan Stiever sail through seven scoreless frames.
IU’s bats got the scoring started almost immediately. After one-out walks to both Lloyd and Logan Sowers, a 2-out lined RBI single to center by Matt Gorski scored Lloyd in the first.
Houston then flashed some leather. He ranged directly up the middle, gloved, spun and threw to rob Charlie Maxwell of a hit to lead off the second inning.
Lloyd lifted his fifth homer of the season, a solo shot, over the fence in left on the first pitch of the Hoosier third to start a three-run rally. Gorski followed with a 2-run bomb off the script Indiana sign beyond the wall in dead-center to make it 4-0.
And it was 6-0 in the fourth as Lloyd crushed his second homer in as many innings, and this time the script Indiana sign was spared. Because Lloyd’s blast went over it.
Indiana added a run in the sixth as Kaletha drew a leadoff walk, stole second, was balked to third and scored on Lloyd’s sac fly to deep center.
Stiever fought back after a double and single to led off Northwestern’s seventh. He posted two straight strikeouts, the latter capped by Fineman throwing out baserunner Maxwell at second.
“That’s competing,” Lemonis said of Stiever. “He’ll tell you he didn’t have his best stuff tonight (and) the wind was blowing out about 20 miles-per-hour. And he just competed.”
Stiever made sure eight Northwestern hits never amounted to a run, walking just one and fanning five. Freshman right-hander Grant Sloan then threw two perfect innings of relief.
Meantime, IU sent 10 men to the plate to cap the scoring with a five-run eighth.
After a pair of walks, Fineman mashed a majestic 3-run homer to center, his fourth homer of the season and IU’s fourth of the day. After a walk to Gorski, pinch-hitter Elijah
Dunham brought him around by roping a double down the rightfield line. Houston’s RBI single plated the final tally.
Lemonis was pleased to use just four pitchers for the double-header heading into Saturday’s 2:05 p.m. game that will conclude the series.
“It’s huge,” he said. “And I think we used up their (bull)pen a little bit there in the seventh and eighth (innings). So for the game (Saturday), it should help us out.”
Cam Beauchamp will start for the Hoosiers (25-6 overall and 5-2 in Big Ten play) and Jack Pagliarini is slated to start for Northwestern (9-19, 1-10).