Indiana came into this game with a real potential to move into the ultimate power position to make the College World Series final. Unfortunately it just wasn't meant to be. After leading for a majority of the game, the Hoosiers inability to get a baserunner home cost them. Leaving guys on base in prime opportunities allowed Mississippi State to hang around and eventually pull it off.
Indiana got lucky early as Will Coursen-Carr came out a bit shaky letting Mississippi State on without much resistance in the first. Some heads up baseball by the infield and some headscratching base running by the Bulldogs got the freshman out of a jam while giving up only one run. In the bottom half things were not looking good for Indiana. Kyle Schwarber struck out for his fourth straight at bat while Indiana put up nary a whimper right away.
Fortunately, Coursen-Carr settled in and really did what he's been doing all year. He was still effectively wild, but it was the good wild. He was hitting on enough pitches while delivering quality stuff that hitters were off-balance and struggling to get strong contact. Pitching around some base runners here and there he pitched effectively through 5 innings. Meanwhile IU's bats got going.
In the second, Indiana plated a run thanks to a two out RBI single thanks to coach's son Casey Smith. Then the Hoosiers busted out the bats in the bottom of the third. Taking pitches and working the count Will Nolden was able to reach on a walk. Kyle Schwarber, with 4 straight tough at bats behind him, got enough of one to push a small dribbler to the left field gap. The hit barely left the infield but it was slow enough that heads up baserunning from Nolden got him from first to third on the "infield" single. Sam Travis then drove Nolden in with an RBI single and Scott Donley followed that up with a RBI fielder's choice of his own. Following the FC by Donley, Basil and DeMuth reached on walks before Mississippi State's reliever forced Casey Smith to ground out.
Coursen-Carr continued cruising with little threat until the sixth inning. Although he did make a great snag and double play on a hard hit ball at his left shoulder. Will gave up a tough one out single, then wild pitch, single, hbp to finish his night with a 3-2 lead and runners on 1st and 2nd. Closer Ryan Halstead came in and after giving up a single sat down the final two batters. Not before giving me a heart attack on a shot I thought for sure was a grand slam. It turns out TD Ameritrade lives up to its reputation as cavernous.
The hitting remained solid for the next few innings but the major story line of the night were the stranded runners. Someone on twitter made the joke that IU left a number equivalent to their enrollment on the bases. I can't say that they were wrong in that sentiment. It was incredibly frustrating knowing that capitalizing on just one or two of those opportunities would mean certain victory. Instead, the Hoosiers had to rely on the bullpen.
Halstead continued his quality pitching in relief by retiring all three batters in the seventh before running into trouble in the eighth. A leadoff single followed by another single put runners at the corners. A strikeout and single later and we had a tie ballgame. Halstead pitched to one final batter recording an out before being pulled in favor of specialist Brian Korte. With runners on 2nd and 3rd Korte gave up a 2 run single to Trey Porter before getting out of the inning. Unfortunately the damage had been done.
Indiana did threaten in the ninth with some strong bats once again. Pinch hitter Chris Sujka flared a single to left. Kyle Schwarber put a charge into one but it didn't carry in the cavernous center field. Then Sam Travis hit an absolute blast that missed tying the game by a foot. Scott Donley did his duty by driving in Sujka on a fielders choice before Michael Basil grounded out weakly to the pitcher to end the game.
Now Indiana faces elimination against the Oregon State Beavers on Wednesday night. It has truly become win and go home. Fortunately we're probably going to see Joey DeNato again and the way he threw this Saturday has to make you feel good about our potential. Until then Indiana needs to refocus and figure out how they're going to drive their base runners home.