Scott Donley looked like a shell of himself on Wednesday morning in Minneapolis. The usually-steady senior struggled and often looked silly at the plate against Michigan. Thursday's elimination game against Ohio State wasn't going much better for him through seven innings. He was 0-for-3 on the day. But after his comrades found a way to load the bases with two outs in the bottom of the 8th, the senior had had enough.
Donley ripped a double to the opposite gap and plated all three Hoosiers, making the difference in Indiana's 5-3 win that staved off elimination for at least one more day.
Indiana started the contest off right. Kyle Hart battled through two difficult innings to begin, but stranded four Buckeyes. Then, he through four more innings and allowed only two more Ohio State batters on base. Brad Hartong homered and Brian Wilhite drove in another run to give Indiana a 2-0 lead, which was in tact when Hart left after the 6th. But the ever-reliable Scott Effross gave up two runs in the 7th and the game was knotted until Donley broke it open with his double.
Ryan Halstead came on for the 9th, and after giving up a leadoff home run, retired the next three batters for the save.
For Ohio State, the loss probably drove the final nail into the proverbial coffin. The Buckeyes went 4-10 in May, which included four losses to Indiana. Although they remain the 30s of the RPI, the finish and overall record will likely combine to keep Ohio State out of the NCAA tournament.
But all is well for Indiana. They have at least one win in the Big Ten tournament, they presumably have every pitcher but Hart available for Friday's elimination game, and they more than likely have solidified an NCAA berth by beating another Top-40 RPI team down the stretch.
And having every pitcher available may be of the utmost importance for Chris Lemonis on Friday. He'll start Christian Morris, who is more than due for a good start. His struggles as a starter were well-documented over the last two months of the season, so Lemonis surely will have a quick trigger, especially in an elimination game. But, Morris's last couple outings have been somewhat encouraging.
The Hoosiers will get a crack at the 2-seed Iowa, who was beaten by Michigan on Thursday night. The two teams faced each other in early-March in a series that was the first sign of the terrible things to come for IU. The Hawkeyes swept the Hoosiers, limiting them to just seven runs over the three games.
But Iowa hasn't looked like itself over the past week, going 2-3. They dropped two of three at Rutgers in the regular season finale and required a walk-off homer to beat Ohio State on Wednesday.
First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 4:30 EST and can (FINALLY) be seen on Big Ten Network. The winner advances to face Maryland on Saturday. The Terps defeated Illinois on Friday, 2-1, to bring the Illini's 27-game win streak to an end. Whichever team advances would need to win two games against Maryland on Saturday in order to advance to the Big Ten Championship on Sunday.