Indiana got what they desperately needed this weekend -- a series win. The Hoosiers ran into a buzzsaw in the second game this weekend, but were able to turn two pitching starts of their own into wins, taking games one and three 3-2 and 9-1, respectively, and improving to 5-8 on the season.
Friday night, Hoosier ace Kyle Hart got the weekend started off right, throwing a complete game while allowing just two runs on nine hits, and striking out six along the way. The pitchers kept things scoreless through four innings, but in the Bottom of the 5th, Brian Wilhite hit a fly ball to left for a sacrifice RBI that scored Scotty Bradley to give Indiana a lead that it looked like they'd never relinquish. But as they have all year, the Hoosiers ran into some trouble in the late innings.
In the Top of the 7th, CF Craig Dedelow got burned by Bryson Bowman for a triple and Kramer Ferrell singled home the tying run in the next at-bat. Then, with two outs and a runner on 3rd, Kyle Hart got called for his second (questionable) balk of the night, and Western Carolina found itself leading 2-1. However, the Hoosiers wouldn't stay down for long.
In the Bottom of the 7th, Austin Cangelosi was hit by a pitch and the next batter, Wilhite, hit a shot towards the highway and took the lead back. The Catamounts threatened in the 9th after Luke Miller misplayed a Bowman shot to right field to allow a single to turn into a triple. But with one out, Hart fielded a bunt from Ferrell perfectly and Bowman was out by a mile at the plate. Then Miller redeemed himself, fielding a single and firing to the plate to nail Ferrell for the final out of the ballgame.
In the first half of Saturday's doubleheader, the Hoosiers just couldn't get anything going offensively against P Bryan Sammons, who despite coming in with an ERA over 7.00, threw eight strong innings, giving up just six hits and one run, while mowing down nine Indiana batters, one short of his prior season total. Evan Bell, on the other hand, allowed 10 hits and four runs in just 4.1 IP. Freshman Jonathan Stiever gave Chris Lemonis 4.2 terrific innings of relief, but Indiana's offense was quiet all afternoon. Western Carolina recorded an easy and convincing 4-1 win.
But it was all Hoosiers in the rubber match. Caleb Baragar was fantastic, giving the Hoosiers six scoreless innings, and Wilhite, Miller, and C Luke Fineman each drove in two runs en route to a 9-1 victory. Thomas Belcher, B.J. Sabol, and Jake Kelzer combined for 3.0 IP in relief, allowing one run on two hits, in what was Indiana's best bullpen showing of the season.
1. This was the Brian Wilhite that Indiana needs. Wilhite went 3-for-8 and drove in five RBIs this weekend, including all three in Friday's win, two from his game-winning home run in the 7th. But beyond the offensive production, Wilhite was tremendous defensively, despite an error in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader. He made a number of fantastic plays at shortstop, ranging in both directions, and sitting down several Catamounts on bang-bang plays at first. Everything that Wilhite did this weekend was part of the reason he was named a captain.
2. The young dudes are incredible. By about the 3rd at-bat of the weekend for each of them, I'd completely forgotten that Luke Miller and Ryan Fineman were true freshmen. The two show an amount of patience at the plate that few other Hoosiers have, and are producing results that will make fans salivate over the thought of them being juniors together in a couple years. But for now, Fineman and Miller are hitting .342 and .320, respectively, and have combined for 11 RBIs and 11 walks. These two freshmen are for real.
3. The 9th inning on Friday was special. The entire game was weird -- a couple balks, two batters who were hit-by-a-pitch but not awarded first base (including a Catamount batter who appeared to break his hand on a bunt attempt that was called a strike), and a number of other odd moments. And the 9th inning was the perfect capstone to the evening. Two plays at the plate the record outs two and three provided Indiana with a win filled with the emotion and drama of a walk-off, and opened the home schedule in style.