Coming into the weekend, we knew we were in for a show on Friday night when Kyle Hart and Cody Sedlock, the two best pitchers in the Big Ten, were set to square off. Friday turned into a treat, but on Saturday and Sunday, fans at Bart Kaufman were witness to two absolute gems from the two non-Kyle Hart senior starters on the Indiana roster.
Friday, the Hoosiers dropped a heartbreaker after Kyle Hart gave the club eight of his best innings of the season, giving up just four hits and one run, while striking out nine. The problem was that Cody Sedlock may have been just a little bit better than Hart, or at least matched him step-for-step. Sedlock went 9.1 IP, and though he gave up seven hits, he struck out 12 and made several Hoosiers look silly in the process.
Illinois started the scoring when Pat McInerney hit a bomb off Hart in the 4th. But the Hoosiers responded in the bottom of that same inning and manufactured one on two hits and a walk.
From there, the only offensive excitement before extra innings came in the 7th inning when a freshman mistake may have cost the Hoosiers a ballgame. Luke Miller singled to start the inning and Brian Wilhite moved him to second on a SAC bunt. And as Tony Butler was working his way toward an eventual walk, Miller was caught too far off second base and picked off by an absolute shot from Illinois catcher Jason Goldstein.
Butler would eventually walk and Alex Krupa singled in the next at-bat which certainly would have scored Miller if he'd still been standing on second. Then with Krupa and Butler on first and second, Craig Dedelow struck out looking to end the threat.
Illinois got one in the Top of the 11th, manufacturing a run the same way Indiana tried to in the 7th -- hit, SAC bunt, hit. The Hoosiers threatened one more time in the Bottom of the 11th when Logan Sowers singled up the middle and Ryan Fineman sacrificed him to second. Austin Cangelosi then singled but Sowers was held at third. Laren Eustace then struck out looking for the second time (third strike in total, one short of the golden sombrero) before Miller walked to load the bases.
But Wilhite's drive to centerfield floated right to the Illini and the rally and game were over.
Saturday and Sunday brought redemption, however. Behind senior starters Caleb Baragar and Evan Bell, the Hoosiers didn't allow any real Illinois threats the rest of the weekend.
Baragar allowed just five hits and one run in 7.0 IP on Saturday and pushed the Hoosiers to a 3-1 win. Sowers was the offensive hero, having homered in the 3rd to tie the game at one and later driving in another run. Fineman also had an RBI for the good guys. Jake Kelzer pitched the 8th and 9th to get the save for Indiana.
As great as Hart and Baragar were on Friday and Saturday, Evan Bell was worlds better on Sunday. The senior turned in what was unquestionably his best performance of the season, and perhaps the best of his career, in his last start at Bart Kaufman Field. Bell made quick work of the Illini all day, facing just six more than the minimum. He allowed only three hits and one run on a McInerney homer in his second complete game of the season, notching his second win.
IU scraped out four runs on 10 hits, three of the runs coming in the first inning, and took the rubber match 4-1.
But two out of three wasn't good enough to stay in first place in the Big Ten, as Purdue's maladroit attempt at playing baseball couldn't keep Minnesota from sweeping the Boilers and allowed the Gophers to jump the Hoosiers by 0.5 game in the conference standings.
The Hoosiers will play at Louisville tomorrow before finishing the season at Nebraska this coming weekend. Minnesota will host Ohio State.
CQ will have more on #iubase this week, including coverage of the IU-UofL game, a Nebraska preview, and seeding scenarios as we head into the final series of the Big Ten season.