There was no Bull Durham moment for the Northwestern Wildcats this weekend. In the famed baseball movie, Crash Davis gets his team back on track after jimmying with a sprinkler and causing a “rain out.” The Wildcats got the real kind on Saturday, but it was not enough wash away Indiana’s momentum after taking the first two games of the series on Friday, and the Hoosiers finished off the sweep with a 10-9 win in Evanston on Sunday.
It was the same story on a different day for Chris Lemonis’s club, as the Hoosiers hung crooked numbers for the third time in as many games en route to the top of the Big Ten standings. But yet again, pitching, especially late, provided some headaches and nerves for the visitors.
Luke Miller got things started in the Top of the 1st with a two-out base hit to make it 1-0, and Indiana’s bats never stopped. Logan Sowers added another two-out hit RBI that inning to lead 2-0.
Andrew Saalfrank got the Sunday start for the Hoosiers, but did not even last one inning, as Lemonis went to Pauly Milto after Northwestern quickly tied the game 2-2 in the Bottom of the 1st. Milto gave up a SAC fly after he entered, but nothing else on the day.
In total, Milto went 6.1 IP to get the Hoosiers into the 8th, giving up no runs on seven hits. He struck out six.
That should have been plenty, as the Indiana offense exploded yet again. Matt Lloyd continued his hot weekend and pretty much locked up the Big Ten’s Player of the Week honors. He tied the game in the Top of the 3rd with a base hit, and after a Craig Dedelow RBI in the 4th gave Indiana the lead, Lloyd added his third hit of the day to make it 5-3.
After Lloyd reached, the next hitter, Sowers, hit a two-run bomb to blow this one wide open.
In the Top of the 8th, Lloyd and Sowers were at it again. Lloyd drove in another run to make it 8-3 and then Sowers hit another two-run shot to make it 10-3.
Closing out the ballgame, though, was a problem, which has become a troubling trend this season for Indiana. Northwestern scored one in the Bottom of the 8th and two quick runs in the Bottom of the 9th to make it 10-6. They then got two runners on base and the tying run on deck with just one out.
Then Lemonis turned to Lloyd to finish it out. After hitting four home runs in the two games on Friday, closing out the first game on the mound, going 5-for-9 from the plate that day, and 4-for-5 today, Lloyd got the ball with the game and sweep on the line and (mercifully) put the cherry on top of his masterful weekend. Lloyd gave up a couple knocks and threw a wild pitch, which allowed Northwestern to plate three and bring the winning run to the plate, but he was finally able to get the save and secure the sweep.
This sweep will not send waves through the Big Ten. The truth of the matter is that any team serious about winning the conference should sweep Northwestern. But given Indiana’s early Big Ten struggles the past couple seasons, it was encouraging to see the club win three games that it had to have.
Now, Indiana (13-8-1, 3-0) will play host to Evansville on Tuesday and Indiana State on Wednesday, before hosting Nebraska in a critical early conference series next weekend.