The Hoosiers missed a golden opportunity to get a huge NCAA Tournament resume building win in Lexington on Tuesday night, as Indiana fell to rival Kentucky 4-2 at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Indiana jumped out early as Matt Lloyd blasted an opposite field home run to give the Hoosiers an 1-0 advantage before the 9th ranked Wildcats had a chance to bat. However, Kentucky would answer in the bottom half of the first inning. After Tristan Pompey lead off the frame with a single, Hoosier starter Brian Hobbie retired the next 2 batters to put himself in a good position to get out of the frame with no damage, but after a wild pitch, Wildcat cleanup hitter Luke Beaker lined an RBI single. Kentucky took the lead on a Troy Squires base hit.
Hobbie seemed to calm down in the 2nd after he retired the first 2 Kentucky batters in the inning, but he again failed to get out of the inning without giving up any runs, as the Wildcats used 3 consecutive 2 out doubles from Pompey, Evan White, and Zach Recks to not only take a commanding 4-1 lead, but also knock the Hoosier starter out of the game without completing even a full 2 innings of work.
In all, Hobbie gave up 4 runs on 6 hits and a walk, but did strike out 2 in just the 1.2 innings pitched. The Wildcats worked some serious 2 out magic against Hobbie, recording 5 hits, a walk and all 4 runs with 2 outs left in an inning. Hobbie’s inability to finish innings was one of the largest factors of the ballgame, and it cost Indiana deeply.
Meanwhile, Kentucky starter Zach Thomson almost completely shut down the talented Hoosier offense. While Thomson did give up 2 runs over his 6 innings pitched, he was far more dominant than his initial stat line. Other than the Lloyd home run in the first and a Luke Miller bomb in the 4th, Thomson only gave up one other hit, and managed to strike out 10 Hoosiers while only walking 2. Indiana’s only other semi decent scoring chance against Thomson came after a Jeremy Houston leadoff single in the 3rd. Thomson then responded by striking out Alex Krupa, Tony Butler, and Lloyd to end any threat.
B.J. Sabol replaced Hobbie and had a phenomenal effort in relief for the Hoosiers as he pitched 3.1 scoreless innings, only giving up one hit and a walk while striking out 4. If it weren’t for Sabol’s effort, Kentcuky’s talented offense might have steamrolled the Hoosiers back to Bloomington.
Kentucky finally broke through the always inconsistent at best Indiana bullpen in the 7th, as a Recks sacrifice fly scored Pompey to give Kentucky a 5-2 lead. The Wildcats could have added more, but the Hoosiers caught White in a rundown to complete the typical 7-5-4-6 double play to end the inning.
The loss to the #9 Wildcats (32-16, 15-9 SEC) is nothing to be ashamed of, but it was a missed chance for Indiana (27-17-2, 10-7-1 Big Ten) to notch a huge road win to help build its NCAA resume. The Hoosiers will get another huge chance to help their RPI immensely next Tuesday, when second-ranked Louisville will visit Bart Kaufman Field. Before that, the Hoosiers will return to Big Ten play with a 3 game series this weekend against Penn State in Bloomington.