Baseball, at the most basic level, is a game of inches. A couple of inches is the difference between a home run and a double. An inch is the difference between a ball and a strike. A minor variation in pitch location or a swing is the difference between a ground out and a liner to the gap.
Baseball is also a game of actions and reactions. An umpire’s reaction to a play is the difference between a run and an out. A baserunner’s reaction to a hit is the difference between being safe and getting tagged out.
On Friday night, many of those inches, actions, and reactions worked out in favor of the Indiana Hoosiers.
But multiple crucial ones did not.
A controversial call at the plate and an overall bad outing from their bullpen ended Indiana’s Big Ten Tournament run in dramatic fashion.
Andrew Saalfrank got the start on the mound for the Hoosiers and had a quality outing. Over the first two innings of the game, he registered four strikeouts. He also didn’t give up a run until the sixth. After giving up that run, he exited the game with a final line of three runs allowed, having left two runners on upon his exit, on three hits, with five walks and four strikeouts over five innings of work.
Indiana drew first blood in the third inning, when Matt Lloyd hit a sac fly to bring in a run.
Luke Miller followed that up with an RBI single to left, then Craig Dedelow drove in another run with a sac fly to right to make the score 3-0.
Tony Butler doubled to lead off the top of the fifth. Lloyd then brought him around to score on an RBI single to right field. After Miller grounded out to advance Lloyd to second base, Dedelow brought Lloyd in on a liner to left field to make the score 5-0.
The next inning, Jeremy Houston homered to center field to increase the Hoosier lead to 6-0.
In the bottom of the sixth, Saalfrank allowed two straight hits, one being an RBI single to right field, and then walked the next batter. After the walk, he was replaced in favor of Timmy Herrin.
Herrin promptly gave up a two-RBI double and an RBI single to make the score 7-4.
In the top of the seventh, Matt Lloyd extended the Hoosier lead to 7-4 on a solo home run.
The Hoosiers tacked on another run in the top of the eighth, when Ryan Fineman doubled down the left field line, making the score 8-4.
From that point on, it was all Minnesota.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Gophers scored five runs on a two-RBI double and a moon shot of a home run that brought in three runs.
The Hoosiers tried to even it up in the top of the ninth, but fell just short by leaving the tying run at third base.
After Saalfrank left the game in the sixth, the bullpen did its thing. A combined effort by Herrin and Kade Kryszko saw six runs scored on eight hits with five strikeouts over the final three innings.
The performance by the bullpen proved to be the difference in this one, as they allowed Minnesota to come back after they appeared to be out of the game completely.
The Hoosiers will now wait to find out their fate when the NCAA Tournament Selection Show airs on Monday, May 29 at noon.
Recent projections have Indiana as a 2 or 3 seed in either the Lexington or Louisville regional, which could potentially set up a rematch against either Kentucky or Louisville.