Matt Lloyd stepped into the batter’s box looking to swing. On the first pitch he saw of the third inning, Lloyd took a huge hack and popped the ball up into left field. The ball slowly drifted past the infield, the middle of the outfield and out to the warning track. The question became, could the wind push the ball out of the ballpark? Yes it could. The ball barely sailed past left fielder Leo Kaplan’s glove, and the Hoosiers had doubled their early lead to two over Northwestern.
The Hoosiers took advantage of the strong wind blowing straight out at Bart Kaufman Field on Friday afternoon. Indiana belted four home runs on the day—two of them coming from Lloyd—and routed the Wildcats 12-0 in game one of a doubleheader in Bloomington.
The Hoosier bats were hot early, as they put up six runs in the games first three innings. Matt Gorski started things off early with a two-out RBI single that barely got by shortstop Jack Dunn. After Lloyd’s home run to lead off the third, Indiana added on more after Logan Sowers dubled, when Gorski lined a homerun that barely had enough height to clear the center field wall.
Lloyd broke the game wide open in the fourth when he crushed his second bomb of the day: a two-run shot to right center field that traveled 437 feet and had an exit velocity of 109 miles per hour.
The six run advantage was more than Hoosier starter Jonathan Stiever needed. The right hander put together one of his best starts of the season, giving up eight hits and striking out five during seven innings of shutout baseball. With weather forcing a doubleheader on Friday, Chris Lemonis needed Stiever to eat up innings to keep his bullpen fresh for the night cap, and Stiever did more than deliver.
While Stiever was outstanding on the mound, he needed some help from his defense to get through the seven innings without a blemish on the scoreboard. Facing a two on, one out jam in the sixth, Stiever got designated hitter Jack Claeys to ground into a potential double play ball to second. But Jeremey Houston overthrew Scotty Bradley at first, which gave Alex Erro a chance to scamper home from second.
However, Bradley hustled to the ball and threw a laser to Ryan Fineman to nail Erro at the plate and end the frame on a 6-4-3-2 double play. Stiever got more help in the seventh as he got a strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play to get out of a runners on the corners no outs jam.
Lloyd added his fourth RBI of the day with a SAC fly to score Logan Kaletha, and Ryan Fineman put the exclamation point on the ball game with a 3 run shot to straightaway center as part of a five run eighth inning. Grant Sloan came on in relief and pitched a pair of scoreless innings as Indiana cruised to a victory in game one of the three game set.
On the day, Lloyd and Gorski led the Hoosier offense as the former went 2-2 with the 2 home runs—his 5th and 6th on the season—4 RBIs and 3 runs. Gorski finished the ballgame going 2-3 at the plate with his 3rd long ball of the year to go along with a trio of RBIs.
Unlike game one, when the Hoosiers blew out Northwestern, the night cap would be a completely different story at Bart Kaufman Field.
It started early when Northwestern finally broke through by scoring their first run of the series when Jack Claeys hit a sacrifice fly to give the Wildcats an early 1-0 advantage. However, the Wildcat lead did not last long as IU leadoff man Logan Kaletha drilled a 2-2 pitch over the fence to tie the game.
After the first both starting pitchers settled down as Indiana’s Pauly Milto and Northwestern’s Hank Christie combined to give up just five hits over the next six innings of baseball. The only run came in the top of the third inning when second basemen Alex Erro drove in Jack Dunn from second with an RBI-single.
On the night, both pitchers were dominant. Milto gave up two runs, one earned, on just three hits and a pair of walks over seven innings pitched. While Christie struggled some with his command as he walked four Hoosiers in his six innings of work, he battled to only give up one run on a trio of hits.
Northwestern added an insurance run against reliever Cal Krueger when Claeys struck again. This time it was an RBI-double to give the Wildcats a 3-1 lead.
But as we know, 3-1 leads are never safe. The Hoosiers came right back in the bottom of the eighth. With the bases loaded and two out, nine hole hitter Jeremy Houston hit a 2-RBI double to tie the game. Kaletha then dropped the dagger with a 2-RBI single to give the Hoosiers their first lead of the night. Matt Lloyd added an RBI single for insurance and Krueger slammed the door in the ninth as the Hoosiers grabbed a 6-3 victory.
With the win, Indiana (24-6, 5-2 Big Ten) claims its fifth straight victory and ninth in its last ten contests. The Hoosiers and Northwestern (9-18, 1-9 Big Ten) will wrap up the series on Sunday at 1:05 pm at the Bart.