Runs were scarce all weekend long at Bart Kaufman Field, and the aces duel on Friday night was a prime example. Hoosier stud Pauly Milto danced around some traffic in his six innings of work, but made one mistake against Gavin Homer in the third inning who made Milto pay with an RBI double. It was the only run either starter gave up, as Dante Biasi shut down the Hoosier lineup. The Big Ten’s leader in strikeouts added nine more to his total in six and a third innings of work, and only gave up a pair of hits—singles by Matt Lloyd and Scotty Bradley—and a walk while on the mound. Penn State earned some late inning insurance via a Conlin Hughes solo home run and a Jordan Bowersox RBI single. Mason Mellott continued the Nittany Lion dominance on the mound with two and two thirds innings of no hit baseball to give PSU a series opening 3-0 win.
With the threat of thunderstorms on Sunday, Indiana and Penn State decided to play two on Saturday. The Hoosiers finally broke through against the Nittany Lion pitching staff when Matt Lloyd drilled a three run bomb to right center field to give the Hoosiers the early 3-0 lead in the third. Penn State battled back in the top of the fifth as a throwing error on a bunt attempt by Hoosier backstop Wyatt Cross jumpstarted a Nittany Lion rally that would eventually lead Ryan Ford tying the game with a sac fly. Cole Barr broke the tie in the eighth with an RBI double and Scotty Bradley plated Barr with a two bagger to provide insurance. Lloyd slammed the door in the ninth to give the Hoosiers a 5-3 victory.
Game two saw Penn State ambush Andrew Saalfrank early, scoring a run in the first on a passed ball and in the third on a Gavin Homer long ball but Saalfrank settled in after that, not allowing another run in his final four and two thirds innings pitched. While the Indiana offense did not produce much on the day, the Hoosiers rallied in the fifth with a Matt Gorski RBI double. Lloyd followed it up with a 2 RBI single to give IU a 3-2 advantage. Grant Sloan pitched a scoreless eighth and Lloyd picked up his second save of the doubleheader to clinch the series victory.
1. Matt Lloyd stepping up for IU
Whether it be at the plate or on the bump, Matt Lloyd was everywhere for the Hoosiers this weekend. Indiana scored a total of eight runs against the Nittany Lions. Five of the eight were via a Lloyd RBI. The Hoosier utility man only had a pair of hits on Saturday, but they were both huge: the three run bomb to jump start the IU offense in game one, and the 2 RBI single to give the Hoosiers the lead for good in game two.
Lloyd was also great on the mound, as he earned saves in both Hoosier victories on the weekend. Not only was it impressive that the senior pitched a pair of scoreless innings (including striking out the side in the night cap of the doubleheader), it was even more extraordinary that Lloyd pitched in two games in one day. It was the first time in his Indiana career that Lloyd has accomplished this feat, and only the third instance that Lloyd has pitched twice in a two day span while in Bloomington. Lloyd’s availability in the bullpen is always a question mark for Indiana, but the senior delivered when needed this weekend.
2. Strong Starting Pitching
While the Indiana offense struggled to score runs throughout the series, all three Hoosier starters were splendid against the Nittany Lions. Over the course of the weekend Pauly Milto, Tanner Gordon and Andrew Saalfrank tossed a combined 19.1 innings and only surrendered six earned runs. The trio only walked four batters and struck out 25. Saalfrank was especially impressive as he was one strikeout off of a career high as the Hoagland, Indiana native had 13 in his start. The performances for the Hoosier starters kept Indiana in games when the offense was sputtering and also limited how much Jeff Mercer had to utilize his bullpen, which was especially important during Saturday’s doubleheader.
3. Bob Knight’s return
While the Hoosiers swept the day-night doubleheader on Saturday, all eyes nationally were on Bart Kaufman Field due to the surprise return of former IU basketball coach Bob Knight. In a shocking development, Knight made his first public appearance at IU since the university fired him in 2000 when he was driven into Bart Kaufman Field on a golf cart and took in some Hoosier baseball from the away radio booth in the press box. Knight’s appearance created a bizarre atmosphere because of how he entered, where he sat and IU never acknowledging Knight being in attendance via any type of formal or informal announcement at the game. IU’s only statement was a text sent from AD Fred Glass to the Bloomington Herald-Times. It felt like roughly 80 percent of the 2,926 fans in attendance had no clue he was there. It would have been intriguing what type of response Knight would have received if he was announced to the crowd; however, unless Knight makes another (probably unlikely) appearance at an IU event we may never know.
On Wednesday the Hoosiers will host Purdue for their lone matchup of the season. The Big Ten doesn’t play a round robin in baseball and this year the in-state rivals didn’t get a weekend series, so this singular non-conference matchup will be it. That game is scheduled to start at 7:05 p.m. at Bart Kaufman Field.