For the third straight year in a row IU has begun its NCAA Tournament run with a loss. The latest, following NC State in 2017 and Texas A&M in 2018, is Illinois State.
Elijah Dunham got the Hoosiers off to a quick start by hitting a two-run homer in the bottom of the first inning, but the IU bats fell quiet soon afterward. The next time the Hoosiers scored they were chasing a five-run deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Redbirds roughed up Hoosier ace Pauly Milto, scoring seven runs on the senior in under six innings on 14 hits.
IU managed to put up five runs to tie the game in the seventh inning, but in the top of the eighth sophomore Connor Manous allowed Illinois State to score on a double to left field. The Hoosiers couldn’t mount a second comeback and the Redbirds won 8-7.
“They did a really good job,” IU head coach Jeff Mercer said. “They’re really well-coached, tough offensively. They stayed really simple, especially with two strikes, and really punished mistakes, balls left over the plate.”
1. Brent Headrick
To put it simply the Redbird ace was electric in the regional opener. Outside of the Dunham homer he muzzled the IU offense for practically his entire time on the mound. After the dust settled the southpaw had pitched six innings, giving up just two runs on a single hit. He also struck out 14 of the 25 batters he faced.
This didn’t come as much of a surprise. Headrick fits the bill of a pitcher that can give the Hoosiers fits. He’s a big lefty that racks up strikeouts.
”Credit to him, but I think a lot of it was just us getting ourselves out and having bad at-bats,” junior first baseman Scotty Bradley said. “Having no approach and no mindset going into the box and flailing at the ball.”
2. Jekyll and Hyde
IU’s offense has been hit and miss at times this season—mostly hit—but when the Hoosiers get cold, they get really cold. This game was a good example of that as despite scoring seven runs on the afternoon the Hoosiers only put together two rallies that resulted in runs throughout the game, one in the first inning and one in the seventh. The Hoosiers also struck out 18 times, struggling to even get balls in play for stretches.
”I’m not sure if there’s a better word for this, but we acted like we panicked for about five innings,” IU head coach Jeff Mercer said. “You have to be emotionally stable in moments in that are heightened…but we tried to do way too much.”
The Hoosiers will have to figure out how to stay productive throughout a game if they want to stay alive in this tournament.
3. Matt Gorski Update
In the top of the sixth inning the star centerfielder appeared to hurt himself on a sliding catch attempt and exited the matchup. After the game Mercer gave an update on the junior. Gorski appears to have a sprain and he’ll be re-evaluated before first pitch on Saturday to see whether or not he’ll a good to get back on the field.
The Hoosiers will take on the fourth-seeded Illinois-Chicago Flames at 11 a.m. in an elimination game. The Flames lost 5-3 to No. 6 Louisville in the late game on Friday. The loser goes home, the winner stays alive.