Don’t look now, but the Hoosiers are streaking.
With a four-game sweep of Penn State, Indiana has now won seven in a row after last week’s disappointment on opening day. IU opened the Bart Kaufman Field portion of its schedule with:
- A 7-2 win over the Nittany Lions in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader
- An 8-0 win in the second game of Saturday’s twinbill
- A 6-5 walk-off in the opener of Sunday’s double dip
- And a 2-1 victory in Sunday afternoon’s getaway game
Here are Three Things from the weekend:
The bullpen did some good work
Across the four-game set, IU relievers combined for 9 2⁄3 innings of scoreless work. It started with Nate Stahl, who entered Saturday’s opener facing a bases-loaded jam in the top of the fifth inning. Tommy Sommer had allowed a leadoff single, followed by a pair of walks in what was then a two-run game. But Stahl didn’t blink, relying on some nasty stuff to get a quick strikeout to end the frame. Then, the freshman right-hander worked two more scoreless innings to record his first career save. Through two games so far this season, Stahl has struck out six, allowed five hits and walked none over five and one-third innings.
In Sunday’s first game, Connor Manous put out a small fire after an uneven start from Ty Bothwell. Manous entered in the top of the fifth with the Hoosiers trailing 5-1, and with two on and two out, got out of the inning with a backwards K on a full-count offering to Penn State five-hole hitter Josh Spiegel. He then went on to work two scoreless innings, giving the Hoosier bats a little runway to get back in the ballgame (more on that in a moment).
Matt Litwicki also had himself a nice outing on Sunday, shutting down the Nittany Lions over the final 1 1⁄3 innings of the capper. Litwicki didn’t allow a baserunner on the way to notching his second save of the season.
Through 20 2⁄3 innings spanning eight games, IU’s bullpen has produced a 1.31 ERA and a .143 opponent batting average.
Grant Richardson supplied the walk-off excitement we all know and love
As we’ve noted several times already, Indiana’s pitching has been pretty darn strong over the first two weeks of the season. In seven of the eight games, the Hoosiers have held the opposition under three runs. See! That’s good stuff!
It wasn’t until Sunday’s opener that IU needed to mount a significant comeback — and over the final three innings of the seven-inning game, that’s exactly what the Hoosiers did.
IU’s big bats delivered, beginning when Grant Macciocchi got ahold of an 0-2 offering and belted it over the left field wall for a solo homer that cut Penn State’s lead to 5-2 in the bottom of the fifth. Moments later, Cole Barr came through with an RBI single to make it a two-run game.
Then, in the bottom of the seventh, Grant Richardson smacked a towering, three-run shot to the scoreboard in left to win the game. It was IU’s first walk-off homer since Matt Lloyd went deep to beat Minnesota on April 27, 2018.
B7 | Walk-off winner. @Grantr_1 | #IUBase pic.twitter.com/v18Sjz6aqi— Indiana Baseball (@IndianaBase) March 14, 2021
After two weekends, Richardson leads the Hoosiers with two home runs and seven extra-base hits.
Paul Toetz keeps doing his thing
The freshman infielder is becoming a reliable piece of Indiana’s lineup, collecting a hit in each of IU’s eight games so far this season. Not only is he hitting, Toetz is driving in runs. He collected an RBI in each of the final three games of the Penn State series, smacking a clutch, two-out, run-scoring double in Saturday’s second game, recording an RBI single in Sunday’s opener, and notching another RBI on a fielder’s choice in Sunday’s finale.
Toetz is hitting .308 (8-for-26), and his six RBI are tied with Richardson for second-most on the team.
Bonus Thing: Drew Ashley keeps getting on base
Indiana’s leadoff man has now reached base in 33 consecutive games dating to the end of the 2019 season, a nice quality for a top-of-the-order hitter to have.
Another Bonus Thing: McCade Brown’s starts are becoming appointment streaming
Brown was so good in Saturday’s electric start in Game 2 that we did a separate post. Click here to read more about his 16 strikeouts and seven no-hit innings.
IU returns to action next weekend with a three-game series against Purdue in Bloomington.