Hoosiers drop opening day

Ellis goes long, Vega pitches three scoreless, and bats threaten late, but infield defensive miscues and Auburn match-up relievers too much to overcome on opening day

By Carl James @jovian34 February 18th, 2023

There was a lot to like about the Hoosiers season opener, despite the disappointment of losing 8-4. The Hoosiers jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the second inning with a Brock Tibbitts single and a Matthew Ellis opposite field home run. After the game coach Mercer stressed that, “Matt is a markedly better hitter than he was a year ago. I don’t just say that because he’s hit a home run to left field.” Mercer added, “He doesn’t expand the zone nearly as much, chase the change-up, the off-speed.”

Box score

Ben “Bigs” Seiler got the start for Indiana. He went 2.1 innings giving up 4 runs, 3 unearned. A first inning error really extended the inning and that stressed Seiler’s pitch count. He walked four and gave up four hits. Gabe Levy provided 2.2 innings of relief. Levy gave up 4 runs as well, only 2 of those were earned.

Both of Indiana’s first two pitchers struggled to overcome defensive miscues that should have gotten them out of jams with fewer pitches thrown. About the infield defense Mercer said “It was the difference in the game.” Mercer isn’t concerned long term. He pointed out this was the first time back on a dirt baseball field for this team since the Big Ten Tournament last May. Shortstop Phillip Glasser in particular adjusted well and made three tough plays in the seventh inning.

Glasser had a very good day at the plate. He got two hits, one to each field. He lead off the fifth inning with a hit. Hunter Jessee got hit by a pitch and a series of contact plays got two runs plated for Indiana. Auburn’s two middle relievers were very effective against the Hoosiers. Mercer said, “Those are just really unique and difficult slots to replicate in practice.” He told his hitters, “You just have to compete, you have to adjust.”

Sophomore righty Adrian Vega, a transfer from Butler, was exceptional in 3 innings of no-hit relief. Vega did walk two guys in the bottom of the eighth inning and pitching coach Dustin Glant came out for a mound visit. The message as recalled by Mercer was “you’ve just got to trust your stuff here”. Vega attacked with a three-pitch mix and induced a pop-up to end that inning and keep the game within four runs.

The Hoosiers made it interesting with two on and the middle of the order at the plate against Auburn’s closer. “We’re right there in the ballgame in the ninth.” The Hoosiers were not able to score, and Auburn took game 1 of the series 8-4.

The Hoosiers are back in action Saturday at 3pm ET. Senior lefty Ty Bothwell will be on the bump for Hoosiers.