Hoosiers drop two games to Nebraska at B1G Tourney Saturday and are eliminated

Hoosiers go all-in on the morning game, but can’t come up with key hits.

By Carl James @jovian34 May 26th, 2024

3-seed Indiana was eliminated from the Big Ten (B1G) Tournament at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska, by losing two games to 2-seed Nebraska.

Indiana Hoosiers 2, Nebraska Cornhuskers 4

Inning by inning details in the Live Game Blog | Box Score

Indiana was sitting in the “catbird seat” on Saturday, needing only to split two games against Nebraska, who had to play an elimination game on Friday while Indiana rested. Indiana had climbed in the RPI (51st) and KPI (41st) rankings and knew they could be in at least an okay position for an at-large NCAA berth with a win over Nebraska.

Head coach Jeff Mercer and pitching coach Dustin Glant, elected to go all-in by bringing back the veteran duo of Ty Bothwell and Drew Buhr on three days rest to try to get the Hoosiers to Sunday in just one game. Nebraska, having already used all three of their most recent weekend arms, handed the ball to junior lefty Will Walsh. Walsh did not pitch in the series between the teams in Lincoln two weeks prior. His last start was the week before that at Minnesota when the Gophers ran him in just 2.1 innings of work.

It took a few innings, but Walsh was a different beast on Saturday morning. After striking out Devin Taylor on three pitches, Walsh gave up back-to-back doubles to Josh Pyne and Nick Mitchell on 86-87 mph fastballs up and over the plate scoring Pyne. Lesson learned as the next 14 pitches were off-speed offerings. He limited his over fastball use to around 1 in 5 pitches, and the bulk of those were to Joey Brenczewski and Jake Stadler. Walsh was through multiple offerings to each of the four quadrants of the strike zone, seemingly hitting the catcher’s target almost every time.

Nick Mitchell hit his second extra base hit of the day, a triple to lead off the third inning. He scored this time via a Brock Tibbitts sacrifice fly. It would be all of the scoring Indiana could muster off of Walsh, who went on to a complete game victory. Walsh allowed three free passes via a walk of Taylor and twice plunking Stadler. However, after the Mitchell triple, the Hoosiers did not get a hit until a Tibbitts single in the 8th inning.

Ty Bothwell struck out 9 over 4.1 innings of work, but gave up a home run to catcher Josh Caron, a 3-run blast in the top of the third. With the Hoosiers only down one and Bothwell in a jam, Drew Buhr came in to settle things, which he did for almost three innings. With the Hoosier bats still struggling against Walsh, Buhr gave up another homer, a solo shot, to Caron which felt like a dagger. Buhr finished the game giving up only the one run in 4.2 innings of work allowing only two total hits and one walk.

Hoosier bats never strung anything together after the third inning and Nebraska forced an evening semifinal match-up.

Indiana Hoosiers 4, Nebraska Cornhuskers 10

Inning by inning details in the Live Game Blog | Box Score

The night cap had a much different feel. Nebraska was in the driver seat having gotten the complete game from Walsh in the morning. They were able to bring back junior righty Drew Christo who earned the save against Purdue on Wednesday. Christo had pitched 4.0 innings of scoreless relief against the Hoosiers in Lincoln. This time around he allowed one run in 5 innings of work.

Both teams managed solid contact in the nightcap, but the difference was Indiana’s were in the air to the large part of the field for outs, while Nebraska’s were all pull shots into the seats past the corner outfield. Nebraska only out-hit Indiana 11-10, but the Hoosiers hits were mostly ground balls through the infield. Mitchell, Pyne, and Carter Mathison managed aa two-hit game. Mathison drove in two in the final inning and was recognized for a solid week as a member of the All B1G Tournament Team.

Indiana used five pitchers, none of whom were greatly effective. Only the last one, Ty Rybarczyk, did not allow a run in his 0.2 innings of work.

The two losses were devasting to Indiana ‘s NCAA Tournament hopes. Now 55th in the RPI and 47th in the KPI the Hoosiers also saw there solid 6-8 record against Quad-1 teams fall to 6-10 on the season. After only three “stolen” bids in conference tournaments, the number of at-large range bids sits at 44. This means the Hoosiers would need to have an effective argument to bump about a dozen teams with better RPIs in order to earn a bid. Most national media think the Hoosiers have a case against maybe 9 or 10 but are likely sitting on the outside looking in when the field is announced Monday at 12noon.