Brayden Risedorph pitches vs Michigan

Hoosiers lock up 3-seed in B1G Tourney with 8-4 win in season finale

Hoosiers hit bombs and struck out 17 to defeat Michigan on Friday night

By Carl James @jovian34 May 18th, 2024

Michigan had 27 outs. All but ten of those came via the strikeout. Four Hoosier pitchers saw action and all of them struck out multiple Wolverine hitters. Starter Brayden Risedorph went three innings striking out four. Ryan Kraft struggled a bit in 1.2 innings, giving up 2 earned runs, but still struck out three. Aydan Decker-Petty struck out eight in 3.1 innings of work, and Jacob Vogel slammed the door with two strikeouts in 1-2-3 ninth inning.

Indiana Hoosiers 8, Michigan Wolverines 4:

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

Reflecting on his pitchers after the game, head coach Jeff Mercer said, “the big story is how much better those guys got from the beginning of the year to now. You know how much better Risedorph is, even than he was the first month. The stuff is way up. You know [Decker-Petty] wasn’t even a guy for us the first month. Vogel didn’t throw until Vanderbilt. And so you got guys that weren’t what they are today.”

The emergence of so many solid arms comes as the Hoosiers face a daunting task of likely needing to win next week’s Big Ten (B1G) Tournament in Omaha, Nebraska. Indiana’s RPI rank of 59th means that despite a solid road and Quad-1 record, the Hoosiers may not get an at-large selection to the NCAA Tournament. The B1G Tournament is split into two four-team double elimination pods with the winners of each playing a championship game next Sunday for the B1G’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. This format could mean having to play as many as six games while only losing once.

A potential for four to six games in just six days means that multiple pitchers will be called upon to get outs, and the fact that a group of arms in the third game of a series were able to bring dominant stuff to bear, bodes well for what the Hoosiers will need to be able to do at Charles Schwab Field.

Before the game there were some special celebrations. Indiana honored those managers and players earning degrees with the Senior Day celebration.

Sam Murrison, Drew Buhr, Morgan Colopy, Carter Mathison, Seti Manase, and Ty Rybarczyk honored on Senior Day

Zach Mezger, knows as “Coach Z” has been a fixture around the Indiana baseball program since Tracy Smith was head coach. D1Baseball’s Aaron Fitt, detailed the Mezger story in this 2015 article including the special bond between Smith and Mezger. Mezger threw out Friday’s ceremonial first pitch to none other Smith, now the head coach of the visiting Wolverines.

Before Thursday’s game Smith was also given a no. 13 IU jersey in honor of his time as head coach with three B1G ten titles and a trip to the 2013 College World Series.

After Friday’s game, Mercer discussed what Smith has mean to the Indiana program. “Being an Indiana guy, I love the program. You know what coach Smith did here, his investment. All of his hard work, his heart and soul is in this place. This stadium is not here without him. The College World Series team, all of those great players, those draft picks, they are not here without him. So we wanted to honor in in every way that we can.”

Smith was not the only person with memories of wearing the opposing team’s colors in this series. Michigan native and Indiana freshman second baseman Jasen Oliver was originally a Michigan Wolverine commit before the latest coaching change. He was quoted by Prep Baseball Report in 2020 saying, “I’ve always worn a Michigan hat, a Michigan sweatshirt … Michigan everything”. The freshman didn’t hold back and had a huge game on Friday in cream and crimson smacking two home runs.

Coach Mercer went into detail about Oliver’s development as a hitter during his freshman campaign. “He came in [as a high school player] in a more narrow base and had a really big move in his load. To kind of help fix it, we based him out and just hit the ball to right field and we’ll ‘fix your load as you go’, and he’s such a dynamic athlete and became a really nice defender that he played a little bit sooner than we thought.”

The wider base though Mercer described as effective, but limiting. “I talked to him this week, he had a good work week. I said just keep working in a more narrow stance in your BP rounds.” Mercer went on to say the Oliver asked to apply the narrow stance in game two of the series and got immediate results hitting a ball 108 mph off of the bat. On Friday, Oliver’s two home runs account for four runs batted in, the difference in the score of the game.

Carter Mathison and Devin Taylor also had two-hit days with home runs. Taylor took over the B1G home run lead with his 17th long ball of the season. Taylor has an eye-popping 1.112 OPS on the season, and an even better mark of 1.147 in conference play. Taylor should be a clear 1st-Team All-B1G selection next week and has a good base for B1G Player of the Year as well.

The win Friday was the 30th victory of the season for the Hoosiers, who finish the regular season with a record of 30-22-1. The Hoosiers will play on Tuesday at 11am ET at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska. They will have a rematch with Purdue, unless the Boilermakers lose again to Illinois today and Ohio State wins as well. In that case the Hoosiers would face a Buckeye team they did not play against in the regular season.