After the opening round victory against Illinois, IU was unable to work any more magic in the Big Ten Tournament, dropping to 1-2 on the week. The bats were slow to get going against first-time starter Mitch Voit, accumulating just one run on four hits through five innings. On the other side, the error bug bit the Hoosiers again in the 3rd inning, with three Wolverines crossing the plate, two of them unearned. Michigan would go on to score in four of the next five innings on their way to 13 runs.
Ty Bothwell got the start on the bump, and had a solid outing through his first two innings, giving up three hits but allowing none of them to score. Things collapsed a bit in the 3rd, with the error allowing two of the three runs. Brayden Risedorph, Ben Seiler, Gabe Levy, and Cooper Hellman combined for 4.2 innings of relief, giving up seven earned runs on 11 hits. The only 1-2-3 inning of the game belonged to Levy, who needed just five pitches to get through the 7th inning, with some help from a solid play on a pop-up by Tyler Cerny.
At the plate, Phillip Glasser got off to a good start, sending the first pitch of the game for a bloop single. “I always just kind of look for a pitch early on that I can do damage with,” Glasser said after the game. However, the Hoosiers were not able to capitalize on the Glasser hit or one by Peter Serruto in the 3rd inning.
In the 5th inning, however, Hunter Jessee singled up the middle followed by a HBP to Cerny. Two batters later, Glasser collected his second hit of the game, driving in Jessee. The offense continued into the 6th inning, when Brock Tibbitts drew a walk, Carter Mathison drove a single down the left field line, and Josh Pyne brought Tibbitts home with a fielder’s choice. Pyne later scored on a Michigan error.
The last of the Hoosier scoring came in the 7th inning; Glasser beat out an infield single before Bobby Whalen clubbed the only Indiana home run of the Tournament. When asked if he would have guessed himself as the first and only Hoosier homer in the notoriously pitcher-friendly Charles Schwab Field, Whalen responded, “I mean, I would always bet on myself, but probably not to be honest. But I got a pitch to hit and I hit it hard.”
Devin Taylor and Mathison each then drew a walk, and Pyne drove Taylor home with a double. On the day, Glasser had three hits, Jessee had two hits, and Whalen, Mathison, Pyne, and Serruto each had one hit.
After the game, head coach Jeff Mercer provided some insight into the play of the Hoosiers down the stretch and entering the NCAA Tournament. “I think right now we need a break. Look at how hot we’ve had to run for the last six weeks… For a period of time there was potential of a host conversation. And so now every single day becomes a playoff game. We’ve played playoff baseball for six weeks, Tuesdays, midweeks. And every single weekend you’re competing for a championship. We just need to go back and sleep in our own beds, and practice, and do all the things that we typically do, and then to get ready to go for next week.”
The Hoosiers will now have to wait a few days to hear their name called for the NCAA Tournament field at 12pm ET on Selection Monday. All of the major college baseball publications list IU as a 2-seed, regardless of the results of the Big Ten Tournament. Indiana will have the next week available to rest, practice, and sleep in their own beds before heading off to a Regional next weekend. Be prepared to follow our resident guru Carl James over the next few days for all things, RPI, seeding, and brackets!
As an addendum, it would have been a travesty to attend the first game former IU head coach Tracy Smith faced the Hoosiers without asking about his time at IU and returning to the Big Ten. Smith praised the IU administration and his players, and the fans, saying “When we took the job at Indiana there were 50 people in the stands and we were playing in the old Sembower…We talked about building a championship culture. That’s not just coaches, that’s not just players, that’s administration. It’s the fan bases, the community, all of those things.” About playing the Hoosiers for the first time, Smith noted, “It was interesting today. I’ve got a lot of affection for Bloomington and Indiana University because there’s a lot of great memories. I raised my kids in that town.” Smith also praised the investments made across the Big Ten in baseball and how these efforts elevate the conference as a whole.
Coach Mercer also had praise for Smith and the work he did at IU. “You have to give Tracy Smith all the credit in the world for what he did at Indiana. We don’t have the facility we have, we don’t have the success, you don’t have the lineage and the history and all those things.” Mercer continued, “I’m an Indiana kid. And so I grew up watching those teams, I grew up cheering for those teams, I grew up wanting those teams to succeed… I’m very thankful and appreciative to be able to be the head coach at Indiana, with the platform that I get to stand on that he build underneath.”