If the goal is to hit your stride, as a team, as you head towards postseason play, then IU baseball is in a good spot.
The Hoosiers swept Purdue in dominating fashion over the weekend in three lopsided victories, and moved back into a tie with Maryland for first place in the Big Ten.
Indiana racked up 51 runs across the three games, with a 26-11 final on Friday, a 15-3 win on Saturday, and 10-2 on Sunday.
IU head coach Jeff Mercer, after Friday’s game, said he was telling the team to keep pushing despite the big lead.
“You have to keep going. Just every time you’re on offense, your at-bats, that’s the most important at-bat of the day. I always tell the guys, ‘It’s a one-run game. One-run mentality. You get to first base, it’s a one-run game,” Mercer said. “We’ve got to just finish ballgames.”
Indiana set several Bart Kaufman Field records on Friday. IU’s 26 runs on Friday are its second most in venue history, and its eight home runs, 25 hits, 26 RBIs, and 55 total bases were all first in the 10-year history of the stadium.
Sophomore Josh Pyne was named Big Ten player of the week for his efforts in the series, coupled with his performance against Xavier midweek. The third baseman posted a ridiculous .588/1.235/.667 slash line across the four games, with 10 hits, nine runs scored, and 14 RBIs. He was the only Hoosiers player with multi-hit games in all three contests.
Senior outfielder Hunter Jessee enjoyed a rare feat in that Friday onslaught. He went 4 for 5 at the plate with a team-high six RBIs, a double, and two home runs. But both of those home runs came in the same inning. He led off the inning with a solo shot, which made it 15-4. The Hoosiers batted around in the inning, and he came back up with two outs, two runners on base, and a 19-4 lead. And he hit another one.
“I have not (done that before). That’s my first one. I didn’t even know, this inning was so long,” Jessee said. “Cool thing. Cool to do.”
Jessee hit another homer on Saturday to make it three on the weekend. Pyne, fifth-year senior shortstop Phillip Glasser, sophomore first baseman Brock Tibbits, and freshman second baseman Tyler Cerny all also had multiple home runs in the Purdue series.
IU pitched all weekend with large leads, so it was pretty low-leverage. That allowed the Hoosiers to just attack hitters and worry less about situational pitching. But they still did well in minimizing Boilermaker damage, especially on Saturday and Sunday.
Friday starter, sophomore ace Luke Sinnard, allowed four earned runs on five hits across six innings with nine strikeouts. Mercer wasn’t as concerned with the runs, with the way the games went, and felt he did well in handling the multiple extended breaks for long offensive innings.
“He did a good job of managing it, and he attacked them,” Mercer said. “I know they hit a few homers and that stuff, but that’s what you want a guy to do. We’re not going to walk our way into a five-run inning. If you hit me, you hit me. But I’m going to go out here and I’m going to pour it there, and we’re going to play baseball. That’s what you need to do. He did that, and he kept the game moving along.”
Scott Rolen, IU’s director of player development, threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Friday in recognition of his upcoming induction to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Mercer told Rolen before the game that he’d like watching Sinnard pitch.
Indiana hosts Evanville Tuesday night in the Hoosiers’ final home game of the regular season. IU then travels to Michigan State over the weekend for the final three games of the slate. Indiana has clinched a spot in the Big Ten Tournament in Omaha.