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IU baseball drops series at Michigan State, enters Big Ten Tournament as No. 2 seed

Indiana baseball had a shot at a conference title.

The Hoosiers entered the final series of the regular season tied with Maryland atop the Big Ten standings. Both teams had three games left — Indiana at Michigan State, and Maryland at Penn State. Maryland had the tiebreaker for the top seed in the conference tournament, but if Indiana just matched the Terrapins’ results, both would be conference champions.

But the Hoosiers couldn’t take advantage of a Nittany Lions win on Friday. IU dropped two out of the three games to Michigan State, and Maryland secured the outright title.

The Spartans picked up an 8-6 victory on Friday and a 7-6 win on Saturday. But Indiana’s 6-5 win on Sunday was important, as a loss would have dropped the Hoosiers to the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.

IU led 4-2 on Thursday after the fifth inning, but sophomore ace Luke Sinnard couldn’t work out of trouble in the sixth and Michigan State took the lead for good. IU got two runs back in the ninth, but had too much of a deficit to make up.

Indiana snatched a 4-3 lead in the third inning on Friday, but Michigan State junior pitcher Harrison Cook stepped up from there and kept the Hoosiers quiet. He threw six innings and allowed just four hits, two walks, and one hit batsman, with no earned runs and four strikeouts. IU got a solid effort from freshman Brayden Risedorph, with one earned run on four hits, one walk, and one hit batsman with four strikeouts. But IU had defensive trouble Saturday, with four errors accounting for four of MSU’s seven runs.

The Hoosiers came up with a bounce-back performance on Sunday thanks to some clutch relief pitching and power hitting. Freshman outfielder Devin Taylor smacked two home runs — a game-tying solo shot in the third inning, and a go-ahead solo shot in the fifth. Sophomore designated hitter Carter Mathison went deep as well.

IU held that lead the rest of the way, although freshman reliever Connor Foley had to work through some jams in the eighth and ninth innings. Michigan State loaded the bases in the eighth, down 6-3, but Foley notched a big strikeout to escape unscathed. MSU scored two runs on a double in the ninth with one out, and then IU head coach Jeff Mercer made a big call to intentionally walk the winning run with first base open. And it paid off, as Foley struck out the next two batters to end the game.

Outfielder Hunter Jessee made a huge defensive play in that game, throwing out a runner from left field to preserve IU’s lead in the fifth inning.

Sunday’s win secured a 40-win regular season for IU.

Indiana heads into the Big Ten Tournament in Omaha as the No. 2 seed. The Hoosiers open the double-elimination tournament against No. 7 seed Illinois on Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET.

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