Hoosiers gain inside track to regional title with 4-2 win over Stanford

WHAT HAPPENED:  Indiana held off No. 3 seed Stanford 4-2 in front of 4,312 at Bart Kaufman Field on the second day of the NCAA Tournament Bloomington Regional, putting themselves one win a way from the regional title and a spot in a super regional next weekend.

The Hoosiers (44-13), seeded No. 1 in the Bloomington Regional and No. 4 in the NCAA Tournament, will play at 6 p.m. Sunday with a chance to clinch the region. No. 3 Stanford (31-24) has to play No. 4 seed Youngstown State at 1 p.m. in an elimination game. The winner of that plays the Hoosiers at 6 and has to not only beat them then but also on Monday in a game at 5:30 p.m. to move on to the super regional.

Joey DeNato pitched 7 1/3 innings to win his 13th game, setting a school record for wins in a single season. 

Indiana scored in the first when catcher Kyle Schwarber doubled in second baseman Casey Rodrigue. Stanford matched that in the bottom half of the inning with an RBI double by center fielder Austin Slater.

IU first baseman Sam Travis singled in a run in the third, however, then hit a solo home run in the fifth to give Indiana a 3-1 lead. Slater hit a solo home run in the sixth, but the Hoosiers got an insurance run with an RBI single by right fielder Will Nolden in the eighth and kept the Cardinal scoreless the last three innings.

WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: DeNato was his usual self. He wasn’t overpowering and his breaking pitches weren’t their sharpest, but he had good control and got a lot out of his change-up. Slater burned him twice and he gave up a double to shortstop Tommy Edman in the eighth, but he only gave up three other singles and only allowed the Cardinal to put two runners on base in two of the eight innings he entered. He struck out four batters and walked just one. 

Jake Kelzer came through with what may have been his most high-pressure save to date. With a man on second in the eighth, he struck out Stanford’s Alex Blandino, an All-Pac 12 pick and a Top 100 Baseball America draft prospect, with a nasty slider. He gave up a double himself in the ninth, bringing the tying run to the plate, but got Dominic Jose to ground to first for his third save of the year.

Travis finished 3-for-5 with two runs scored and two RBI. His third inning RBI single was especially impressive because he fell behind 1-2 and fouled off four pitches with that count before finally lining a single up the middle. The home run was simply a moon shot, a 2-0 fastball that he blasted over the left center field fence.

Nolden’s RBI single in the eighth was also impressive. He too fell behind 1-2 and fought back until he’d worked the count to 3-2, fouling off a pair of two-strike pitches from Stanford reliever Chris Castellanos before lining a fastball up the middle to drive in a run.

WHY DID IT HAPPEN: The Hoosiers rose to the moment in almost every occasion. DeNato knew Indiana needed him and that they had saved him for this matchup because the Hoosiers would be playing an excellent team in Stanford. He made a few mistakes, but mostly matched the moment.

Nolden and Travis’s singles were evidence of competitive, disciplined approaches for most of the night by the Hoosiers, who managed 10 hits against outstanding Stanford pitching.

The defense was also excellent. The Hoosiers committed just one error and Casey Rodrigue had to go to his right to make two very big plays in the eighth and the ninth to make sure the Hoosiers got out of it.

WHAT ELSE IS NEWS: (This is a long overdue section). Left fielder Brad Hartong left the game in the fifth for Craig Dedelow after crashing into the wall in the first trying to catch Slater’s double. He seemed fine initially and played through it, coming to the plate twice and throwing out Dominic Jose when he tried to stretch a single to a double. However, Tracy Smith said he eventually pulled him because he was banged up and he doesn’t know the extent of his injuries.

Christian Morris will get the start in Sunday’s game.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: This is the enviable position every team that makes it to a regional wants to get to. In order for the Hoosiers to fail to reach a super regional, they have to lose their next two games. The team they play will be at a major pitching disadvantage. Indiana saved DeNato for Saturday’s game and also saved Morris for Sunday, which means they’ll have an All-Big Ten first teamer with a 6-3 record and a 1.82 earned run average. Youngstown State has already used its top three starters (Jared Wight, Patrick O’Brien, Jeremy Quinlan) in its first two games and will pitching its No. 4 starter against Stanford. The Cardinal had two legit aces in John Hochstatter and Cal Quantrill, but now they will likely be choosing between Brett Hanewich (3-4, 3.66 ERA) and Logan James (3-3, 4.13 ERA) for the elimination game and could conceivably find themselves in a position of having to use both. In an even three-game series, the Cardinal would have a very good chance of giving the Hoosiers a run or possibly beating them, but by winning today, the Hoosiers have made sure that all things will not be even on Sunday.