Hoosier bats break out in 6-2 win over Huskers #iubase

Logan Sowers snapped out of his slump and saved Indiana’s season.

The sophomore outfielder collected three hits, including the go-ahead single that helped the Hoosiers to a 6-2 win over Nebraska in an elimination game Thursday at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. The loss sends the No. 2-seed Cornhuskers home, while the No. 3-seed Hoosiers prepare for the loser between No. 6 Maryland and No. 7 Michigan State on Friday at 6 p.m.

Sowers entered play without a hit across his past 23 at-bats before breaking out of the funk with three singles against Nebraska (37-20), which swept IU (32-23) last weekend in Lincoln. He fell behind 1-2 against Husker reliever Jeff Chesnut in the top of the seventh before roping the second of those singles into left field to drive in Colby Stratten and give IU a 3-2 lead. Sowers later came around on an opposite-field single by Luke Miller.

Sowers went 3-for-5, while Miller, Ryan Fineman and Austin Cangelosi each collected a pair of hits. The win broke a five-game losing streak for Indiana.

“The balls fell for us,” Sowers said. “Everybody contributed today. It seemed like a lot of guys had big hits. … It was a lot of guys doing their job, getting on and people were scoring them.”

Sowers’ awakening was part of a larger Hoosier hitting collective. After watching a lineup-wide cold spell settle in over the past two weeks, Indiana enjoyed a surge at the plate. The Hoosiers collected 12 hits, matching their entire three-game output last weekend at Nebraska.

“It’s been a long seven days because there hasn’t been an offensive side,” IU coach Chris Lemonis said. “We had two good practices in between that where we felt better, then (on Wednesday) we took a step back. I think it shows a lot of character because it was tough. We flew in last week with a lot of expectations and nothing has gone right for us until today. I give our kids a lot of credit.”

All six Indiana runs came with two outs, and the Hoosiers added insurance on Laren Eustace’s two-run homer to right field in the top of the eighth.

The Hoosiers came into the game with a hyper-aggressive approach at the plate. They hacked at first pitches, while seeing only 11 total pitches from Nebraska’s Matt Waldron through the first two innings.

“We talked last night about not striking out,” said Lemonis, whose team struck out 16 times against Maryland’s Mike Shawaryn in the tournament opener on Wednesday. “I don’t know if that was their strategy of not striking out — just hitting the first one. We hit some balls good early. I think they were a little frustrated because there have been some atom balls lately, and that’s just the way the game plays you. But they came back and they were getting some good pitches to hit and we felt we’d get some to fall as the game went on, which we did.”

Indiana got to Waldron, the recipient of the league’s freshman of the week award in each of the last two weeks, with two runs in the top of the fourth. Cangelosi lined a pitch to third base where Jake Placzek booted the ball, allowing Fineman to score from second. The next batter, Brian Wilhite, blooped one to right field, scoring Scotty Bradley from second and giving the Hoosiers their first lead of the tournament at 2-1.

Senior left-hander Caleb Baragar tossed five innings, plus a batter in the sixth. He allowed only two hits and was charged for two runs, although the first wasn’t necessarily his fault.

Luis Alvarado led off the third with a double that fell just beyond left fielder Alex Krupa, who retreated on an awkward route. The ball probably should’ve been caught. Instead, Alvarado took second and later scored on Ryan Boldt’s single to left.

Baragar worked without much further trouble until he plunked Boldt to begin the bottom of the sixth. Baragar gave way to reliever Thomas Belcher, who yielded a two-out single to Jesse Wilkening that tied the game at 2-2.

But the Indiana offense took over from there, erasing the recent hitting woes and saving the season for at least one more day.

“It was a great bounce-back win for our guys,” Lemonis said. “It’s been a tough week coming to Nebraska, playing for a Big Ten regular-season championship and we’ve played four really tough games. Our kids showed a lot of character today. Caleb’s start and the way our lineup got going was huge for our program.”