IU’s season ends in 14-9 loss to Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Tim Herrin dropped his head before the ball had cleared the fence, recognizing Riley Mahan’s big swing to right field for what it was.

The dagger.

Top-seeded Kentucky hit three home runs, including Mahan’s sixth-inning grand slam, to swing past No. 2 Indiana, 14-9, in Sunday’s NCAA Tournament elimination game at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

It was the end of the line for the Hoosiers (34-24-2), who made habit this season of answering adversity and responding when their backs were against a wall. But against the pitching of Wapahani graduate Zack Thompson, a former priority recruiting target for coach Chris Lemonis, Indiana was unable to match Kentucky and one of the most potent lineups in the nation.

“Tough ending to a good season for our guys,” Lemonis said. “Tip your hat to Kentucky. Their offense got rolling and it was hard for us to stop. Their starting pitcher was really good early in the game. I thought that was the difference maker, just slowing down some momentum so that their offense could go.”

The Wildcats, who blew it open with six runs in the sixth, collected 18 hits. Seven players posted multi-hit performances against Indiana pitching, which surrendered the most runs since allowing 21 to Louisville on April 17, 2012.

Indiana mashed four home runs of their own and scored eight runs over the final three innings. But on an afternoon when Kentucky hitters were at their best, it was still far from enough.

The Wildcats’ lineup features seven hitters with at least 100 career hits, and leads the loaded Southeastern Conference in nearly every major statistical category.

On Sunday, Kentucky showed exactly what makes it great.

“That’s what that lineup does. They just expand the game really, really quick,” Lemonis said. “It was 4-1 there starting the sixth with one out. The next thing you know they just get it going pretty quick. You’ve gotta tip your hat to those guys. It’s a really good offense.”

Thompson matched the production of his lineup with another strong start against the Hoosiers. The right-hander, who struck out 10 Hoosiers in a win over IU on May 9, finished with seven strikeouts and only one walk during his seven innings on Sunday. Between a two-out single by Logan Sowers in the first and Austin Cangelosi’s leadoff double in the fifth, Thompson retired 10 consecutive batters.

Thompson, an 11th round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Rays last June, said afterwards that Indiana recruited him as hard as any team during his high school years. But he chose Kentucky — a decision the Hoosiers were certainly wishing had gone the other way after they experienced his mid-90s fastball and assortment of off-speed pitches for the second time this season.

“The (velocity) was there. He was amped up for the regional atmosphere,” Cangelosi said. “You just kind of have to lay off the ball in the top of the zone. It just looks belt high, then that rotation with his velocity — a guy throwing that hard, you can’t beat him like that. He had a good breaking ball. You miss your pitch — he’s got some plus-plus stuff and you’re going to be in trouble.”

The Hoosiers touched Thompson for three home runs, including a leadoff solo shot by Tony Butler in the bottom of the first. They added two more in the seventh — a solo homer from Sowers and a two-run blast by Cangelosi — but by then, it was too little too late.

Indiana starter Cal Krueger had arguably been IU’s best starter down the stretch of the regular season, but he couldn’t tame the Cats.

Krueger struggled with his command in an abbreviated outing Sunday, lasting only 3 1/3 innings. The Wildcats jumped on him early with three singles in the first, including a run-scoring base hit to right by Mahan. After Butler’s blast in the bottom half, Marcus Carson answered with a solo homer to go ahead 2-1.

Kentucky wouldn’t trail again.

In the fourth, Cole Kottam smacked a one-out solo home to dead centerfield before Connor Heady poked an RBI single to left field to give the Wildcats a 4-1 lead. Krueger left after walking the bases loaded, yielding to left-hander B.J. Sabol.

The Indiana reliever initially kept the Wildcats from breaking the game open, inducing a 6-4-3 double play ball to end the threat. The three-run deficit was the biggest hole IU had faced in the postseason, spanning both the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

There would be no climbing back. Not all the way, at least.

And especially not after Kentucky’s big sixth inning.

That’s when the Cats got to Sabol, putting runners in scoring position after a ground-rule double by Heady with one out. Sabol was pulled for Cameron Beauchamp, who allowed a two-run double down the left field line to Tristan Pompey that made it 6-1 Kentucky.

Then Mahan followed moments later with his grand slam off Herrin, breaking the game open and effectively ending Indiana’s season.

The Hoosiers did most of their damage in junk time, finishing with 10 hits on the day. During a five-run, two-out rally in the ninth, Craig Dedelow also cranked a two-run homer, while Luke Miller provided a two-run single and Christopher Lowe added a run-scoring single.

It was another example of IU battling back, just like it had so many times this year.

This time, however, it wasn’t enough against a Kentucky team that was at its best with the season on the line.

“This group had a high character so they wouldn’t quit, I can tell you that,” Lemonis said. “They just kept banging away. We have been pretty hot offensively. (Thompson) was the only guy that I felt like has slowed us down a little bit. … Really proud of our guys. Very resilient group, a group that had bounced back all year and just a joy to coach.”

14 comments

  1. I heard one of the tv commentators talk about how Indiana is an up and coming program. I have heard this kind of comment not only today but for years for all sports and many many many (almost all programs). I understand better equipment, facilities, training, young programs producing better athletes. However, it seems to me that the NCAA tournaments for all sports include more teams in each tournament so comparatively speaking the actual programs are no better than they ever were for extended periods of time. It just looks like they are better because they qualify for what are actually watered down tournaments because they take more teams as qualifiers. Before at one time only conference champs went to tournaments. In football only 4 major bowl games and maybe a couple others. Everybody else stayed home.

    1. Keep in mind, sending one team per conference actually weakened the tournament. For example, the single bid for the ACC went to the tournament champion. On at least one occasion (1974 I think) the number one ranked team in the country did not qualify for the tournament.

  2. Another example of the above analogy is the Indiana one class to multi class basketball tournament which I have noted before.

    1. It’s impossible to argue NCAA adding teams to collegiate tournaments is a bad idea when college sports is many times more popular than before additions started and there is absolutely no correlation between Indiana going to class BB and the NCAA adding tournament teams. Of course 1 I liked and the other I’m still against. But no correlation.

      1. But…it’s all a conspiracy…from the east coast…the Establishment…just out to get Indiana…because that’s all anyone cares about…stopping IU.

        Doncha know.

  3. However, it seems to me that the NCAA tournaments for all sports include more teams in each tournament so comparatively speaking the actual programs are no better than they ever were for extended periods of time

    t- Spot on. Watered down college football with 45 bowl games. Expansion and blue ribbons for everyone. Watered down Indiana “class” high school basketball tournament…..Everyone needs a success story. Everyone needs to know they made an “appearance.” More and more teams from major conferences viewed as worthy of tournament play. Everyone needs to bombard onto the scene……and soon it’s all so watered down that there is no “scene” worth a hill of beans to be seen.

  4. Gosh, is there anything …or any sport that the BIG can dominate in anymore?
    I used to think it was football until seeing the major hurt a Clemson on autopilot could put on OSU. Maybe it was better when with Big 10 programs were only getting slaughtered by Pac 12 schools at Rose Bowls?

    Is getting closer(as in more competitive) to OSU really that much of an indicator that one has “arrived” of sorts?

    It was a long time ago, but IU Basketball once claimed something of a national stage in basketball that could have never been labeled as fool’s gold. There’s a lot of the gold spray paint anymore to make administrator and coaches look, oh, so very accomplished.

  5. Yes, the hypocrisy of it all (its best for the kids) vs. teaching the value of what it means to win a certain game or a hundred year old sectional in one class system….or what it means to strive to go to in the distant past one of the 4 major bowl games (and the grand daddy of them all, the Rose Bowl even though sometimes one of the other 3 may have the better teams and games). Then, New Year day was so much better regarding college football. Yes, the hypocrisy of it all as we were raised in a time of Disney Land (Wonderful World of Color). All these so called advances were not done for kids at all but rather for administrators and coaches etc. It creates that Disney Land atmosphere in the community for all those involved (something that is false but appears so real). Pro sports has also cashed in as,they take about half of each league in sports to the playoffs. More golf, more races, more whatever, more, more, more, addiction, hallucinations vs. reality. In deed we have lost our way.

    1. t- Class basketball in Indiana provides safety nets in order to minimize the emotional trauma a Goliath might actually lose to a David. They always tried to sell the positives of ‘multi-class’ as the other way around.
      Kids fighting their way up a ladder as an underdog to get respect have far less issues with losing than a prima donna kicked in the teeth.
      What the hell is the difference anyway…? After 2 months of multiple playoff rounds in deciding the two best teams in all of the NBA, Cleveland looks about as competitive with Golden State as Milan vs. Muncie Central…played with a shot clock. Hell, these NBA Finals games are so predetermined their outcome that the postgame analysis is starting before tip-off.

  6. Boston gets pretty much demolished by Cleveland….Cleveland getting demolished by GS….? It sure seems like Brad Stevens would have had a much more realistic shot at bringing an NCAA championship to Bloomington than ever sniffing an NBA title in the next five years. Everybody runs out of miracles at some point.

  7. Lots of money etc etc etc. Also some of the same schools still have not done much more than a sectional or regional since multi class as they did in one class system Lol. Maybe, we just need more classes. How about 14 or 15 classes.

  8. And once you get done with dominating in Indiana’s 2A watered down class basketball, you can always bolt to UNC for their “ghost class” division of college basketball.
    And maybe after you’re long done with college, you can dump your NBA team in OKC and join the rest of the “zero class” bunch who sell their talent to the highest bidder just to have a ring on a finger….?
    Heaven forbid to end up in the Elgin Baylor Club.

Comments are closed.