Hoosiers return to winning ways with 7-1 win over Bearcats

It was a bad weekend.

Jeff Mercer just wanted to make sure it didn’t turn into a bad week.

So after the Hoosiers found themselves on the wrong end of a three-game sweep at Tennessee, their first-year coach spoke up prior to Tuesday’s home opener at Bart Kaufman Field and sought to calm some nerves.

“I talked to them before the game today and said, ‘Listen, do you know what we’re gonna do when we have a bit of adversity? We’re not gonna change a doggone thing,'” Mercer said.

Indiana responded with the results that were missing over the weekend, pounding Cincinnati, 7-1, in a matinee victory in Bloomington.

IU (3-4) finished a run shy of doubling its scoring output from the weekend series, using home runs from Matt Gorski and Cole Barr, along with a lockdown bullpen effort to win the first of its two midweek games.

And after suffering their first non-conference sweep since 2016, the Hoosiers were eager to put the past few days behind them.

“We were down,” Gorski said of IU’s spirits after the Tennessee sweep. “We haven’t really gone through that as a team yet, or as a coaching staff we haven’t gone through that. It was a little different. But I thought we bounced back well today.”

Having Gorski available was a major reason why.

Gorski missed the entire Tennessee series with a minor hamstring injury, but picked up where he left off earlier this month. He led off the bottom of the first with a home run to left center, his second of the year, to put Indiana on the board first.

Simply seeing their best hitter begin the game as he did seemed to rub off on the others.

Ryan Fineman’s two-run double off the left field wall put Indiana ahead 3-1 in the bottom of the third, before Barr’s two-run blast moments later made it a four-run IU advantage.

The Hoosiers finished with six hits — two each by Gorski and Barr — and, much to Mercer’s approval, 10 walks.

“Midweek game or not, you’re able to see today our ability to have (a quality) at-bat,” Mercer said. “For these guys to come out and settle down a little bit and trust themselves, trust the work (was good). Getting Gorski back was a nice addition.”

Bloomington South product Alex Franklin started for Indiana, striking out four in two innings. Cincinnati’s lone run came off Franklin, who yielded a second-inning, one-out RBI single to Cole Murphy that tied the game at 1-1.

Franklin threw 24 of his 53 pitches for strikes, walking three.

“He earned the right to be a guy that’s going to throw significant innings for us,” Mercer said. “He’s got really good stuff. He got sped up a little bit and got off tempo with some of the walks in the second, and we wanted to make sure we didn’t push him beyond his pitch count. … (But) we’re thrilled about Alex. He’s such a hard worker.”

Behind Franklin, IU’s bullpen trio of Cal Krueger, Cam Beauchamp and Grant Sloan was outstanding.

Krueger worked three scoreless innings, striking out two, walking one and yielding one hit. Beauchamp appeared to get stronger as his outing progressed, working three scoreless innings, including a perfect eighth.

Sloan worked around an error and a walk to strike out the side in the ninth.

IU added insurance an inning earlier when Drew Ashley scored on a fielding error at second base and Scotty Bradley came home on a double play ball.

By the end of the afternoon, the Hoosiers felt more like themselves again.

“Just because for three days it didn’t show itself, it doesn’t concern me,” Mercer said. “It doesn’t bother me (and) it doesn’t worry me whatsoever because I know the work they put in and I know the kinds of players they are.”