Donley’s walk-off hit gives Indiana Big Ten Tournament Title

Indiana’s celebratory dogpile had to be delayed twice, first when the Hoosiers lost to Nebraska in 11 innings on Saturday night, and then again when the umpires had to explain what happened when one Indiana runner passed another on the base paths  on the game-ending play.

But that bit of confusion didn’t keep the Hoosiers from celebrating the first Big Ten championship double in school history. With the bases loaded and none out in the bottom of the ninth, IU designated hitter Scott Donley crushed the first pitch he saw opposite field into the left-center field gap, scoring left fielder Will Nolden from third to give the Hoosiers a walk-off 4-3 win over Nebraska in the winner-take-all Big Ten Tournament championship game on Sunday at Target Field in Minneapolis.

With the victory, the Hoosiers earned their third Big Ten Tournament title in school history, pairing that with their first regular season title since 1949 and their first outright conference crown since 1932. They clinched an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament, virtually assured that they will host one of the 16, four-team regionals next weekend and staked their claim for a national seed that would allow them to host a Super Regional if they would make it that far.

“Our guys talked about it today, let’s be selfish, not let somebody else call themselves call themselves champion,” Indiana coach Tracy Smith told the Big Ten Network after the game. “We did what we had to do. It wasn’t the prettiest of baseball games, me included, but we found a way to do it, and I’m proud of the guys for bringing that home.”

Indeed, the Hoosiers had to grit this one out, and that was made all the more difficult because of what Saturday night’s 11-inning loss had done to their bullpen. Smith asked freshman left-hander Will Coursen-Carr, an All-Big Ten Freshman team pick who had been the Hoosiers’ mid-week starter against non-conference competition, to pitch all nine innings for his first complete game of his career. He had a handful of rough moments and certainly looked tired toward the end of it, but surrendered just three runs on eight hits while walking just three and recording three strikeouts. He threw 127 pitches, but Smith never had to go to his bullpen.

“He’s got good enough stuff that he could make a mistake and still get people out,” Smith told the Big Ten Network. “… That’s what he’s been doing mid-week.”

The Hoosiers gave him a lead in the fourth on an RBI double by IU first baseman Sam Travis, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Travis was 9-for-16 in Indiana’s four games, driving in eight runs and hitting two home runs. Nebraska scored a run in the fifth when second baseman Pat Kelly singled to score shortstop Bryan Peters, who had tripled to start the inning, but Indiana took a 3-1 lead in the sixth. Travis led off the inning with a double, then scored on an error by Kelly on a grounder by IU third baseman Dustin DeMuth. Pinch-hitter Ricky Alfonso added a sacrifice fly to give the Hoosiers a two-run lead.

In the seventh, though, Kelly had another RBI single to cut the deficit to 3-2 and in the eighth, the Cornhuskers tied it on a sacrifice fly by catcher Tanner Lubach with Coursen-Carr’s arm clearly starting to tire. However, Coursen-Carr then pitched a perfect ninth despite the fatigue, and the Hoosiers got a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth.

Indiana left fielder Will Nolden, who had entered the game in the seventh as a defensive replacement, ripped a double into the right center field gap on his first at-bat. Nebraska then intentionally walked catcher Kyle Schwarber and then walked Travis, who had tried but failed to lay a bunt down. The Cornhuskers brought the infield in, but Donley pounded the ball too deep for anyone to get to it. Travis passed Schwarber on the base paths and that was officially recorded as an out, but Nolden’s run still counted and the Hoosiers were still champions.

 

4 comments

  1. CONGRATULATIONS Coach Smith and the team for flat out getting it done!!! I was actually able to watch most of today’s game and to a man poise and resolve were on display.
    The this was a total team win. Each player did his job.
    When Nebraska tied the game late, no one panicked.
    It was awesome to watch it unfold. You guys represented yourselves and the University very well.
    Celebrate this tournament championship for the next few days and then get back to work for the NCAAs, Hoosier Nation has your back. Great Job guys!!!

  2. Great job Hoosiers. Fun Memorial Day Sunday watching you; really proud to be a Hoosier. I even forgot to check the Cubs score, you guys don’t disappoint!

    (PS…Mr. Travis, well done! (Just one minor point, please don’t pass your team mate on the base path. Just grab and hang on to his j.s. Thank God there were less than two outs when Donley hit his game winner.)

  3. Watched the Big Ten Tournament games on the BTN and they were fun and exciting. The Hoosiers were clearly the best team in the Big Ten and they proved that their regular season championship was no fluke. I really loved the clutch hitting and the aggressive offensive philosophy. The Hoosiers have an excellent team!

    My only complaints were the fan response and the local. And I believe the local had a huge affect on the local. What possessed the Big Ten to hold the tournament in Minneapolis at Target Field? There were only a few dozen people in the stands! Then you turn on ESPN and watch Vanderbilt play LSU and there were thousands of people in the stadium. I think location had a little something to do with attendance. Minneapolis, this time of year, is probably the worst city in the Midwest to have hosted that tournament. The Big Ten can do better than that.

  4. That should have read, “the location had a huge affect on the attendance.” Sorry, I got interrupted while typing.

Comments are closed.