Indiana clinches Big Ten title, beats Minnesota 7-3

WHAT HAPPENED: Indiana learned in the sixth inning that it had won the Big Ten championship outright, but it still held on to beat Minnesota 7-3 in a somewhat sloppy game in front of 2,540 at rain soaked Bart Kaufman Field

The Hoosier improved to 37-13 overall, 20-3 in the Big Ten. The 20 wins are the most any Indiana team has ever had in conference play. This is their second straight regular season conference title after they went from 1932 through the 2012 season without a championship. 

Indiana scored in the second on an RBI groundout by right fielder Will Nolden to make it 1-0. Minnesota tied it on an RBI double by left fielder Jordan Smith in the third, but Indiana took control for good in the fourth. Catcher Brad Hartong doubled to lead off the inning and Nolden followed with a walk. Shortstop Nick Ramos singled up the middle to score Hartong from second. Nolden went to third and Ramos took second on the throw to try to get Nolden. Center fielder Tim O’Conner grounded to short, which should have ended the inning, but Connor Schaefbauer threw wide of the first base bag, allowing both Nolden and Ramos to score to make it 4-1.

Indiana added another run in the fifth on an RBI single by third baseman Dustin DeMuth, scoring designated hitter Scott Donley, who had reached on a dropped fly ball. That made it 5-1. Minnesota scored in the seventh when center fielder Dan Motl singled, stole second, stole third and scored on a throwing error by IU’s Hartong, but Indiana scored two more runs in the eighth to add to the cushion.

Nolden drew a leadoff walk, Ramos doubled to the right center field gap, then Nolden scored on a passed ball. Ramos went to third and scored when pinch hitter Ricky Alfonso hit a pop-up to short right field that fell in.

Minnesota scored a run in the ninth on an RBI groundout by first baseman Dan Olinger, but left two runners on to end the game.

WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Christian Morris wasn’t spectacular on Friday night, but he made big pitches when he had to. He needed 94 pitches to get through 5 1/3 innings, but 61 of those were strikes, and his off-speed pitches were especially effective. He got strikes with his curveball early in counts and also brought it back late for a strikeout pitch, freezing hitters with outstanding movement. He allowed just four hits and walked two while striking out five batters. He pitched out of a bases loaded jam after giving up a run in the third and out of a first-and-third jam in the fourth with one out, striking out Minnesota’s Jordan Smith and getting Dan Motl to fly out.

Right-hander Luke Harrison gave up a run, but struck out three batters in 1 1/3 innings of relief. Thomas Belcher struck out two batters and gave up one run in two innings.

Ramos was the closest thing Indiana had to an offensive star, going 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI. DeMuth, Alfonzo and Nolden also drove in runs.

WHY DID IT HAPPEN: Morris was just a little bit better than Minnesota’s Ben Meyer and Indiana’s defense was just a little better than Minnesota’s, though neither was particularly good. The field was slick and therefore so was the ball, which made it difficult to throw the ball. Minnesota committed four errors and allowed four unearned runs and allowed the Hoosiers to capitalize in innings the Golden Gophers should have been out of. Indiana made three errors and they were costly, as two of the three runs Minnesota scored were unearned, but the Hoosiers also came up with bigger hits when they had to.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: The title itself means a lot simply because even after last year’s the Hoosiers have still had so little experience historically. with calling themselves Big Ten regular season champions. Before last year it had been 81 years between titles for Indiana, and that alone is major. Indiana was a runaway favorite to win it this time, and this was expected, but the degree to which they rolled over the league is astounding. All three of their conference losses were by one run and they have outscored Big  Ten opponents 153-48 so far.

The win itself is also critical, because the Hoosiers still have to prove themselves worthy of a top-eight seed in the NCAA Tournament, which would put them in the position to not only host a regional, but also a super regional in the tournament. Losing Thursday night in the first game of the series wasn’t good for their cause, but it also wasn’t devastating. Losing the series, however, might have put questions in the minds of the NCAA Tournament committee, and winning this one at least assures they can only drop two out of three.

5 comments

  1. I’m confused by the last sentence in this write-up. It says “winning this one at least assures they won’t drop two out of three.” … How so? Let’s hope it doesn’t happen, but if IU loses Saturday afternoon, won’t that be losing two out of three?

  2. I guess the beard was for the winning streak…

    Dustin- You’ve got a heart of gold. I’m doubtful anyone would have anywhere near the patience and tolerance you’ve shown me. I’m not sure if many here realize just how unique and decent a man they have running this site. And I’m not just saying that because you give me plenty of leeway. You’re open and giving to all here. You make me proud of Indiana and you give me hope that genuineness still exists in this world.

  3. Great job Coach Smith, the entire coaching staff, and to the players on this very special Indiana Baseball team! GO IU! O-M-A-H-A!

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