Morris pitches gem, Hoosiers score five in seventh in win over Michigan

WHAT HAPPENED: Christian Morris allowed just one hit in seven innings and Indiana scored five runs in the seventh to lead Indiana to a 5-0 win over Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday in TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.

The victory was Indiana coach Tracy Smith’s 600th career victory. Indiana improves to 40-13 will next play Saturday at 2 p.m. against the winner of an elimination game Friday at 4:30 p.m. between Michigan State and Illinois.

Neither team got a hit until the sixth inning and the Hoosiers failed to score after putting runners on first and second to start the sixth. However, in the seventh, Dustin DeMuth led off with a hustle double, moved to second on a flyout by catcher Brad Hartong and scored when right fielder Will Nolden singled off the leg of Michigan pitcher Brett Adcock. Shortstop Nick Ramos singled, and after a strikeout by center fielder Tim O’Conner, IU second baseman Casey Rodrigue tripled into the right center field gap to score Nolden and Ramos. Kyle Schwarber followed up with a two-run home run just over the right field fence.

Scott Effross and Jake Kelzer each pitched scoreless innings of relief to finish off the victory. 

WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Morris kept his fastball low and got both his curveball and slider to do what he wanted them to, throwing them for strikes and getting Michigan hitters to chase. He walked just two batters, one intentional, and the only hit he gave up was a bouncer through the infield by Michigan’s Jacob Cronenworth in the sixth. He never allowed a Michigan base runner to get past second.

Rodrigue’s triple was huge. He was down 0-2 to Brett Adcock, but stayed patient until the count ran 3-2 and ripped a pitch into the right center field gap, almost the exact same spot where he had a triple in Wednesday’s game.

Schwarber, of course, had been dying to finally hit one out of TD Ameritrade Park after at least one near miss in the College World Series and several hard-hit balls that fell well within the yard in the first two games of this tournament. He unloaded on a 3-2 hanging curveball from Lozer, crushing it just over the fence in right field.

Michigan’s Brett Adcock was also outstanding. The left-hander who was used out of the bullpen at the beginning of the conference season when the Hoosiers played the Wolverines has since won a starting job. He walked two batters in the first, but retired 13 straight Indiana hitters after that. In the sixth, he gave up a single to O’Conner and walked Rodrigue on four pitches, but then got Schwarber to fly out to center and struck out both Sam Travis and Scott Donley to get out of the inning before the Hoosiers finally got to him in the seventh.

WHY DID IT HAPPEN: DeMuth’s hustle double may have been the play of the game. Michigan’s outfielders were playing comparatively back for TD Ameritrade Park. Left fielder Jackson Lamb and center fielder Jackson Glines both had to come in on it and it fell between them. Lamb bobbled the ball just enough for DeMuth to have a chance at second. That gave the Hoosiers a runner on second with no outs and it allowed them to manufacture a run. Brad Hartong flew to right to move him to third and Nolden really only needed to put the ball in play to bring him home. That sparked the Indiana dugout and it also seemed to create doubt in the mind of Adcock for the first time all night. From there, the Hoosiers got him to unravel, even after he’d worked the count to 0-2 against Rodrigue. A nail-biting pitcher’s duel turned into a comfortable Indiana win quickly.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: The Hoosiers get to 40 wins, which is a landmark number that looks outstanding on their national seed resume. It gives Tracy Smith 600 wins, and it also gives Indiana a day off and another day in the winner’s bracket, but important for an Indiana team that wants to win a Big Ten Tournament title but also doesn’t want to expend its pitching staff. Smith made it clear he will not put anyone on the mound after short rest, including Wednesday’s starter Joey DeNato, and he doesn’t have to if he only has to play four games. If the Hoosiers beat the Michigan State-Illinois winner on Saturday, they won’t have to.

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