Donley’s double lifts Indiana to 5-3 win over Ohio State #iubase

Scott Donley’s final trip to the Big Ten Tournament was unfolding in frustrating fashion before he fixed things with one swing.

Donley’s three-run double in the bottom of the eighth inning lifted Indiana to a 5-3 win over Ohio State on Thursday at Target Field. The win keeps the Hoosiers alive in Minneapolis and arranges a matchup with the loser of Michigan and Iowa on Friday at 4:30 p.m. on BTN.

Nearly 24 hours before Donley’s big hit, IU coach Chris Lemonis was in the bowels of the stadium lamenting his team’s lack of two-out production. Situational hitting was turning into a strength for the Hoosiers over the final few weeks of the regular season, but it escaped them in a tournament-opening loss to the Wolverines.

Facing elimination against the Buckeyes, Donley delivered with a deliberate at-bat.

“He’s had a tough couple of days,” Lemonis said. “I walked out and said something to him and he was just as calm and cool as could be. You could tell he’s been in that position before.”

The three-time All-Big Ten designated hitter had been in a 0-for-6 funk at the tournament before his eighth-inning at-bat. He carefully watched a 2-2 fastball run just off the outside corner before driving a full-count offering from Ohio State starter Ryan Riga into the left field gap. The double scored Brad Hartong, Nick Ramos and Casey Rodrigue and erased a mini slump for the IU cleanup man.

“Heck, I think it’s the first ball I’ve actually hit in about a week,” said Donley, who struck out three times Wednesday for only the second time in his career. He now has a hit in 25 of his last 31 games.

No team in this tournament is more postseason chiseled than two-time defending champs Indiana, which used Donley’s big at-bat and another quality start from Kyle Hart to win its sixth Big Ten tournament game in its last seven tries.

Hart tossed six scoreless innings, scattered six hits and walked none. It was the second consecutive six-inning outing for Hart, who battled through two laborious innings at the start of the game before settling in and blanking the Buckeyes.

Hart, who remains on a limit of approximately 80 pitches — depending on stress — tied his season high with 93 pitches. That pitch count took on an even greater focus entering the middle innings.

While Hart was already at 75 pitches after four complete frames, Riga had thrown 37 over that same span as the beneficiary of Indiana’s aggressive approach at the plate. But Hart, without question IU’s only dependable starter, would not relinquish the baseball.

“He made sure I knew he was pitching,” Lemonis said. “He made sure I knew he was staying in the game for that last inning. He was really good. Coming back from (elbow) surgery, he’s been limited.”

Indiana collected five hits, including two from Hartong. The Indiana catcher gave his team its first lead of the tournament when he hit a solo home run, his second of the season, to left field in the bottom of the fourth.

The Hoosiers went ahead 2-0 after manufacturing a run an inning later. Austin Cangelosi led off with a walk, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Will Nolden and scored on Brian Wilhite’s single through the middle.

Ohio State tied the game with two runs off reliever Scott Effross in the top of the seventh, beginning with an RBI groundout by Nick Sergakis. Craig Nennig, the Buckeyes’ No. 9 hitter, drove in the tying run on a two-out single to left field moments later.

Effross came back and retired the side in order in the top of eighth, allowing IU to reclaim the lead in the bottom half. It was all part of a two-out rally for the Hoosiers after Nolden struck out and Wilhite grounded out to begin the inning. Rodrigue followed with a single and stole second before Ramos and Hartong drew back-to-back walks to set the stage for Donley.

Ryan Halstead allowed a leadoff homer to Zach Ratcliff in the ninth, but retired the next three batters to earn his 10th save.

“We’re a mature group,” Hartong said. “We have older pitching, we have a mature lineup that’s been through it all. We were real confident last year with the team we had, and I think we’re just as confident this year. We lost that game (Wednesday), but we didn’t think twice about it. We just focused on this game.”

And now they live to see another.

Right-hander Christian Morris will start Friday for Indiana, trying to build off the small and fleeting gains of momentum he’s seen over the last month. Morris, an All-Big Ten First Team selection last season, has floated between the rotation and the bullpen since his season took a turn for the worse in April.

But he’s enjoyed better results ever since the calendar turned to May. Though he has an ERA of 5.44, Morris has allowed only three runs (two earned) over 11.1 innings this month. In his last start on May 15, Morris danced out of early trouble before logging 4 2/3 innings.

“His confidence is a lot better right now,” Lemonis said. “His stuff’s a little better right now. He’s made a couple mechanical adjustments, and I thought that’s led to his confidence. To be in Day 3 of a tournament and have a guy like Christian Morris out there — he’s won a handful of games here in the Big Ten, and he’s been first team all-league last year. We feel like we’ve got a guy who’s got a chance to have some success.”

One comment

  1. BIg, big win!!! Should be able to relax now and see if they can make a run. Shouldn’t be much pressure now. Hopefully they can draw the Louisville regional so we can turn out in full force!!

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