IU advances to semifinal after 10-2 win over Iowa #iubase

He didn’t want to be the one to let Indiana down, so Christian Morris pitched as if the first few months of his season never happened.

With the Hoosiers facing elimination for the second consecutive game, Morris took the mound at Target Field on Friday evening and looked like his former self. He looked like the pitcher that earned first team all-conference honors a year ago. He looked confident and in control.

And, as he settled in, he looked determined to see his team through to another day.

No. 6 Indiana took advantage of Morris’ quality start and used a grand slam by Logan Sowers to pull off a 10-2 thrashing of No. 2 Iowa at the Big Ten Tournament in Minneapolis. The win propels the Hoosiers into this morning’s semifinal, where they’ll meet No. 4 Maryland at 10 a.m. on Big Ten Network. Should IU win early, it would play the Terrapins again at 6 p.m. to determine which team advances to Sunday’s championship.

Indiana supported Morris with 13 hits, including three by Casey Rodrigue, who finished a home run shy of the cycle. It was, perhaps, the most complete effort of Indiana’s three-game run in Minneapolis. Each starter finished with at least one hit on the way to earning a victory that further bolsters IU’s resume ahead of Monday’s selection show.

Whatever happens to them today, the Hoosiers should feel good about their chances at a third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. If there was any doubt Indiana was a NCAA tournament-caliber team, it put those worries to rest on Friday.

“At this point in the tournament, and even since Day 1, you’re playing a really quality opponent,” IU coach Chris Lemonis said. “I think Iowa’s one of the better programs in the country right now. For us to come out that way and beat a quality pitcher, I thought we did it with a great start, great defense and some timely hitting. It was a great effort by our guys.”

It started with Morris, who retired the first six batters he faced on the way to posting his most encouraging outing of the season. Nothing has come easy for the former All-Big Ten First Team selection, who has bounced between the weekend rotation and the bullpen as his ERA hovered around six and his confidence waned.

Since making some minor mechanical adjustments to his delivery within the last month, Morris says he’s felt like a different pitcher. He looked every bit of it against Iowa, allowing only a two-run double to Tyler Peyton after the game was long decided in the top of the sixth inning. Morris scattered five hits, walked one and struck out four, while throwing 64 of his 99 pitches for strikes.

“This season has been interesting and not how we’ve drawn it up,” he said. “They’ve encouraged me to keep going and keep fighting it. This game is funny. It humbles you. You just keep going.”

His teammates gave him all the run support he needed when Austin Cangelosi put IU ahead in the bottom of the second inning. Cangelosi clubbed a two-run triple to right field and scored on the same sequence after a throwing error by Iowa second baseman Jake Mangler. Cangelosi slid into third as Mangler’s throw skipped past him to the third base dugout and out of play, allowing the Indiana sophomore to score easily.

It was another one of the two-out hits that Lemonis has celebrated over the last month of the season. After Scott Donley delivered his game-winning hit on a two-out double in Thursday’s win over Ohio State, there was Cangelosi following his lead on Friday.

“I was just thankful to get the big hit and get things going,” Cangelosi said. “Logan took it from there and (Morris) pitched really well. It’s playoff baseball and it was a team effort. We all came through and got big hits. It’s contagious at this time of year.”

Sowers added his grand slam an inning later on a shot to the second deck in left field, and Nick Ramos used a two-run single to put Indiana ahead 9-0 in the fourth. By that point, the mistakes of a lost first inning seemed far away.

IU had a chance to rally in the bottom of the first when Rodrigue and Ramos led off with back-to-back singles. But Rodrigue got caught in between second and third bases after Brad Hartong failed to square on a bunt and, moments later, Ramos was caught stealing second when Hartong struck out looking.

“A first inning like that can ruin your game,” Lemonis said.

But Hartong helped atone for that sequence in the third inning after Morris allowed a leadoff walk to Daniel Aaron Moriel and a single to the next batter, Joel Booker. Nick Day botched a bunt attempt, popping the ball to the left of home plate, where Hartong dove for it, caught it and quickly threw it to first. There, he doubled off Booker for the second out of the inning and Morris induced a fly ball to escape what could’ve been a serious jam.

“There’s a maturity there with the older kids,” Lemonis said. “They understand it. I’m probably the one (who is) most mad in the dugout. Brad’s a very coachable kid and he takes it, and takes ownership of his game. He came out and played great after (the first inning). It’s a sign of a great team.”

Hartong scored the Hoosiers’ final run of the game in the bottom of the sixth when Donley’s two-out single to right field brought him home and capped another signature Indiana win.

One comment

  1. IU secured a spot in the NCAA tourney today. 14-8 versus RPI top 50, 33 RPI and just beat the 26 RPI team. Right now a solid 3 seed in the regionals and could get to a 2 seed if they get to the Big Ten tourney finals.

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