Swanson’s home run lifts Vanderbilt over Indiana, 6-4

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The ball left in a hurry, flying off Dansby Swanson’s bat and into the night.

For an Indiana team that played with fire throughout Saturday’s showdown with Vanderbilt, Swanson’s two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning was the dagger that pushes the Hoosiers’ season to the brink.

After a 6-4 loss to the defending national champions, Indiana will play for its tournament life this afternoon. The Hoosiers will meet Radford in an elimination game at the Nashville Regional at 4 p.m. If they win, they’ll get the Commodores in a rematch later in the evening. IU coach Chris Lemonis said Evan Bell, Caleb Baragar and Will Coursen-Carr are options to start against Radford.

“We’re a great team, and the last couple weeks our backs have been up against the wall,” IU sophomore Craig Dedelow said. “We’ve responded pretty well to that, so I think it will be pretty easy for us (to bounce back).”

Vanderbilt pitchers recorded 15 strikeouts, while the Commodores’ bats out-hit the Hoosiers 11-6. None of those, however, were more meaningful than Swanson’s blast in the final inning.

It came against IU reliever Luke Harrison, who allowed a one-out double to Rhett Wiseman moments earlier. Instead of intentionally walking Swanson to set up a possible double play situation, Harrison pitched to a player projected as a top-five MLB Draft prospect and paid the price. Lemonis said Harrison was told to pitch around Swanson, but left a ball over the plate.

“We just didn’t make the pitch,” Lemonis said. “We should have had the catcher stand up and do the intentional walk, but we were trying to pitch around him at that point. He just left the ball over the plate and a good player hit it.”

An announced capacity crowd of 3,626 at Hawkins Field watched Indiana play as the home team on the scoreboard. Dedelow and Brad Hartong both collected two hits, with Dedelow driving in three runs.

Dedelow gave the Hoosiers the early lead on a two-out, two-run single to right field in the bottom of the first. The Hoosiers sent seven men to the plate during the inning, forcing Vandy starter Phil Pfeifer to throw 29 pitches. Nick Ramos started the rally by drawing a one-out walk and moved to third on Hartong’s double down the right field line. After Scott Donley was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Dedelow swung at the first pitch and lined it into right field to score two. Ramos came home easily, while Hartong barely avoided a tag by Commodores catcher Karl Ellison.

Brian Wilhite’s recent hitting success continued into the second inning Saturday when he skied a triple off the large triangular wall in left field. Wilhite, who has a hit in eight of his last 10 games, came around to score moments later on Casey Rodrigue’s groundout to second base.

A four-run outburst chased IU starter Christian Morris from the game with two outs in the third. Morris allowed back-to-back singles before walking Swanson to load the bases. Ro Coleman scored the Commodores’ first run on a groundout before Will Toffey tied the game at 3-3 on a two-run double down the left field line. Toffey came around for the go-ahead run on a Jeren Kendall’s single to right-centerfield, leading to Morris’ early departure.

Scott Effross finished the inning without yielding further damage. Morris, who entered Saturday having yielded only four earned runs over 17 1/3 innings during the month of May, threw 39 of his 64 pitches for strikes.

Effross was outstanding in relief, tossing five and one-third scoreless innings of relief, scattering four hits, walking none and striking out four.

“I thought I was doing a really good job of locating my fastball and changeup,” Effross said. “… I just came in from the pen knowing I had a job to do.”

After retiring 11 in a row, Pfeifer gave up the lead in the sixth inning. Hartong led off the inning with a single and went station-to-station before Dedelow drove him in on an infield single. It was a slow roller to the right side that Vanderbilt second baseman Tyler Campbell couldn’t handle. Dedelow was credited with a hit on the play and likely would have been safe at first had a thrown been made.

Indiana threatened again with a two-out rally in the seventh after Wilhite walked and Rodrigue reached on a slow-rolling infield single, but Ramos lined to right field for the third out. Against the line of quality arms that Vanderbilt marched onto the mound, it was a difficult situation to squander when decent contact was at a premium.

“It was a little bit of a press, trying to do too much,” Lemonis said of his team’s 15 strikeouts. “Swings got big and it felt like we had about 10 check swings, trying to be too big and do too much. It’s hard to win a great game when you punch out that many times and don’t put the ball in play.”