Hoosiers lack focus in 5-0 loss to Cincinnati #iubase

Chris Lemonis wasn’t going to accept excuses.

By the end of a sloppy and unbecoming night of baseball, the Indiana coach needed only one word to describe the Hoosiers’ 5-0 loss to Cincinnati on Tuesday at Bart Kaufman Field.

“Uninspired,” Lemonis said.

He wasn’t wrong. There were a list of errors and mental mistakes that sent the Hoosiers to their first shutout loss of the season. After finding wins in eight of its previous 10 games, Indiana’s loss on Tuesday represented a squandered opportunity to roll its recent momentum into the beginning of Big Ten play this weekend.

And Lemonis made sure his Hoosiers recognized exactly what they let slip through their fingers.

“We’ve got to get a little tougher,” Lemonis said. “Everybody in college baseball has to do it, but unfortunately our group struggles with it a little bit — being able to show up day in and day out.”

The Hoosiers posted six hits — including a 2-for-3 night from leadoff man Laren Eustace — but those weren’t enough to smooth the rough edges at the plate, on the base paths and in the field.

Three errors and additional miscues helped Cincinnati score three runs across the first five innings.

Right-hander Pauly Milto made his second start for Indiana, throwing 74 pitches across four full innings. It was an uneven performance from Milto, who struck out a career-high five batters but made a pair of errant throws in the field that led to runs.

Trouble first found Milto in the top of the second when he overthrew a comebacker past the outstretched hand of first baseman Luke Miller. Cincinnati’s Treg Haberkorn ran to third on the mistake and scored moments later when R.J. Thompson lined a one-out single that deflected off Milto.

An inning later, Milto missed the mark on a two-out pickoff attempt that advanced Cam Alldred to second base. Alldred came around to score the second run when the next batter, Connor McVey, lined a ball off the glove of third baseman Isaiah Pasteur.

Indiana’s botched handling of a double-steal in the fifth allowed Woody Wallace to take home and put the Bearcats ahead 3-0. Wallace originally reached when Pasteur started the inning with a throwing error.

“It goes back to me,” Lemonis said. “The head coach has to have them ready to play and tonight we weren’t ready to play for some reason.”

Meanwhile, Cincinnati’s A.J. Olasz was on the way to picking up his first win of the season. Olasz worked five innings plus a batter, scattering three hits and retiring eight in a row deep into his outing.

The Hoosiers had one of their best scoring situations of the evening after chasing Olasz early in the sixth. IU put runners on the corners with one out, but closed the inning with a thud. With cleanup batter Logan Sowers at the plate, Miller was thrown out trying to steal second. Sowers followed by striking out on a full-count offering by Cincinnati reliever Jarod Yoakam.

“We had three or four opportunities early to score a run with a runner on second and no outs, first and third a couple times with one out (and) we just don’t even come close to (scoring) with the right people at the plate,” Lemonis said.

Cincinnati didn’t score an earned run off Indiana pitching until Haberkorn’s RBI double off IU reliever Kent Williams in the eighth. Devin Wenzel drove in Haberkorn on a two-out single to centerfield.

Indiana played its second consecutive game without Austin Cangelosi, who was swinging one of the hottest bats in the program. Cangelosi — who has a .284 average, eight extra-base hits and 13 RBIs in 21 games — is expected to miss the first chunk of Big Ten play while he recovers from a knee sprain suffered last weekend.

“It’s not a season-ending type of thing,” Lemonis said. “I guess it’s maybe week-to-week, so we probably have a little bit of time here. He’s out and walking around and doing a little bit, so it’s not as bad as we originally thought.”

Between Tuesday’s game against Cincinnati and Wednesday’s home game against Evansville, the Hoosiers appeared poised to use the two midweek contests as a springboard to the first two Big Ten weekends of the spring.

With Rutgers and Purdue — two teams that have a combined 13 wins — on the schedule during the next two weeks, there’s a good chance for Indiana to start strong in the league.

But this week’s bridge to conference play did not begin well for the Hoosiers.

“We can run out tomorrow and play great, but I’m disappointed in our effort,” Lemonis said.