Fineman stars in doubleheader sweep of Butler

Most days, simply helping his pitchers and catching a good game is enough to satisfy Indiana’s Ryan Fineman. Whatever happens at the plate is simply a bonus.

On Friday, Fineman enjoyed the best of both worlds.

Fineman collected six hits and drove in six runs between both contests, helping the No. 18 Hoosiers to a doubleheader sweep of Butler at Bart Kaufman Field.

IU received some assistance from Butler fielding errors in the opener, walking off with a 6-5 win thanks to a passed ball in the bottom of the ninth.

In the nightcap, the Hoosiers erupted for 18 hits in a 13-0 victory that got out of hand quickly and boosted IU to No. 26 in the latest RPI rankings.

Credit Fineman for helping IU (19-5) get there.

The junior catcher went 3-for-4 in both games, while catching the bulk of the day’s action. It was, all considered, a complete performance from the Hoosiers’ co-captain.

“It was definitely a good day,” Fineman said. “I was seeing the ball well and we played really well, so it was nice.”

After recording an RBI on an infield single during IU’s four-run sixth-inning rally in the opener, Fineman enjoyed a five RBI performance in the second game.

His three-run double in the bottom of the first started the Hoosiers’ scoring, and he later added RBI singles in the second and fourth innings.

It’s been a good week so far for Fineman, who went 2-for-4 with a solo home run on Wednesday at Indiana State. After starting the season hot, batting .458 (11-for-24) across his first eight games, Fineman cooled off during the middle of March.

But Fineman has now reached base in six consecutive games, helping the Hoosiers extend their current run to 10 wins in their last 11 tries.

“It’s nice,” IU coach Chris Lemonis said. “Last year, he had a pretty tough year, offensively, but this year has been pretty solid all along. He’s hot right now, so maybe we’ll ride him out a little longer. His defense is always a plus.”

Beyond Fineman’s fine day, Friday’s early action was marked by a series of mistakes by Butler (17-6).

Indiana was able to seize Game 1 in large part because of them.

The Bulldogs committed six errors between both games, blowing several big moments with poor play in the field. Of Indiana’s six runs in the opener, none were earned.

After building a 4-1 lead on Harrison Freed’s two-run double off Jonathan Stiever in the top of the sixth, Butler squandered its advantage in the bottom half.

It started when third baseman Garrett Christman air-mailed a throw into right field while trying to turn a double play. The gaffe allowed Logan Sowers to score from second and put runners on the corners.

Fineman, the next batter, lined a comebacker to pitcher Josh Walker, knocking him to the turf. Walker tried to throw out Fineman at first, but threw wildly, allowing Matt Gorski and Elijah Dunham to score and tie the game at 4-all.

Drew Ashely gave IU its first lead moments later when his sacrifice fly to right field scored Fineman.

Although the lead was short-lived — Connor Dall’s RBI single off Brian Hobbie tied the game at 5-all in the eighth — Butler’s woes continued with the game on the line.

After leading off the bottom of the ninth by getting hit with a pitch, Justin Walker went first to third on Matt Lloyd’s single through the middle. Then, he scored on a passed ball to win it.

That ended the game on a higher note than it began for the Hoosiers, who squandered a bases-loaded opportunity in the bottom of the first.

“I was frustrated in that first game,” Lemonis said. “It happens. You have a chance to get them in the first but don’t take advantage of it. In this game, that can settle in, and we chased the whole rest of the game. Luckily, we were able to get back into the game.”

With their bats powering the way in the nightcap, IU didn’t need any fielding assistance from the Bulldogs at the end of Friday night.

Indiana managed only six hits in the opener, but piled on early and often in the nightcap. The Hoosiers, whose 18 hits in Game 2 stood as a season high, forced Butler starter Connor Mitchell to throw 45 pitches in a laborious opening frame.

Fineman’s three-RBI double started a five-run bottom of the first for Indiana, which also enjoyed a two-out, two-run single from Justin Walker.

Five Hoosiers posted multiple hits in the contest, including three hits each from Fineman and Lloyd, who drove in two runs. Gorski, Logan Kaletha and Scotty Bradley each finished with a pair of hits.

Jonathan Stiever retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced in the opener, before leaving after six innings. He allowed four runs, though only two were earned, on seven hits.

In the second game, Pauly Milto bounced back from a tough start last weekend at Iowa, tossing six scoreless innings to earn his fourth win.

“It’s awesome,” Fineman said. “Everyone clicked in the dugout, but the biggest thing is the 18th inning of the game, you got your starters who came out of the game cheering your guys on like nothing ever happened, it’s a 1-0 game. That’s what good teams do. You have to come out tomorrow like your 0-0 and you haven’t played the team yet.”

IU will go for the series sweep on Saturday at 1:05 p.m.