Hoosiers get defensive in 11-1 win over Leathernecks

His Indiana team had just completed a fine afternoon at the plate, mashing hits and drawing walks on the way to a decisive win over Western Illinois.

But immediately after the No. 18 Hoosiers’ 11-1 victory over the Leathernecks, coach Chris Lemonis’ postgame speech had little to do with offense.

“When you play that many guys on a really windy, sunny day — the sun was affecting some stuff — for us to play great defense was the biggest piece of the day for us,” Lemonis said.

Although IU (12-4) experienced lukewarm results during last week’s four-game swing to open the home portion of its schedule, Wednesday’s performance against the winless Leathernecks (0-12) went exactly as the Hoosiers hoped.

That was particularly the case in the field, where IU struggled at times last week.

It started with a great throw by left fielder Matt Gorski, who nailed Western Illinois leadoff man Steve McShane at the plate to end the first inning. McShane began the game with a double, but got a little too aggressive after making it to third on a sacrifice bunt.

When Gorski caught a fly ball in shallow left field for the second out, McShane took off for home only to be thrown out by several feet.

“I was just trying to hit the cutoff, and then I was like, ‘I don’t know where he’s going,'” Gorski said. “But, it was fine.”

That play set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.

In the third inning, centerfielder Logan Kaletha ran into left centerfield to make a diving catch for the second out.

In the fourth, second baseman Justin Walker completed an over-the-shoulder catch in shallow right field.

In the fifth, Logan Sowers sprinted into the right field corner to make an athletic catch for the second out of the inning.

And in the sixth, shortstop Jeremy Houston dove to snag a dribbler up the middle, flipping it to Walker, who helped turn an inning-ending double play.

“It was awesome,” Gorski said. “We’d been kind of struggling defensively a little bit. We got after it at practice the other day, so it was good to see it pay off.”

At the plate, Indiana pounced on some sub-par Summit League pitching.

Each member of IU’s starting lineup reached base at least once, as the Hoosiers pounded 12 hits and worked 10 walks. Gorski stretched his hitting streak to nine games, while Kaletha and Matt Lloyd extended their reached-base streaks to 14 and 12 games, respectively.

Luke Miller also smacked a solo home run and backup catcher Wyatt Cross drove in three runs to lead the Hoosier effort.

All nine Indiana batters went to the plate during a nearly-half hour bottom of the first inning that sent the Hoosiers on their way. They plated four runs in the frame, largely thanks to some wild Leatherneck pitching.

After Gorski’s RBI sacrifice fly put IU on the board, Western Illinois starter Jimmy Perkins walked Cross with the bases loaded, then plunked Houston to force in another run. Houston came around to score on a passed ball with two outs.

On the other side, Indiana’s young midweek pitchers were much steadier.

Working on a pitch count, freshman starter Connor Manous picked up the win after tossing four scoreless innings. Junior Tim Herrin and freshmen Austin Long, Grant Sloan and Nick Eaton also got work, with Western Illinois plating its only run on a seventh-inning RBI single off Long.

“Man, I thought Grant Sloan was one of the better ones we had out there,” Lemonis said. “He came in and pounded the zone. Nick Eaton at the end there was really good too. And good to have Timmy back out there too.”