IU pushes past Pacific, 4-2

Matt Lloyd’s eighth-inning ground ball felt like too many others that Indiana watched develop into easy double plays this weekend against Pacific.

But this one, smacked to the right side with no outs in a tie game, was different.

Tigers second baseman Kevin Sandri, instead of cleanly fielding the grounder, booted it to set the stage for Logan Sowers. The Indiana senior lined an RBI double down the left field line on the very next pitch, pushing the Hoosiers to a 4-2 win over Pacific and a series victory on a chilly Sunday afternoon at Bart Kaufman Field.

For much of this weekend’s series, and especially Sunday, Indiana (11-4) seemed plagued by double-play balls and so-so situational hitting.

The Hoosiers hit into three double plays in the first four innings on Sunday — seven on the weekend — and, for a moment, Lloyd’s chopper to second base in the eighth inning appeared to be double play No. 8.

With leadoff man Logan Kaletha on first base and no outs in the 2-2 game, Indiana coach Chris Lemonis considered asking Lloyd to bunt. But he didn’t want to take the bat away from one of his most lethal hitters.

“I debated,” Lemonis said. “I’m just not a fan of bunting. Especially when we can steal and it’s one of our better power hitters. But it’s typical. You know, the game plays you that way, sometimes.

“Pacific, I give them a lot of credit. They played hard all week. I felt like we hit a lot of double-play balls, but also (some hard-hit balls). … They just didn’t let us have anything. It was a pretty stressful week.”

But thanks to some outstanding pitching and an excellent showing from Sowers in Sunday’s series finale against the Tigers (7-10), the Hoosiers were able to relieve some of that stress.

Sowers, who had been batting cleanup all season until shifting to the three hole on Saturday, finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs and three doubles.

Sowers’ third-inning double to the left field gap plated Kaletha and Lloyd to give IU an early 2-1 advantage, while his eighth-inning double down the left field line proved to be the winning swing. He later scored an insurance run on Luke Miller’s sacrifice fly to right field.

With Miller, IU’s usual third-place hitter, mired in a 2-for-33 funk across his past eight games, Lemonis rearranged his lineup this weekend. That pushed Sowers into the No. 3 spot, where he’s produced five RBIs in his two games there.

“It’s always nice getting RBIs,” Sowers said.

Especially for an IU team that has struggled to get them since opening the home portion of its schedule.

Across their first four games at Bart Kaufman Field this season, the Hoosiers are hitting merely .133 (6-for-45) with runners in scoring position. Double plays and missed opportunities have provided familiar feelings of frustration.

“We haven’t had a lot of offensive production this week, all week,” Lemonis said. “(Sowers’) couple of big swings really helped. Helps you breathe a little bit.”

Hoosier hurlers surely appreciated Sowers’ efforts Sunday.

Four pitchers combined to hold off the Tigers, beginning with Tommy Sommer’s second start of the season.

The freshman left-hander, who is the son of former IU goalkeeper Juergen Sommer, offered four solid innings, allowing four hits, including a first-inning RBI double on a ball left over the plate.

Sommer struck out four and walked one, while throwing 38 of his 56 pitches for strikes. He may have gone longer, if not for reaching his pitch count.

“We have a lot of faith in our freshmen,” Sowers said. “We got some guys who are starting as freshmen. Tommy started today and pitched great. He kind of reminds me of a younger Kyle Hart, a little bit. He has that feel up there. I think he’s going to be a great pitcher if he pounds the zone like he did today.”

Cameron Beauchamp, Brian Hobbie and Cal Krueger combined to toss the final five innings, with Pacific scoring its only other run on a sixth-inning throwing error by Miller. The IU third baseman made a great stab on a ball hit to his left, but Miller’s throw pulled Lloyd off the bag at first.

Later, Krueger found himself in a jam with runners on the corners and one out in the eighth. But he notched a strikeout and induced a grounder to shortstop to escape the inning.

“I think we pitched well across the board,” Lemonis said. “Cam Beauchamp came in and did a real nice job, showed good stuff. Cal, besides the wild pitch to start it, did real well, too. He’s just learning to be a closer a little bit. He’s got a real live arm and he just likes to do a little too much with it sometimes, but to be able to relax (and get that strikeout) was huge for him.”

That the Hoosiers scratched out the win and claimed the series victory was pretty important, too.

“Pitching and defense shows up every day,” Lemonis said. “That’s why I was a little frustrated Friday night. I felt we could have still squeaked it out, not playing our best baseball. But we did a nice job here (today), just being able to contain them.”


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