IU scores latest comeback win, 4-3

When the Hoosiers reconvened following Friday’s slugfest, they were met with a warning from their coach.

As fun as it was to watch an 18-run offensive explosion, Chris Lemonis knew games like that could produce unintended consequences. So he cautioned his players about riding the high, asking them to leave Friday in the past and focus on a tougher pitching matchup against Northern Illinois on Saturday.

Consider that message received.

No. 18 Indiana overcame an ugly defensive spell in the top of the eighth, using back-to-back home runs from Luke Miller and Logan Sowers to clip the Huskies, 4-3, on an overcast afternoon at Bart Kaufman Field.

A deep pitching staff and potent lineup are among the top attributes of this Indiana team.

Another reason to believe in this bunch is its mental toughness. The Hoosiers (14-4) proved yet again that they’re never out of it, rebounding from Northern Illinois’ two-run top of the eighth to win it.

It’s the seventh time this season Indiana has won a game after having trailed or been tied in the seventh inning or later, joining similar victories over South Alabama, Coastal Carolina, Rutgers, San Diego and Pacific (twice).

“I knew we’d have to compete,” Lemonis said. “It’s baseball. The day before doesn’t matter. They had to come out and compete. I thought we played pretty well besides defensively in the eighth.”

That inning began with back-to-back NIU singles that put runners on the corners before second baseman Colby Stratten booted a ground ball that scored Brad Wood. Error or not, Wood was likely to score on the grounder to the right side, but the gaffe also cost IU a chance to turn a double play.

Five pitches later, the Huskies (4-13) took a 3-2 lead on an infield single that IU shortstop Jeremy Houston struggled to reach.

Until that point, Hoosier batters had struggled to replicate their performance from the previous night, settling for a pair of RBI groundouts from Elijah Dunham as their only offensive production.

It was a pitching duel between Northern Illinois starter Tanner Foster and IU’s Pauly Milto, who struck out seven in 5 2/3 innings and saw NIU’s only run score on a fourth-inning double steal.

Foster also pitched a great game, allowing only four hits and two walks, with seven strikeouts in seven innings.

“He just competed really well,” Sowers said. “He had his (breaking ball) and his fastball was moving quite a bit, actually. He kept up his (velocity) the whole game, which was kind of surprising. He was throwing up 90 and 91 (miles per hour) in the later innings. He’s a good ballplayer.”

But Foster couldn’t go the distance.

Once IU was able to get into Northern Illinois’ bullpen, it did its damage.

Miller struck first, jumping on a 1-2 slider for a two-out solo shot to left field. Sowers followed with a blast to right, pumping his fist in celebration as his home run trot approached second base.

Ballgame all but over.

“It was crazy,” Sowers said. “They scored some runs, then we came back in the eighth and tacked a couple more on. It was an exciting finish to the game.”

And the latest example of a team that is able to produce when it needs runs the most.

“We’ve had to do that a couple times,” Lemonis said. “Some of those games down in Myrtle Beach we won at the very end of the game. I give the guys a lot of credit. That comes with being an older team, too.”