Hoosiers come from behind to earn doubleheader sweep

As his batting average dropped and his playing time dwindled, Jeremy Houston tried to keep his confidence.

In this game of frustration and failure, overcoming the personal adversity of a season is the ultimate measure of a player. If this week is any indication, Houston, the Indiana sophomore shortstop, is going to be just fine.

Houston’s two-out, two-run single in the eighth inning of Friday’s doubleheader nightcap helped the No. 16 Hoosiers secure a doubleheader sweep of Northwestern at Bart Kaufman Field.

IU took the second game, 6-3, after rallying for five runs with two outs in the eighth, beginning with Houston’s base hit to right field. It followed a 12-0 drubbing of the Wildcats in the opener, during which the Hoosiers mashed four home runs, including two from Matt Lloyd.

Altogether, Friday further showcased what makes Indiana (25-6, 5-2) one of the nation’s best — great pitching and defense; a powerful, yet balanced lineup; and a will to deliver in the moments that matter most.

That’s where Houston found himself with two outs and the bases loaded during the bottom of the eighth in Game 2.

Ahead 2-1 in the count, Houston saw a fastball over the middle of the plate and drove it into right field, driving in Matt Gorski and Laren Eustace to tie the game at 3-all.

“It’s all about confidence,” Houston said. “Obviously, I wasn’t having a great season leading up to this, but my team stayed behind me, my coach (stayed behind me). From all the work, I stayed confident going up to the plate and just did it. I tried to hit something hard through the middle of the field. Luckily it went through the right side of the field. Thank God it was a great game tonight.”

As his struggles mounted at the end of March, Houston was benched for freshman shortstop Justin Walker, who has made the most of the playing time afforded to him.

But there was Houston on Friday, supplying what the Hoosiers needed in a critical moment.

It’s been a good week for Houston, beginning with a sterling defensive play that preserved a tie game in the 12th inning of Sunday’s eventual win over Purdue. The good vibes carried into the win over Indiana State on Tuesday, when Houston supplied a two-out, two-run triple as late-game insurance against the Sycamores.

Then, there was Friday and one of Houston’s best moments to date.

“Happy for Jeremy,” IU coach Chris Lemonis said. “It’s been a tough start (of the season) for him. Really good player. And he’s been working on that swing. It’s like the weight of the world is lifted off you when you get hits like that.”

Houston’s game-tying single flipped the lineup and set the stage for Logan Kaletha, who followed with a two-run single that gave Indiana its first lead of the game. Kaletha later capped the scoring when he charged home on Lloyd’s infield single.

Yet again — like so many other games during the first half of IU’s season — the Hoosiers came from behind to earn a win in dramatic fashion.

Indiana has now won 16 of its last 18 games entering Saturday’s scheduled series finale at 2:05 p.m.

“Finally got the hit,” Lemonis said. “And that’s what we talked about. But our team does a great job of just ‘keep competing.’ It’s happened all year long. Turned out to be Jeremy having the big hit there, and then Logan behind him.”

Until that point, the Hoosiers squandered opportunities with runners on base against the last-place Wildcats.

Then, Houston and company cashed in.

Indiana had its way with Northwestern pitching in the opener, collecting 17 hits. Lloyd worked as the primary aggressor, smashing two homers and finishing with four RBIs.

For Lloyd, it was what the Hoosiers have come to expect from him against the Wildcats (9-19, 1-10). In last year’s series opener against Northwestern, Lloyd hit three home runs on the way to becoming National Player of the Week.

“He’d been struggling a little bit,” Lemonis said. “But he played really well against Northwestern last year, was National Player of the Week. Sometimes that’s all you need in this game to get your head right.”

Gorski and Ryan Fineman also supplied home runs in the opener. Both players finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs.

On the mound, Jonathan Stiever and Pauly Milto authored strong starts — the kind of outings that have become the norm for the two Hoosier hurlers.

Stiever tossed seven scoreless innings, scattering eight hits with five strikeouts and one walk. Milto teetered early in his start before locking in over the middle innings. The right-hander worked seven innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

“I thought they were just good,” Milto said. “They really competed. That outing for Jon, early, the wind was blowing out about 20 miles-per-hour. And he just competed. And then Paulie did the same thing, keeping us in the game.”

Milto did so long enough for his teammates to deliver late.

For Houston and the rest, confidence in a pressure situation helped the Hoosiers to their latest win.

“This game, it will knock you down quick,” Houston said, “but have confidence and it’ll bring you back up really fast.”

23 comments

  1. This is a really good baseball team.

    Interestingly, Arizona State is not. Funny how that all worked out.

  2. At different times of the season I really like college baseball. It can be really fun when IU baseball is on the move or even when some of the other in state teams have success (though rather rare). I would like to see IU baseball get a lot of coverage, especially if their success continues to grow. Glass better do his best to take care of what seems to be a pretty aggressive coach who knows what he is doing.

  3. My wife and I were at the NW game. The Hoosiers did not have a good night in the 2nd game scoring runs early on after their leadoff hitter started the game with a HR. Twice they squandered attacks with bases loaded opportunities. But they never quit and never look ruffled.
    Observations:
    Excellent fielders
    Big players
    Young players
    Solid fundamentals
    Fast
    Hit the ball hard
    Pitchers throw strikes
    Coach Lemonis to his credit has this gig aiming high.

  4. After this weekend, perhaps this team will be ranked in the top 12. Is it possible for a team playing north of the Mason Dixon line to be ranked in the top ten?

    1. I don’t think Hoosier Nation understands how special this program is by being able to perform this well and with a fair amount of consistency over the last few years. When you factor in how difficult it is for a northern team weather wise to compete, it is amazing.

  5. Twenty-one players on the 2018 roster are players from the Indiana High Schools, looks like the coaching staff is looking for Indiana talent. When Lemonis was on the staff at U of L, they(UofL) were able to recruit some excellent players from Indiana, that helped the U of L program in their College World Series .

    1. No doubt Lemonis has done an excellent job of recruiting home grown talent. If they keep playing like this there is a good chance of returning to the College World Series. Biggest problem once you get there is the dominance of the warm weather teams. It has been over 40 years since a northern team made it to the College World Series finals and over 50 since a northern team won it all. Talent is talent no matter where it comes from, but the amount of outdoor practice time in the warmer climates makes a huge difference.

      Kind of like the old days in reverse with Indiana basketball. In the winter there wasn’t much to do but stay out in the barn and shoot baskets. If you ever wondered how those backwoods teams could shoot so well, there’s your answer.

        1. I know, but for a northern team just to get back to Omaha for the World Series is a monumental achievement. Some fussed about the Big Ten Baseball Tournament going to Omaha, but actually it may be a blessing. Any extra playing time at TD Ameritrade can’t but help if IU should be fortunate enough to get back to the CWS. That park plays a lot different than most of the parks the college teams see.

      1. Pretty sure Oscar Robertson’s family never owned a barn…

        All this barn imagery BS started with that dumb “Hoosiers” flick about a 1950-something rural/small town team stalling their way to a state title against a far superior city team from Muncie.
        If only the barn would have had a shot clock…but what the hay?
        The Gene Hackman flick forever burns the hokey image of pitchforks and pigs on Indiana hoops completely unrepresentative of the many cities and diversity woven into the lore of Hoosier h.s. basketball.
        Hollywood and the Establishment perpetuating such an image may be the most singular reason many top Indiana recruits still want to leave the state and play elsewhere. We have become the product of a “backwoods” backwardness that many want to escape. To play for Duke, NC, UCLA…proves more sophistication than to stay a “Hoosier” in your revolving barn door.

        Indiana has far more city ballers and we use shovels to clear the courts and driveways when it snows. I knew some kids from high school that played some winters inside a family barn. They sucked….and they smelled.
        During the spring and summer(most summer and fall weather is all one needs for ample practice) is when you perfected your shot …In the winter you played during lunches in the gymnasium…and you attempted to make a team. It’s not that complicated.

        1. Shallow opinion biased by limited experience. But correctly identified as not complicated at all. Hay mow BB was a mainstay of activity for farm boys. More hours were spent with the round ball in the mow during inclement weather of the Fall and Spring than the snow of Winter. I lived it. No movie invented it.

          1. Well HC,
            I don’t think Junior (H4H) has been around long enough to know the earlier days of Indiana BB very well. As the old timers used to say, “he’s still a little wet behind the ears.”
            He means well though, every once in a while he’s is right, just not on this particular thread.

            Have fun with it H4H, got big boy things to go do.

          2. Inclement weather of the fall…? Would that be the leaves dropping faster than your barnyard jumpers?
            I’m sure farm boys played in barns….But it’s a travesty Hollywood could never find the dime to do a movie on a place like Crispus Attucks. There’s more than Chitwood and corn in Indiana….There’s Globetrotters.
            But if you insist on getting your groove on

          3. Your ignorance is not my problem. No one would expect you to know anything about inclement weather on the farm regardless of the season.

          4. Funny how you guys didn’t bring up the often used old-timers’ phrase of a game being a “real barn-burner.”
            It’s my understanding that the phrase originated due to the many hours it would take to sink a bucket in a barn…Rafters would get in the way of jump shots. Playing would go late into the night…Guys would get extremely tired in zero to zero scoreless games. Crows would pass out in frustration. Shots would start to go even more astray…some striking the napping crows. Eventually, very late into the night, a wild shot would do the inevitable caroming off a hand-hewed beam hewed by Uncle Hugh, strike a kerosene lantern too near the hay……and thus become a barn-burner.
            Also, the phrase “He’s on fire!” started in these same barn-burners. It had nothing to do with farmers actually having a decent stroke. Most had very tired arms by the end of their chores and bricked everything in the barn.

  6. South: Higher humidity…often stagnant and unbearable humidity. Summers often sweltering hot and dangerous to be outside. Hot climates along with massive city populations also become smog centers.
    There are also many states in ‘tornado alley’ with far more violent weather possibilities….even into the summer months.

    Our seasonal weather(some of the most beautiful outdoor weather you’ll find in late summer and early fall) is far more an advantage than disadvantage. I also believe the change from winter to summer creates more a passion to get outside. If anything, our wonderful seasonal changes and many warm to cool comfortable months helps Indiana in supplying such an array of great athletes in varied sports.
    We don’t have near the overall population or major population centers as many other parts of the country. We are a relatively small state in square mileage. We produce an incredible amount of top athletes in all sports when assessing the numbers on a per capita basis.

    1. H4H,

      Might want to do some homework before shooting from the hip. Indiana in only in the top ten per capita in basketball. Not in the top ten anywhere else. Top spots for per capita as usual go to either Louisiana or Mississippi depending on who’s research.

  7. I’ve done the homework. You’re wrong. Go back to painting the barn…and do a little reading of your own. Try your hand at Crispus Attucks and the many Globetrotters and the phenomenal high school players from Attucks refused any college recruitment.
    Some of the best high school talent from this state in the “Hoosier” era were the victims of a very backward time in Indiana. Phenomenal talent that was passed on by colleges. Even Robertson(a later class at Attucks) felt such vibes when he didn’t feel welcome in Bloomington.

  8. California: 39.54 million people
    (46 NBA players) Just over 1 NBA player per million population

    Texas: 28.3 million people
    (23 NBA players). Just under1 NBA player per million population.

    New.York: 19.85 million people
    (19 NBA players). Also around 1 per million.

    Indiana: 6.667 million people
    (17 NBA players). Almost 3 NBA players per million population

    Indiana is 17% the population of California…while placing almost 40% their total number of players into the NBA. It’s really quite incredible. We’re less than 25% the population of Texas…while placing almost 75% their total number of players into the NBA.
    No, we’re not a basketball state. And I’m not even sure if these figures are factoring in the growing trend of kids born in Indiana but go to play later h.s. years at academy programs outside of the state.

    Now you want to tell me it’s not criminal when a coach at the largest university named after the state won’t recruit the state?

    1. Yeah, that’s what he just said.

      “Indiana in only in the top ten per capita in basketball. Not in the top ten anywhere else.”

      Back to the books.

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