IU lets one get away in 4-2 loss to Purdue

When it was all over and the damage had been done, Chris Lemonis approached his shortstop and tried to lift his spirits.

Moments earlier, during a ninth-inning jam, Indiana freshman Justin Walker booted a two-out grounder that allowed two runs to score and helped Purdue to a 4-2 victory over No. 16 IU at Bart Kaufman Field.

Walker, a Lafayette native who has otherwise played great defense since taking over the starting shortstop job last weekend, felt guilty about his gaffe. That’s when, after the game, Lemonis stepped in.

“It’s an error,” Lemonis said. “I grabbed him after the game and (said) just be ready to go tomorrow.”

That’s a message Lemonis relayed to the rest of his players, too.

Through the first half of the season, Indiana (20-6, 1-2) has proved adept at bouncing back. On the other hand, it hasn’t faced many scenarios like Friday, when late-inning self-destruction cost it a shot at a conference win.

Now, IU’s veteran ball club will need to prove itself capable of flushing a disappointing result when the series resumes Saturday at 2:05 p.m.

“We’re a good baseball team,” Lemonis said. “We haven’t faced a lot of adversity, so it’ll be fun to see how we come out and play (Saturday). It would be a sign of a good team to come out and play well.”

For the most part, the Hoosiers played pretty well on Friday. They received another fine start from Jonathan Stiever and played strong defense, including a couple great plays by Walker early in the contest.

Although IU only produced five hits, the Hoosiers watched a few more hard-hit balls die in the cold conditions.

But it all unraveled for Indiana in the ninth inning, beginning on the mound.

With one out and an 0-2 count on Purdue seventh-place hitter Evan Warden, IU reliever Cal Krueger tossed four consecutive balls to put him on base. After striking out Charlie Nasuti for the second out, Krueger plunked pinch hitter Bryce Bonner on the second pitch of the at-bat.

Add a five-pitch walk to Harry Shipley, and the bases were loaded.

It was an uncharacteristically wild outing for Krueger, who functioned as one of IU’s most reliable relievers during the first half of the season. It added tension to the inning, as Walker followed with his error, allowing the Boilermakers to escape with their first ever win at Bart Kaufman Field.

“He’s one of the better closers out there,” Lemonis said. “I don’t know what got into him today. Maybe just a little excited.

“… Cal’s been our rock. He’s been one of the keys to our team all year. To lose it there for a couple hitters is not normal for Cal. I expect he’ll be right back out there this weekend and pitch well.”

Walker helped the Hoosiers to an early lead in the third inning when his high one-out chop back to the mound floated in the air long enough for Scotty Bradley to sprint home.

Purdue (15-10, 4-0) jumped in front an inning later on Jacson McGown’s towering two-run shot to right filed gave the Boilers a 2-1 lead. It was one of the few mistakes of the day by Stiever, who scattered seven hits across eight innings, striking out seven, walking one and throwing 78 of his 105 pitches for strikes.

“I was able to get ahead, for the most part,” Stiever said. “When I did have any issues, it was usually just falling behind. It was staying ahead and kind of working against the wind that played to my benefit today.”

The Hoosiers didn’t trail for long, answering in the fifth with Matt Gorski’s aggressive baserunning. After working a leadoff walk and moving station to station, Gorski dared Purdue to throw home after second baseman Tyler Powers caught Walker’s liner in shallow right field for the first out.

Gorski took off, Powers seemed to hesitate before making his throw and the IU sophomore slid under the tag to tie the game at 2-all.

“I was surprised,” Lemonis said. “I wasn’t happy until the umpire said safe, either. He’s an exciting player and he does a lot of good things.”

For a moment that inning, things worked in Indiana’s favor. It didn’t last.

After two-out walks to Logan Kaletha and Matt Lloyd loaded the bases, the Hoosiers had their opportunity to take the lead. But Luke Miller struck out looking on a borderline pitch to end the frame.

IU, which went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, also stranded a runner on second in the eighth when Gorksi and pinch hitter Drew Ashley popped up to end the inning.

Moments later, IU’s bid for a 10th consecutive win in Bloomington fell apart.

Now, shaking off a bad final inning is Indiana’s immediate objective Saturday.

“We’ve bounced back before so hopefully they’ll come out and play well,” Lemonis said. “But they’ve got to be ready to go because Purdue is gonna come out and give us a heck of a game.”