IU’s skid continues with 7-6 loss to Kentucky

It’s not getting any better.

Indiana’s season-worst skid grew by another game Tuesday — and it was clear to see why.

There was bad baserunning, poor situational hitting and a total of 13 runners stranded on base. In a 7-6 loss to No. 21 Kentucky, IU’s frustrations continued to build.

“It’s been like that for two weeks,” Indiana coach Chris Lemonis said. “We just keep losing close games. We’re leaving guys out there and not executing.”

After suffering a weekend sweep at Minnesota, the Hoosiers (31-14) hoped to return home and find much-needed traction. Instead, they dropped their fourth consecutive game and their eighth in their last 10, falling six spots to No. 30 in the RPI in the process.

There are still two weeks for Indiana to find its footing, to fix itself and clean up the repeated mistakes that have torpedoed recent opportunities to secure wins.

Right now, however, IU looks like a team dazed by its recent funk, struggling to get out of its own way.

Consider the two baserunning gaffes that ruined possible, if not likely, scoring opportunities early and late before a season-high crowd of 2,882.

With Kentucky leading 1-0 in the bottom of the third, IU put two runners on with one out when Logan Kaletha got caught drifting off second base as he prematurely entered his secondary lead. Kentucky left-hander Brad Schaenzer twirled and threw to the bag, nabbing Kaletha as he dove back.

The mental error drew the ire of Lemonis, who pulled Kaletha from the game.

“He’s been struggling,” Lemonis said. “Just trying to get a new guy in there and see if we can get some energy out of that position.”

But Lemonis was similarly displeased when Kaletha’s replacement, Sam Crail, committed his own baserunning sin. After working a leadoff walk in the sixth, Crail got caught in between second and third on Matt Lloyd’s single to right field and was easily tagged out on a strong throw back to the infield.

Adding to the frustration of both plays was the fact that Indiana followed with hits in each instance.

Consider them two more chances missed.

“Just poor baseball,” Lemonis said. “We’ve got to do better. We went over it before the game, there’s a lot of pick-offs there, my guy slips and it just gets you at that point.”

Indeed, those mistakes were amplified by IU’s inability to cash in when it did get runners on second and third, as the Hoosiers went merely 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position against the Wildcats (31-17).

“Besides that Saturday game at Minnesota, we’ve been in every game,” Lemonis said. “It’s a one-run, two-run game across the board and we’re just not taking care of business.”

IU’s struggles started on the mound, where left-handed starter Andrew Saalfrank couldn’t get out of the fourth.

Kentucky built a 4-0 lead by the end of that inning, getting to Saalfrank early with Luke Heyer’s two-out RBI double in the top of the first. The Cats plated three more in the fourth, chasing Saalfrank after he threw 10 straight balls to start the frame.

The freshman was charged with three runs after scattering three hits, walking three and striking out three, while throwing only 26 of his 51 pitches for strikes.

“He’s gotta throw strikes,” Lemonis said. “You can’t throw 10 balls in a row to start an inning. You’ve gotta throw more strikes.”

Reliever Cal Krueger was charged with Kentucky’s fourth run, yielding a run-scoring double to Trey Dawson to cap the inning.

Indiana showed some life in the bottom of the fourth, using a sac fly by Drew Ashley and the speed of Jeremy Houston to cut the Cats’ lead in half.

Houston reached on a bang-bang play at first base, hustling down the base path after chopping a ball to second. At the same time, Luke Miller charged from second to home, sliding around a tag at the plate to score IU’s second run.

Kentucky briefly got both runs back in the fifth, when Heyer tagged Krueger for a two-run homer to left field. But the Hoosiers had an answer, and cut their deficit to one run with a three-run bottom half.

Matt Gorski, who finished 2-for-5, continued his recent hot stretch with an RBI single, followed by a two-run homer from Ryan Fineman, who found some relief after enduing a mini slump over the weekend at Minnesota.

As IU cut its deficit to 6-5 across the middle innings, lefty Tommy Sommer stabilized things on the mound. Sommer worked a strong 2 2/3 inning appearance, striking out four and keeping Kentucky off the board.

The teams traded solo home runs in the ninth, long-balls from Kentucky leadoff man Tristan Pompey and Ashley for IU.

But in a one-run game, IU left frustrated with its baserunning, stranded runners and the scoring opportunities that continue to go for naught.

“We’ve played close ones all year long,” Lemonis said. “It’s time for us to push through the door and start playing good baseball.”

5 comments

  1. IU baseball seemed to be hot for a while this season. Next best thing is to have a good solid season and a rebound.

  2. In the early season I was quite encouraged with the wins over a lot of respected warm weather teams. Believed a return trip to Omaha could be possible. With the amount of B1G losses stacking up (albeit mostly on the road), not so sure now. We will see how things shake out in the B1G tournament, may get back on the right track, but I am beginning to doubt it. An Omaha bound team should not be getting swept by other B1G teams even if on the road. B1G like most northern conferences is not very good at baseball overall.

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