Sowers swings Hoosiers to Senior Day sweep of Terps

Nevermind the strikeout. The crowd clapped anyway.

That’s because it was Logan Sowers’ final at-bat, and on a day when he smashed two home runs, finished 4-for-5 and closed the Bart Kaufman Field portion of IU career in style, he more than earned it.

So as he turned and walked back to the dugout after swinging through the ninth pitch of his seventh-inning at-bat, Sowers was met with hearty applause.

Those in Indiana’s dugout took notice.

“I said in the dugout, ‘Man, you’ve struck out a lot here. That was the first time you got an ovation for it,'” IU coach Chris Lemonis said with a smile. “But what great fans we have to honor him in that way and know it’s probably the last time he’s hitting here. So it was pretty cool.”

Cool moment and an even sweeter final result for the Hoosiers, who made Saturday’s 13-3 win over Maryland a Senior Day to remember.

Saturday clinched a series sweep for IU (37-15, 14-9), which will enter next week’s Big Ten Tournament in Omaha as the No. 5 seed against No. 4 Illinois on Wednesday night.

But first, Indiana had a day to salute its seven seniors — Sowers, Brian Hobbie, Chris Lowe, Laren Eustace, B.J. Sabol, Kade Kryzsko and Colby Stratten — the bulk of whom appeared in Saturday’s game.

Sowers seized the day, putting Indiana on the board with a majestic three-run homer in the bottom of the first. The ball left Sowers’ bat at 111 miles per hour, traveling 413 feet and well over the left field fence.

Sowers, who now has nine homers on the year, later added a solo home run to right field in the fifth and finished with a run-scoring single in the sixth.

“I always get into these spurts where I see the ball real well and I hit for some nice power,” Sowers said. “I really haven’t done that a whole lot this year, I feel like, regarding the power. You know, it’s a good time to start doing it.

“And (it’s just) getting into good counts, and not missing those pitches when you get in the good counts. I think I fouled off too many balls when I was in positive counts this year, when I was just missing by a little bit. Lately, I haven’t been doing that.”

Neither have his teammates.

The Hoosiers pounded 15 hits and once again received an outpouring of production from the middle of their order.

Across the three-game sweep of Maryland (24-30, 9-14), IU’s Nos. 3-5 hitters — Matt Gorski, Logan Sowers and Luke Miller — combined to go 16-for-34 with 16 RBIs, six home runs, a triple, a double and 13 runs scored.

Together, Sowers and Miller combined to hit 13-for-24 in the three wins against the Terrapins with five homers and 14 RBIs.

Miller finished 3-for-4 with an RBI double in Saturday’s bottom of the third.

“I think some of our hitters feel like we’re back and we’re clicking,” Lemonis said. “I’ve said it all year, but right now is probably some of the best baseball we’re playing. Even early on when we were winning, we still weren’t totally clicking. When you got Sowers, Miller and Lloyd and those guys hitting, you’ve got a chance. And Jeremy Houston is playing defense at a level that he hasn’t played in his career, and he’s been a pretty good player for us.”

And as well as Sowers played Saturday, it was the other Logan that set the initial tone for the Hoosiers.

Logan Kaletha made a highlight-reel catch in dead centerfield to end the top of the first. Kaletha retreated to the wall, jumped perhaps a moment too soon but still made the grab as he crashed into the fence.

Sprawled on the field, Kaletha held up his glove to signal the out.

“It was great,” Lemonis said. “Two weeks ago, poor kid was struggling. You just keep fighting through the game. It was nice to see for Logan. He’s playing well right now.”

The Hoosiers plated four runs during the bottom of the fifth. After Sowers’ solo home run, Scott Bradley followed with an RBI double, Houston added a run-scoring single and backup catcher Wyatt Cross drove him in on a double to centerfield.

Cross also scored on a wild pitch in the second, Bradley finished 2-for-2 with two RBIs, Lowe added a pinch-hit RBI double in the sixth and Kaletha scored on a four-pitch bases-loaded walk in the same frame.

IU’s theatrics at the plate overshadowed an excellent start by Tim Herrin, who held Maryland to three runs — only one earned — on three hits across six innings. He struck out four and walked one, throwing 51 of his 80 pitches for strikes.

A two-out error by second baseman Drew Ashley led to two Maryland runs in the top of the second. Ashley bobbled the ball as he tried to flip it to second for the final out, keeping the inning alive for Taylor Wright, who stroked a two-run single to center five pitches later.

But it was only a minor blip on an otherwise memorable day for Indiana and its seniors.

The senior class holds a special place in Lemonis’ heart, considering how they each started their IU careers at the same time.

In four years, that crew has gone 138-87-2 together. That’s a winning percentage of .615.

And with the postseason set to begin next week, they’d like to add a few more wins before the year is through.

“We’ve been really hot, the last week-and-a-half, two weeks,” Sowers said. “We’re feeling really good. Confidence is a huge thing in baseball. I think, for the most part, everybody on our team is feeling pretty confident.”