IU’s season ends in 3-2 regional final loss to Texas

Indiana messed with Texas, but it wasn’t going anywhere without a fight.

Andrew Saalfrank more than held his own in a pitcher’s duel with Texas’ Blair Henley, turning in an outstanding starting effort for IU.

But the second-seeded Hoosiers couldn’t take advantage of a bases-loaded, one-out scenario in the ninth, falling to Henley and the top-seeded Longhorns, 3-2, in Sunday night’s final round of the Austin Regional.

Indiana ends its season with a 40-19 record, having qualified for its fifth NCAA Tournament in six years. But the Hoosiers are still trying to make the Super Regional round for the first time under coach Chris Lemonis.

IU, which eliminated Texas A&M with a 9-7 win earlier Sunday, would’ve needed two victories over Texas to get there this year. For a good portion of the nightcap, Indiana made its case for advancing.

An entertaining contest culminated with a ninth-inning showdown. After Ryan Fineman opened the frame with a leadoff single and Scotty Bradley was hit by a pitch, Jeremy Houston worked a one-out walk to load the bases.

But IU couldn’t take advantage of the situation, with Sam Crail and Matt Lloyd striking out to end the game — and the season.

After throwing 23 pitches in relief of Jonathan Stiever on Friday night, Saalfrank turned around and authored the best start of his young career.

Using a deep, looping curveball, the sophomore had Longhorn hitters guessing all night. Saalfrank allowed only two runs on six hits, striking out eight across 5 1/3 strong innings.

Saalfrank traded a run for two outs in the top of the second, when Masen Hibbeler scored in the middle of a 6-4-3 double play turned by the Hoosiers. Saalfrank locked in from there, ending the second inning with the first of five consecutive strikeouts.

He struck out Kody Clemens, the Big 12 Player of the Year and son of seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, on two occasions Sunday. At one point, he retired seven Longhorns in a row.

Hoosier hitters supported Saalfrank’s cause in the bottom of the third, plating two runs against Henley to take a 2-1 lead.

Houston’s one-out liner to left dropped in and allowed Bradley to score, before a beautiful piece of hitting by Luke Miller put IU in front.

Miller fouled off three straight pitches, before sending a ball back up the middle on a run-scoring single that scored Houston.

Indiana finished with nine hits, including three from Miller and two from Bradley.

Henley worked 7 1/3 innings, scattering six hits with eight strikeouts.

After striking out Clemens to start the sixth, Saalfrank ran out of gas. He left a 3-1 fastball over the plate for Zach Zubia, who launched the pitch over the centerfield fence. Saalfrank lasted two more batters before giving way to fellow southpaw Tommy Sommer.

The freshman escaped the sixth, but lost the lead in the seventh when Clemens doubled down the right field line, scoring David Hamilton from first base.

If not for a short, half-wall in left field, Indiana would have tied the game in the bottom of the eighth.

With Miller on first, Gorski lined a ball that bounced over the wall in left field. If not for the ground rule double, Miller almost certainly would have scored.

Instead, the inning ended two pitches later when third baseman Ryan Reynolds made a great play on a dribbler off the bat of Logan Sowers. Reynolds, who was playing back, charged to scoop it, then made a strong throw to first to catch Sowers for the third out.

Indiana had enough left for one more rally in the ninth, but fell just short of finding the hit it needed to stay alive.

Earlier Sunday, in the elimination game against Texas A&M, Indiana didn’t score a single run after the top of the first.

It turned out additional run support wasn’t needed.

A nine-run first inning propelled the Hoosiers to their 9-7 victory over the third-seeded Aggies.

The first-inning eruption set a season high for most runs scored in a frame. The Hoosiers plated the nine runs on eight hits, chasing Aggies starter Kaylor Chafin after only one out.

Even that out produced a run.

“Man, thank God for the first inning for us,” IU coach Chris Lemonis said. “We were able to score nine and hang on the rest of the way. A great effort by Texas A&M and it was tight all the way to the finish. But, sometimes we preach to our guys you can win it in the first inning and we were able to do that today.”

Each of IU’s first five batters reached base, with Luke Miller, Matt Gorski and Logan Sowers stringing together three consecutive RBI singles. Ryan Fineman followed by driving in Gorski on a sacrifice fly before Scotty Bradley’s two-run homer made it a 6-0 Hoosier advantage.

Three batters later, Matt Lloyd delivered IU’s second home run of the inning, a three-run shot to left field.

Lloyd and Miller each finished 3-for-4 for Indiana.

As hot as the Hoosiers started Sunday’s action, Texas A&M spent the rest of the afternoon chipping away at IU’s big lead.

The Aggies out-hit the Hoosiers, 17-14, putting a scare into Indiana late in the contest. Indiana starter Cameron Beauchamp yielded 10 hits and five earned runs in 4 2/3 innings.

Texas A&M got two runs back in the bottom of the first on Chris Andritsos’ ground rule double before George Janca added a run-scoring single in the second.

The Aggies didn’t score again until the fifth, when Michael Helman doubled in a run and later scored himself on a sacrifice fly by Andritsos. Logan Foster’s RBI single off Tim Herrin in the seventh cut IU’s lead to three runs.

Texas A&M threatened in the eighth, leading Lloyd to move from first base to the mound. He took the ball with two outs and runners on first and second, working out of the jam by inducing a groundout to shortstop to end the threat.

The Aggies brought the winning run to the plate in the ninth after Will Frizzell’s one-out RBI single to left. But with runners on first and second, Allonte Wingate grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the game.

“Pretty good day by Matt Lloyd and I was worried with all the heat and everything,” Lemonis said. “We talked about bringing him in in the eighth and just bringing Timmy (Herrin) back out there and using him in the jam.”