Ugly effort dooms IU to 9-8 extra-inning loss to Kent State

Indiana’s eight-game winning streak ended in the ugliest way.

Six errors, two wild pitches, one balk and a batter hit with the bases loaded.

It all added up to a 9-8 loss to Kent State in 12 innings on Wednesday at Bart Kaufman Field. The gaffes undercut a pair of late-game comeback efforts from the Hoosiers, who forced extra innings with back-to-back home runs from Matt Lloyd and Elijah Dunham in the eighth inning, then kept the game alive with a two-run homer from Wyatt Cross in the bottom of the 11th.

Ultimately, the Hoosiers’ pursuit of a ninth straight victory came undone through its sloppiness in the field and on the mound.

“We really didn’t do anything well. Literally anything,” IU coach Jeff Mercer said. “We had 16 free bases. We had six errors, by my last count. We had terrible approaches offensively and we had poor baserunning. You add that together and it’s really a minor miracle that we were in the ballgame into the ninth, 10th, 11th inning. Really, just some heroics based on the ability for us to have some talented players who can do some special things in situations. We did literally nothing fundamentally right.”

Indeed it was ugly early for Indiana (15-9). And early late.

Only four of the nine runs allowed by Indiana pitchers were earned, but even the Hoosier hurlers had a hard time helping their own cause.

Kent State (10-13) never trailed after taking a four-run lead in the top of the fourth. The inning started with a fielding gaffe at shortstop by Jeremy Houston that was quickly followed by an error by IU starter Cam Beauchamp, who couldn’t cleanly field a one-out slow roller that scooted through his legs. The Golden Flashes took a 4-0 lead on a two-run double to left-centerfield by Cam Touchette.

Kent State added runs in both the seventh and eighth innings, taking advantage of a bobbled grounder by Lloyd at first and a rough outing for reliever Cal Krueger. A two-out walk came back to hurt Krueger, who saw Touchette steal second and round third on a single up the middle by leadoff man Justin Kirby in the eighth.

After one-out homers by Lloyd and Dunham in the bottom half sent the game to extras, the Hoosiers hurt themselves again in the 11th. Left-handed reliever Braden Scott put two on with no outs on a walk and a hit batsman, then sent both runners into scoring position on a balk. Eighth-place hitter Kevin Dobos put Kent State back in front on an RBI single to left, then Scott plunked Touchette to force in another run and give the Golden Flashes an 8-6 lead.

Cross’ two-run shot in the bottom of the inning gave Indiana another opportunity to save itself.

But that didn’t happen. The comedy of errors wasn’t quite finished.

Reliever Austin Long issued back-to-back walks in the 12th, Cross allowed a passed ball, then Long threw a wild pitch that allowed Pavin Parks to score the eventual winning run.

“We have to find more reliable relief in the middle innings,” Mercer said. “A couple guys did really well. I thought Gabe Bierman was good. Grant Sloan was good. Matt Lloyd did a nice job. The rest of them missing signs and not throwing strikes and not executing — we don’t have a choice but to refocus and get back to work.”

Indiana cranked out 11 hits, including two each by Dunham, Tyler Van Pelt and Cole Barr, who delivered IU’s first hit of the day on a solo home run in the bottom of the second.

Although the Hoosiers’ four home runs helped keep them within workable margins, their situational hitting was another area that let them down. IU went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position, put the lead off man on base only three times and struck out 15 times.

A three-game weekend series at Maryland begins on Friday at 6:30 p.m.

“It was poor all the way around, in all facets, on all sides of the ball,” Mercer said. “Offensively, in the mound, defensively, our baserunning, it was poor in every facet of the game.”