May 11, 2012
EVANSTON, Ill. -
Indiana's ninth-inning rally came up one run short as IU (24-26, 11-8 Big Ten) fell in the series opener at Northwestern (17-31, 6-16), 4-3. The Wildcats tallied a single run in each of the first four innings and held on for the victory behind a strong performance from starter Francis Brooke on the mound.
The Hoosiers had a stand-out performance on the bump as well, a four-inning scoreless relief outing from Matt Dearden. The Gainesville, Fla., native was clipped for just one hit and two walks through the final four frames of the ballgame; giving his Hoosiers a chance for the comeback.
At the dish, it was Dillon Dooney doing the most damage for Indiana. Dooney raised his season batting average to .320, second-best on the team, after his 3-for-4 day on Friday. He drove in a run early and later scored one following a lead-off double in the top of the ninth.
Northwestern's offense was as consistent as it gets through four innings, posting two or more hits and recording a run in each frame to build a 4-1 lead. Dooney plated Indiana's only early run, dropping a single just inside the right-field line to push across Micah Johnson from second. Johnson reached scoring position by ripping a full-count offering, one-hopping to the wall in left center for a stand-up double.
The Hoosiers manufactured their second tally in the fifth with the help of a sac bunt. Chris Sujka and Will Nolden each connected on singles to put two aboard. Justin Cureton then gave them a ride to second and third with a perfectly-place bunt that was a `bang-bang' play at first away from an infield single. Sujka advanced the final station home when Kyle Schwarber grounded out to the right side.
Dearden emerged from the bullpen in the bottom of the fifth and handed Northwestern their first goose-egg despite inheriting a runner in scoring position. A rocket throw from Dustin DeMuth
at the hot corner resulted in out number three.
Dearden wiggled his way out of another jam in the seventh. A 6-4-3 twin killing erased Norhtwestern's once-promising one-out, base-loaded scenario and the Hoosiers remained within reach at 4-2.
A Wildcat fielding error allowed the speedy Cureton to each in the eighth. NU's Brooke didn't flinch, however, striking out Indiana's 2-3-4 hitters in succession as his pitch count went over 110-plus.
Things got interesting the in the top of the ninth though, beginning with Dooney's lead-off double. A groundball and walk came next, placing Hoosiers on the corners with one out. The next ball in play was a slow roller to the Wildcat second baseman who flipped to the shortstop at second. He dropped the relay toss, but it was ruled to have come out of his glove on the exchange. Thus, rather than having two runners on and one out, the Hoosiers now faced a one-on, two-out situation. Either way, Dooney came into score on the play and Indiana had cut its deficit in half at 4-3. The final out was then recorded on a check-swing appeal down to the first base ump; ruling that Cureton went around for strike three.
At the conclusion of the contest, Indiana sat in a tie with Michigan State (32-16, 11-8 Big Ten) for second place in the conference standings. By night's end, as many as four teams could own a share of that coveted second place slot and the Big Ten Tournament first-round bye that comes with it.
The Cream and Crimson get back to the diamond on Saturday for Game Two, a 2 pm EST (1 pm local) first pitch.