May 19, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -
Indiana Baseball closed the curtain on Sembower Field in grand fashion, completing a weekend sweep over Ohio State and clinching the No. 2 seed for the Big Ten Tournament. The Hoosiers (30-26, 16-8 Big Ten) won their final four homes games ever at Sembower Field, the baseball program's home since 1951.
The Big Ten's hottest team has won 12 of its last 15 games overall, including a 10-2 conference record during the second half of the Big Ten schedule. Indiana sat at 6-6 four weeks ago, but finished the season with a 16-8 conference mark to earn a first-round bye and the second seed.
It was a memorable "Senior Day" for Chad Martin on Saturday. The Lexington, Ky., native delivered a quality start on national television in his final home game. Martin went 6.2 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out a half dozen Buckeyes. He has mirrored the surging Hoosiers' success in the last month of the season; posting a 3.19 ERA in his last five starts since being reinserted back into the weekend rotation. Martin has lasted at least five innings in each of those efforts, including a combined 15 frames in his last two outings.
Jonny Hoffman took care of the rest, manning the hill for the final two and a third innings. Indiana's top option out of the pen has made 25 appearances thus far this season, already ranking as the fifth most in school history. He is currently tied with Jay Boddicker's 25 appearances in 1988. The all-time school record for appearances in a single season is Chris Squires' 31 trips to the bump in 2010.
The Hoosiers received good news just a few minutes before first pitch; Michigan State's win over Penn State had clinched the No. 2 seed for IU and thus Saturday's outcome had no bearing on Indiana's postseason schedule. Ohio State then took a 2-0 lead right away, and one might assume the Hoosiers would pack it in for the day. Not so, however, as Indiana battled back and posted a pair of runs in both the sixth and eighth innings to keep the momentum going into Columbus next week for the conference tournament.
Ohio State starter John Kuchno was nearly untouchable early on, cruising through the first five innings in just 47 pitches. A one-out walk to Kyle Schwarber
in the bottom of the sixth cracked the door open just enough though. Sam Travis
followed with a single and the bases became jammed after another free pass was issued. Schwarber later scored on a passed ball and Dillon Dooney
drove in Travis for Indiana's tying tally.
The Buckeyes came right back in the next half inning, putting two aboard in the top of the seventh. Head Coach Tracy Smith then made the call to his bullpen, bringing in Hoffman. With two-on, two-out in a 2-2 ballgame, Hoffman coincidentally needed just two pitches to induce a threat-extinguishing groundball. He kept it coming in the eighth, needing only seven tosses to retire the Buckeyes. Micah Johnson provided an assist on the third out, ranging deep in the hole to corral a chopper and firing to first to nail the runner.
Travis started trotting to first in the home half, thinking he had drawn a walk on a 3-1 pitch. The home plate umpire disagreed and forced Travis back to the batter's box. It proved to be a blessing when Travis ripped the very next offering down the line, skipping up off the third base bag. He then scooted up to second as the left fielder bobbled the baseball. Dooney dug in next and notched his second RBI of the day with a single into left. Will Nolden, pinch-running for Travis, executed a picture-perfect slide to score the go-ahead run. The throw from left beat him to the plate, but Nolden slid around the tag and tapped the dish with his left hand to put Indiana on top 3-2. Michael Basil then added on an insurance run by piercing the left side of the infield to score Johnson.
Hoffman sealed the deal wit a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the ninth, but not without some assistance from his defense once again. Trace Knoblauch, taking over at first base after Travis was pinch-ran for, snared a hart-hit liner on a dive to his right for the second out of the inning. Hoffman improved to 7-1 on the year with his 2.1-inning win.
As the second seed, Indiana is slated to play its first Big Ten Tournament game on Thursday (May 24) at approximately 3:35 pm EST. The contest will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network. Stay tuned to IUHoosiers.com this week for all information regarding Indiana's trip to Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio.