May 24, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio -
Indiana Baseball (31-26) opened the Big Ten Tournament in thrilling fashion, plating four runs in the bottom of the eighth to convert a two-run deficit into a two-run lead as the Hoosiers completed a 6-4 come-from-behind victory over Michigan State (36-20).
Michael Basil's two-run double to deep right center lifted IU past the Spartans in the bottom of the eighth. A gutty performance from starter Joey DeNato, multiple clutch hits and a roller-coaster final frame from Jonny Hoffman combined to secure Indiana's triumph.
The Cream and Crimson are winners of 13 of their last 16 overall, 11 of 13 conference contests and seven straight. Hoffman was been a massive part of the Hoosiers' Big Ten success, accounting for either the win or the save in 10 of 17 B1G victories this season.
DeNato needed just three pitches to retire the first two batters of the ballgame before issuing a two-out walk. He quickly erased that mishap though, pegging the runner at first for his fifth pick-off on the year.
He wasn't so fortunate in the subsequent inning, however, when another two-out walk was followed by a homer to put the Spartans on top, 2-0. Back-to-back jacks then made it a 3-0 advantage for Michigan State.
Kyle Schwarber broke up the no-no in the bottom of the fourth, smoking a single through the right side to get the inning started. His `bash brother' counterpart, Sam Travis, followed with a nice piece of hitting. Travis slapped a two-strike double into the right field corner to place a pair of Hoosiers in scoring position with no outs. Micah Johnson made it three consecutive IU hits with an opposite-field single to push Schwarber across the dish. After a hard-luck out on a liner from Dillon Dooney, Basil clubbed a picture-perfect sac fly for his first of two run-scoring hits on the day; pulling IU within one run at 3-2.
DeNato was the victim of some tough luck in the fifth, watching a trio of ground balls find their way for hits. He did contribute a wild pitch to a `Sparty' tally though and Indiana found themselves in a two-run hole all way until the eighth inning.
Justin Cureton led-off the Hoosier rally by doubling to left center. Schwarber was up next and blasted a pitch which would leave the park on most days but was engulfed by the winds blowing in from right. Despite the ultimate result of a fly out, it was an effective at-bat nonetheless as Cureton scooted over to third. Two pitches later, Travis ripped a run-scoring single into left to cut the deficit to a lone run and chasing MSU starter Andrew Wascak off the mound. Johnson then kept the hit parade coming by chopping a bouncer through the infield for this third hit of the day. The new Spartan pitcher came in with a quick strikeout to set the stage for Basil. Indiana's shortstop shined in the big moment, annihilating a go-ahead double to deep right center. Basil eventually came around for an insurance run when Dustin DeMuth's hard-hit grounder rolled under the leaping feet of Basil, blinding itself from the view of the shortstop momentarily, and sneaking into left field.
The top of the ninth was a rocky one. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with no outs for Michigan State. Hoffman locked it down from there, retiring the next three Spartans to elevate Indiana into the winner's bracket finals Friday night. The Hoosiers will take on No. 1 seed, nationally-ranked and intra-state foe Purdue in the Friday night showdown. First pitch is slated for 7:05 pm and will be aired on the Big Ten Network.