SHREVEPORT, La. - Behind a two-run ninth-inning rally, the Indiana baseball team defeated Centenary, 4-3, in a well-played pitchers duel at the Gents Classic on Friday evening. The win puts the Hoosiers at 5-1 on the season and 2-0 at the Classic, as the Gents fall to 4-6 overall and 0-1 at the Classic. Centenary was coming off a 6-1 victory over No. 3 LSU on Wednesday night.
Centenary held a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth when the Cream and Crimson plated the go-ahead runs. Senior Corby Heckman led the inning off with a double, and sophomore Josh Richardson followed with a base hit to left field. Gents' closer Jonathan Christian struck out senior Kurt Weigle before freshman Tyler Cox laced a single to left center to score Heckman and tie the game at 3-3.
Junior Reggie Watson then walked to load the bases for junior Jay Brant. Christian got Brant to foul out to first and appeared to escape the inning as Kemp hit a ground ball to shortstop David Kiefer. However, Kiefer dropped the ball, allowing Richardson to cross with the game-winning run.
Right-hander Steve Nielsen came in and pitched a perfect ninth inning to pick up his second career save. The senior has tossed six scoreless and hitless innings of relief on the season. Senior Brian Lortz got the start and threw five solid innings, keeping the Hoosiers in the game. The senior allowed three runs on five hits, striking out six and walking two.
Freshman Chris McCombs relieved Lortz and pitched three innings of scoreless baseball to claim his first career win. The Louisville, Ky., native gave up one hit with two strikeouts and no walks. McCombs, Lortz and Nielsen did not allow a run in the final six innings, holding the Gents to two hits in the span.
Centenary jumped on the board with single tallies in the first, second and third innings, but the Cream and Crimson bounced back with one of their own in the fourth. Junior Ryan Parker hit his first home run of the season into the left field corner to make it 3-1.
After Lortz retired the Gents in order in the bottom half of the fourth, the Hoosiers looked poised to continue their comeback in the fifth. Cox sliced a one-out triple into the right field corner, however, he strayed too far off third base on a pitch in the dirt during Watson's at-bat and Centenary catcher Justin Carr picked him off.
Watson followed with a triple off the wall in left center field, but Gents' starter Kris Calhoun struck out Brant to end the threat.
As was the case in the opening game of the doubleheader, IU used the double steal to trim Centenary's lead to one. Senior Joe Kemp, who extended his hitting steak to 13 games, walked to open the frame, and Parker singled to right to put runners at first and second with nobody out.
Calhoun struck out junior Zach Boswell and got Heckman to ground into a force out, putting runners on the corners. With Richardson at the plate, Heckman took off for second and Carr tried to throw him out. Kemp broke toward home and beat the throw back to the plate, closing the deficit to 3-2 to set up the ninth-inning heroics.
On the offensive end, Parker finished the game 2-for-5 with one RBI and one run scored, while Heckman went 2-for-4 with a run. Watson closed out the game with a double and triple in four at-bats, and Cox added two hits and an RBI.
Calhoun threw eight innings, surrendering a pair of runs on eight hits while striking out seven and walking one.
Indiana has now played four one-run games this season and holds a 3-1 record in those four contests. The Cream and Crimson is also 2-1 in extra-inning affairs.
The Hoosiers play their third game at the Classic tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m. CST in a rematch against Centenary. Junior Adam Poole (0-0, 3.86 ERA) is scheduled to make his third start of the season for Indiana.