Another slow start from the Indiana bats put the pressure on IU's pitching staff and starting pitcher Brian Korte, but for the second game in a row, some late-game heroics from Casey Rodrigue proved to be the difference.
Sunday afternoon at Bart Kaufman Field, after the Hoosiers stayed knotted with the visiting Michigan State Spartans for more than four innings, it was Rodrigue's bat that began a run where his team would score three runs in the bottom of the eighth to take a commanding lead in a 4-1 victory for a sweep in the weekend series, bringing IU to 25-11 on the season and 11-1 in Big Ten play.
Saturday evening, Rodrigue used a walk-off base hit to deep center field that scored Will Nolden from third base for the game-winning run.
Teammate Tim O'Conner started the eighth inning off with a strike out, and it looked like the teams may yet again need extra innings, but Rodrigue stepped up to the plate ready to make a difference. When he connected, he thought he may have gotten enough to send it out of the park.
"It's not my job to hit homeruns, but I thought I might have had it," he said.
Still, he bounced it off the wall for a double that started a late-game IU rally.
Kyle Schwarber was next up and took an intentional walk to put runners on first and second, in hopes that the Spartans would have better luck against Sam Travis in the batters box. Travis actually boasts the better batting average between the two this season, but lately with Travis hitting mainly ground balls, he understood the call.
That didn't mean it didn't fire him up, though.
"They did it previously in the weekend, and I didn't come through that time. It's always kinda a feeling of disrespect to walk someone to get to you, but Kyle hitting in front of me, I'm going to get that a lot, and I just had to come up big for our team," Travis said.
And come through he did. The Spartans made a pitching change between batters, putting in Jake Lowery for starter Cam Vieaux, and on the second pitch Lowery threw, Travis sent it off the outfield wall to bring in Rodrigue and Schwarber for a 3-1 advantage. Scott Donley followed with another shot to the outfield – his second hit of the day to lead the Hoosiers - and Travis took advantage of a slightly off-line throw and snuck into home plate before the tag for another run.
Rodrigue said after the game he didn't feel like he or his teammates did anything differently during that half of an inning to bring the production that, in the end, made the difference. The Hoosiers just stayed to the game plan of swinging big in hopes that one would finally drop.
"We actually hit a lot of balls hard, just right at people in the beginning of the game," Rodrigue said. "We stayed with our approach, and they fell towards the end."