Nine-run sixth inning lifts Hoosiers

Indiana's bats woke up in the bottom of the sixth Wednesday night, erupting for nine runs on seven hits in IU's 10-1 victory over Ball State at Bart Kaufman Field. The Hoosiers have now won 14 of their last 15 games heading into a key weekend series with Illinois in Champaign. IU is 11-1 in Big Ten play and Illinois is in second place at 9-3 in conference.

Indiana coach Tracy Smith wasn't real happy with the at-bats his players were getting for the first five innings Wednesday evening in a non-conference game with Ball State.

All of that changed, however, in the bottom of the sixth.

After managing just one run off a pair of Chad Clark singles over the first five innings, Indiana erupted for nine runs on seven hits in the bottom of the sixth and cruised to a 10-1 victory over Ball State at Bart Kaufman Field.

The nine runs scored by IU in the sixth is the most since Indiana scored 11 against Michigan on April 4, 2010 in a home game against the Wolverines.

The Hoosiers have now won 14 of their last 15 games overall.

The Indiana pitching staff which came into the game having only allowed two runs in the last 40 innings pitched, had another gem against the Cardinals. The Hoosiers only allowed one run on six hits and struck out 13 Wednesday night.

But this one turned out to be a combination of good pitching and timely offense for the Hoosiers.

Junior college transfer Brad Hartong had a three-run homer and a two-run single in the sixth inning alone. The Hoosiers (26-11) brought 15 players to the plate in the bottom of the sixth in an inning that lasted approximately 34 minutes.

"Hitting is contagious,'' Hartong said. "That was good to see so many different guys coming up and getting hits.''

The inning started off innocently enough for the Hoosiers. Scott Donley led off with a walk and then Dustin DeMuth hit a ground ball to third that third-basemen Sean Kennedy was charged with an error when his throw to second could not be handled by second baseman Ryan Spaulding.

All of a sudden, IU had runners at second and third and nobody out. The Cardinals then elected to pitch to Hartong and he deposited a 1-0 curve ball just barely over the left field fence to put the Hoosiers up 4-1.

"He threw a curve ball on the first pitch and then came back with it on the next one, too,'' Hartong said.

Will Nolden followed the home run with a double down the left field line. Then Tim O'Conner reached first after he struck out and the ball got away from the catcher. Pinch-hitter Ricky Alfonso followed with a sharp RBI single to right center and it was 5-1.

After a couple of outs, Sam Travis was intentionally walked. Brian Wilhite, who had one hit in 13 at-bats on the season, came in as a pinch hitter for IU and looped a single to center for another RBI. Wilhite ended up going 2-for-2 in the game, increasing his season hit total to three.

DeMuth then followed with an RBI single and Hartong capped the scoring with a two RBI single to center.

The nine runs scored by the Hoosiers were the most IU has plated in an inning this season. The previous high was eight against Morehead State.

Sullivan Stadler went five strong innings, allowing one run on three hits with six strikeouts and just one walk. He was not involved in the decision though. Luke Harrison came on for one inning of scoreless relief but was the pitcher of record when IU had its nine-run explosion in the bottom of the sixth.

Ball State (27-14) had all of its offense Wednesday night on one swing of the bat by fifth year senior Kyle Raleigh. Raleigh crushed a Stadler pitch deep over the right field fence in the top of the second toe tie the score at 1.

After that the Cardinals bats were pretty silent. Ball State managed just six hits total and IU pitchers struck out 13.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Top Stories