Indiana University baseball coach Tracy Smith said following Wednesday night's Big Ten Tournament opener with Iowa that his hope with starter Joey DeNato was to have his ace go as long as possible against the Hawkeyes.
He said that's because he was only planning on using the Big Ten pitcher of the year one time this weekend.
DeNato gave his coach exactly what he was looking for then. The senior left hander threw eight innings with nine strikeouts and no walks as the top-seeded Hoosiers defeated No. 8 Iowa 5-2 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.
Indiana (39-13) will face No. 5 Michigan Thursday night at 10 p.m. ET in the second game of the tournament. Michigan beat Minnesota 3-2 in the late game Wednesday night. IU was 2-1 against Michigan this season.
DeNato improved to 12-1 on the season. He threw 106 pitches, allowed one earned run and scattered seven hits. Luke Harrison came on to pitch the ninth and picked up the save. He struck out two Iowa batters of his own.
"Around the fifth inning I figured out my slider and that was really my out pitch later on that allowed me to strike some people out,'' DeNato said. "I've pitched in a lot of tournament situations, though, and I'm really comfortable in that situation.''
As a staff, the Hoosiers recorded 11 strikeouts without a walk.
Casey Rodrigue was the offensive star for the Hoosiers with a 3-for-3 performance including a single, double and a triple. Rodrigue came into the game in a little slump with just two hits in his last 22 plate appearances.
In many ways, DeNato was his own worst enemy Wednesday night.
In the top of the first, the Iowa leadoff hitter reached first on an infield single. But when DeNato tried to pick him off first, his throw got away and Iowa had a runner on third with no one out. The next hitter hit a ground ball to the right side that scored the runner and the Hawkeyes led 1-0.
IU took the lead in the bottom of the second when it plated a pair of runs. Brad Hartong reached first on a hot shot to third that was scored an error. One out later, Nick Ramos hit a base hit to left field that scored Hartong. With two outs, Rodrigue hit a base hit to center field that the outfielder played in a nonchalant fashion. Rodrigue took advantage and slid into second with a double. In either case, he had the RBI and IU led 2-1.
Iowa tied it at 2-2 in the top of the fourth and again it was partly due to an error by DeNato. The senior had only had one error all season but had two in the first three plus innings Wednesday. This one came on a sacrifice bunt attempt where DeNato appeared to have a good shot at getting the lead runner at second but he bobbled it for an error. Quickly Iowa had runners at first and second with no outs. The next hitter singled to left and the score was 2-2. DeNato got a key strikeout and Schwarber got a runner trying to steal third. An Iowa fly ball ended the inning.
IU came right back to score two in the bottom of the fourth and one in the bottom of the fifth to round out the scoring.
In the fourth, Tim O'Conner had a one out double and came around to score on a triple by Rodrigue. Schwarber then hit a ground ball that plated Rodrigue.
In the fifth, Dustin DeMuth was hit by a pitch and went to second on a balk. DeMuth was held at third on a single by Hartong and then scored on a fielders choice by Nolden.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch