Scott Donley had a definite plan when he stepped to the plate Saturday afternoon in the ninth inning with the bases loaded in a tie game.
Bottom line is that he just wanted to put the ball in play.
" I just wanted to make contact, put the ball in play, and make them execute,'' Donley said. "The worst thing you could do in that situation is to go down looking or go down swinging. I just wanted to make them have to make an out.
Donley did more than put the ball in play. The first team all-Big Ten designated hitter crushed an off speed pitch over the head of the right field for a two-run double to help lift top-seed Indiana to a 7-4 victory over No. 6 Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.
Indiana, the regular season Big Ten champs, will now try to add the conference tournament title to its resume when it faces Nebraska Sunday at 2 p.m. ET in a winner-take-all title game. Even though both teams are 3-0 in the double elimination tournament, this tournament calls for a one-game winner-take-all title game.
It will be a rematch of last year's conference championship game, won by the Hoosiers. The difference this time is that the Cornhuskers will be playing in front of what is expected to be a crowd of more than 10,000 home fans in Omaha.
Michigan State had rallied to score a run in the bottom of the eighth inning after tallying one run on an error by third baseman Dustin DeMuth. Tied at 4, the Hoosiers came up in the top of the ninth with No. 9 hitter Tim O'Conner followed by the top of the order.
O'Conner got things started when he was hit by a pitch with the count 0-and-2. Michigan State then opted to put in staff ace Mick Van Vossen, who had started and pitched Wednesday, getting the win in the Spartans' 2-1 victory over Illinois. Michigan State hoped its best pitcher could stop the IU rally.
Instead, he poured gasoline on the fire.
The first batter he faced, Casey Rodrigue, tried to bunt but instead Van Vossen hit him with an inside pitch and IU had runners at first and second with no outs. Kyle Schwarber followed with a line shot to right field for a single but with no outs O'Conner was held at third, loading the bases.
Big Ten player of the year swung at the first pitch and hit a weak roller to short but with the infield playing in, O'Conner was gunned down at the plate. That set the stage for Donley, who delivered a two-RBI double on a 1-1 offering from Van Vossen.
Michigan State then changed pitchers and opted to intentionally walk Dustin DeMuth which would have load the bases with Brad Hartong due up next. Instead, with the count 2-0, the Michigan State pitcher threw ball three over the catcher's head and Travis scored from third. Just like that it was 7-4.
Smith had opted to start sophomore right hander Evan Bell, who made his first start of the season and just the second of his two-year career. Smith said he felt Bell's breaking ball had been better of late.
Early on, the breaking ball gave him problems though. Michigan State scored two runs in the bottom of the first to take a 2-0 lead with Joel Fisher hitting a two-run double.
"Early on I was just throwing too many curve balls that were going right down the middle,'' Bell said. "So I just tried to be more aggressive with my fastball.''
Bell said he found out Friday that he would be making his first start of the season. He said he just wanted to come out and be aggressive.
"That's what I always try to do and you're going to have success if you do that.
Bell threw four and a third innings, giving up the two earned run with one strikeout and two walks. He was relieved by Luke Harrison who got the Hoosiers through the seventh. Scott Effross pitched to two batters in the eighth and then Jake Kelzer came on to get the last five outs. Kelzer picked up the win.
Smith said he will throw Sullivan Stadler Sunday against Nebraska and allowed third starter Brian Korte to get additional rest heading into next week's NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Selection Show is Monday at Noon ET.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch