The Indiana baseball team is one win away from hosting a Super Regional next week.
Joey DeNato and Jake Kelzer combined to allow just two runs, and Sam Travis and Will Nolden provided clutch hitting Saturday night as No. 4 national seed Indiana beat Stanford 4-2 in a winners bracket regional semifinal game at Bart Kaufman Field.
Indiana (44-13) moves on to the 6 p.m. ET game on Sunday where the Hoosiers will meet the winner of the Youngstown State-Stanford game. Youngstown State recorded the first Division I postseason baseball victory in the school's history early Saturday with a 5-2 victory over Indiana State.
The Hoosiers have now won 32 of their last 35 games, and are a perfect 5-0 in Regional play at Bart Kaufman Field the last two seasons.
IU coach Tracy Smith thought it was a tremendous college baseball game.
"I thought that was college baseball at its finest: Two quality opponents going at it and almost mirroring each other in terms of personnel and how the game was played,'' Smith said. "It was two quality left handed pitchers going at it and making pitches and tough pitches. You had some solo home runs that were big in the ballgame, and the game really could have gone either way.
"And I always hate to say this when on the winning side of it, because I've been plenty on the other side, but that to me I thought was a tremendous college baseball game and good players on both sides stepped up and made plays and did what they needed to do. We were fortunate tonight with the win.''
On a day when two national seeds were eliminated (Florida and Florida State), the Hoosiers were able to delight a record crowd of 4,312 at Bart Kaufman Field with a solid combination of pitching, timely hitting and defense.
Travis and Nolden were the offensive stars. Travis was 3-for-5 with two RBI including a solo home run in the fifth inning. Nolden had two hits but the second, with two outs in the eighth, drove home Travis from second and gave IU a much-needed insurance run.
Travis was pleased with his ability to come up big in a clutch situation.
"Yeah, post season play as a player, you know, coming up in key situations, that's kind of what you live for as a player,'' Travis said. "So definitely I'm proud of myself and more proud of myself to come up for my team and come up big for my team. You know, that's what's making me a good player, coming up clutch, and I'm going to do whatever I can in my power to help the team out, and postseason play couldn't have come at a better time.''
DeNato went 7 and 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on six hits and only walking one to record his 13th victory of the season. DeNato is now 13-1 on the year. Kelzer came in to get the final five outs and earn his third save.
"I thought I pitched pretty well,'' DeNato said. "The two runs they scored, really I think I had maybe I had a few bad pitches all game but they definitely executed on them, on pitches that I missed on. Overall I thought I did well and I pitched well enough to give my team a chance to win, and that's all I can do.''
But the defense was superb, too. In 18 innings of Regional baseball, IU has committed one error. That was an easy chance that Dustin DeMuth mis-played in the fifth against Stanford. But the stellar plays have far outshined the bad ones.
Tim O'Conner had a big diving catch of a fly ball in center. Casey Rodrigue made a couple of solid defensive plays at second including one in the ninth when he moved to his left and picked up a grounder on an in between hop and threw the runner out at first. And Travis made a diving stop on the final out of the game where he was completely extended, yet got up and tossed it to Kelzer covering for the final out.
Indiana, playing the unfamiliar role of the visitor in Saturday's game, got on the board quickly in the top of the first. Rodrigue had an 8-ball walk to lead off the game and then quickly came around to score when Kyle Schwarber crushed a pitch down the right field line. Schwarber made a big turn at second and was thrown out, but the Hoosiers went on top 1-0.
Stanford answered with two outs in the bottom of the first when Austin Slater hit a RBI double off the left-center field fence. IU left fielder Brad Hartong was shaken up on the play. He stayed in for another inning or two but eventually came out. His status is unknown for Sunday.
Travis ripped a two-out single that scored Nick Ramos in the third that put IU up 2-1 and then hit his solo homer in the fifth to make it 3-1.
Slater got the Cardinal back to within one in the sixth when he tagged the first pitch with one out to left-center from a home run.
That set up Nolden getting the big RBI on a 3-2 pitch with two out and two on in the eighth. Nolden drove a single to center to score Travis and make it 4-2.
Note: This story will be updated with quotes.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch