The Hoosiers bullpen couldn’t hold onto an early Indiana lead, the theme of a rough two-week stretch.
After a one-hour thunderstorm delay, the Hoosiers (18-11) fell to Cincinnati (9-21) 5-4 Wednesday night at a damp Bart Kaufman Field.
Indiana has now dropped seven of its last 10 games, a combination of lack of offensive production and late inning pitching.
Indiana’s offense was never able to get consistent hits in order to pull out the win Wednesday, only earning five hits to Cincinnati’s 12.
“I felt like tonight we just didn’t match their intensity,” Head Coach Chris Lemonis said. “They wanted to win a little bit more than us, we kind of lollygagged through the first couple of innings.”
It was timely, clutch hitting that kept the Hoosiers in the game at all.
Cleanup hitter Logan Sowers gave Indiana a 4-3 sixth inning lead with a two-RBI single, giving him 19 RBI’s on the season.
Then things started to fall apart for the Hoosier bullpen.
Indiana freshman pitcher Austin Foote took the mound in the seventh inning, quickly allowing three base runners, including a game-tying double.
Senior Ryan Halstead came in to attempt getting out of the inning, but hit the first batter he faced to load the bases with no outs.
Two batters later, a single to left field brought in the eventual game-winning running, giving the Bearcats a 5-4 lead.
“It’s been excruciating,” Lemonis said. “It’s been happening for two weeks. Every time we get the lead we seem to give it up.
“We’ve got some guys who are scared. We don’t have enough guys who are stepping up and taking care of it. They know what’s happening. They’ve got to compete a little more.”
Although Halstead managed to work his way out of the jam with two strikeouts, the damage had been done, and the stagnant Indiana offense wasn’t able to answer.
The Hoosiers jumped out to an early first inning lead when Scott Donley knocked in leadoff hitter Craig Dedlow after his first-pitch triple down the right field line.
After a two-run third inning by Cincinnati, Indiana’s Isaiah Pasteur launched his team-leading fourth home run of the season to left field, a solo shot to tie the game at 2-2.
But with the only late inning hit coming off a Brian Wilhite bunt single, the Hoosiers couldn’t produce enough to take the win.
Junior Kyle Hart made just his second start of the season after missing the majority of last year due to Tommy John surgery. Hart threw two scoreless innings with five strikeouts. In his four innings pitched this season, Hart hasn’t given up a run.
Lemonis hinted after the game that Hart may slide into a bullpen role to try to help with the pitching struggles late in games.
“We were happy to get him out there for those two innings,” Lemonis said. “Maybe he’ll be a guy to help us out in our bullpen.”
Indiana will look to right the ship this weekend with a home series against Rutgers.