The message from Indiana’s players Tuesday night was a simple one.
They didn’t care how they won, just as long as they somehow were able to snap a four-game losing streak.
IU rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth, with all runs scoring on a pair of Notre Dame throwing errors, as Indiana rallied for a 6-5 victory over the Irish before a crowd of 8,728 at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
Indiana (22-15) had dropped four games in a row and looked as if it might go into this weekend’s key Big Ten series against Michigan State on a five-game losing streak.
Instead, the Hoosiers were able to pull out a dramatic walk-off victory.
“Obviously it has been a rough stretch for us here so we’ll take it any way we can,’’ said IU senior Will Nolden. “Hopefully we can kind of build on this going into a big weekend against Michigan State.’’
Indiana first came up big in the top of the ninth after Kyle Richardson led off the frame with a double and then stole third with no outs. After a strikeout, Richardson tried to score from third on a ground ball to IU third baseman Isaiah Pasteur. But Pasteur threw the ball home, and after a brief rundown, Brad Hartong tagged Richardson out. Ryan Halstead then struck out Cavan Biggio for the third out.
“The top of the ninth was huge,’’ said IU baseball coach Chris Lemonis. “Ryan Halstead just keeping his composure made some really good pitches. We made some nice plays. But thinking back on it, that was a huge ninth inning.’’
The No. 26 Irish (26-13) still had a two-run lead going into the bottom of the ninth.
Hartong opened the bottom of the ninth with a high chopper in front of the plate that Notre Dame pitcher Sean Guenther fielded but Hartong was able to beat the throw by a step. After Chris Sujka came into run for Hartong, Scott Donley drilled a single to center. Sujka then almost got picked off of second by Notre Dame catcher Ryan Lidge but was credited with a stolen base when he was able to advance to third on the throw back.
Freshman leftfielder Logan Sowers then walked to load the bases with no outs. After Austin Cangelosi struck out swinging, Nolden hit a ground ball to short. Shortstop Lane Richards got the force at second but the throw from Biggio to first was wild, allowing Donley to score from second. Sujka had already scored on the play and suddenly it was 5-5 with Nolden standing on second.
Pasteur, who has good speed down the line, hit a ground ball to short, but Richards’ throw sailed high and Nolden came around to score the game-winner without a throw.
“I knew Isaiah was a really fast runner and he was going to put pressure on the shortstop on that throw,’’ Nolden said. “And honestly, off the bat, I was thinking I wasn’t going to score unless my coach held me. Then you see that throw and you take off for home and you celebrate from there.’’
Indiana scored six runs on just five hits. The Hoosiers only had three hits going into the bottom of the ninth inning.
The game marked the first time Indiana had ever played at Victory Field and the first meeting between the Hoosiers and Irish since 1998.
Notre Dame committed five errors. Only two of IU’s six runs were earned.