With seven games remaining in the regular season and Indiana on the outside looking in to the NCAA tournament, each game is crucial as the Hoosiers try to secure an at-large bid.
Friday’s series opener vs. Long Beach State was not the start they probably hoped for as they attempt to reach that goal.
Behind an eight-run top of the fourth inning, the Dirtbags defeated the Hoosiers 12-5 Friday night at Bart Kaufman Field.
"(Kelzer) just didn't give us a competitive start," IU head coach Chris Lemonis said. "It's hard, this time of year, playing great opponents, starting pitching is huge. And we've got to give a better effort on the mound."
Long Beach State (25-20) struck first in the top of the first inning off a solo home run over the left field wall by freshman first-baseman Luke Rasmussen, who would end up going 3-for-4 at the plate. It added to its lead with a five-hit, eight-run top of the fourth inning off Indiana right-handed sophomore Jake Kelzer (5-7) to expand its lead to nine early. Junior right-hander Evan Bell replaced Kelzer that inning, but went just 0.2 innings after giving up a pair of earned runs.
Indiana (26-20) was held scoreless until the bottom of that same inning, cutting the deficit to seven off sophomore centerfielder Craig Dedelow’s one-out two-RBI double.
Lemonis said he liked where the team was in responding the way it did after going down nine early.
"I thought the guys showed great effort, and we had some really good swings today," Lemonis said. "Their pitching staff is very talented, very talented group. To keep competing against them was huge."
The Dirtbags added a trio of insurance runs – one in the top of the fifth, one in the top of the eighth and one in the top of the ninth – to negate another two-run inning by the Hoosiers in the bottom of the fifth. Attempting comeback from eight down in the bottom of the ninth, Indiana managed just one run – an RBI double by junior shortstop Nick Ramos.
Long Beach State hit three home runs – two of which came from Rasmussen. Indiana managed just five runs despite slightly outhitting the Dirtbags 12-11.
"Walk, an HBP, it all goes bad at one time," Lemonis said. "They put all theirs together in one inning, where ours was spread out over a game. It makes a big difference."
Senior right-hander Kyle Friedrichs (6-3) picked up the win, striking out four while giving up 11 hits and four earned runs.
The series resumes tomorrow at Bart Kaufman Field, with first pitch scheduled for 3 p.m.
"It's pressure baseball time," Lemonis said. "When you don't get a great start, not that you can't win, it just makes it a lot tougher."