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June 18, 2013

Missed chances leave IU with one-run loss

OMAHA, Neb. - For much of Monday's game, Indiana did a great job of putting itself in position to score.

Unfortunately, getting the runners in often proved to be too difficult a task.

After leaving nine runners on base in the game's first eight innings, the Hoosiers trailed Mississippi State 5-3 entering the ninth. But a Chris Sujka pinch-hit single and a double off the wall in left-center by Sam Travis with one out gave Indiana a chance to tie the game.

Scott Donley grounded out to second to plate Sujka and pull IU within one, but Michael Basil grounded back to the pitcher to strand the tying run on third and give the Bulldogs a 5-4 win - a fitting end to a frustrating offensive game for the Hoosiers.

Indiana ended the game with 10 runners left on base and struck out 14 times - a school record for Mississippi State pitchers in a College World Series game.

"It takes a little bit to get me riled up," IU coach Tracy Smith said. "I was just a little upset about our lack of competitiveness in the batter's box, and that's taking absolutely nothing away from (MSU reliever Chad) Girodo. He's good. He's really good. But he's not Sandy Koufax and we've got to do a better job of digging in there and just simply put balls in play.

"It wasn't that we needed the two out base hit or the big double or something like that. We simply needed to put a baseball in play and we did not do that. And we've done a pretty good job of that all year."

Early on, it looked like the Hoosiers (49-15) might cruise to a comfortable win. After starter Will Coursen-Carr gave up a first-inning run, Casey Smith tied the game with a two-out single in the second and Indiana added two more in the third on an RBI double by Travis and a run-scoring ground out by Donley. But with the bases loaded and a chance to put MSU on the ropes, Smith struck out looking.

Indiana then put runners on second and third in the fifth, but Travis was thrown out at home trying to score on a ground ball and Smith struck out swinging.

Mississippi State scored a run in the sixth to pull within 3-2, but IU had a chance to extend the lead again in the seventh. With runners on second and third, Dustin DeMuth struck out looking.

As tends to happen, all the missed opportunities came back to bite the Hoosiers.

The Bulldogs tied the game with a one-out single in the eighth. After a ground out, Smith brought in reliever Brian Korte to face lefty batter Trey Porter. The strategy backfired, as Porter slashed a double to right to give MSU the lead for good, 5-3.

"We wanted the left on left matchup," Smith said. "That's the one thing, I guess if I had to - you don't want to get in the business of second guessing yourself. But if you could take the one pitch back, clearly you wouldn't throw the 3-1 fastball. But our philosophy has always been, if you're going to get beat, get beat with your best stuff. Just the left on left matchup there, I was comfortable with that."

The situation wouldn't have been so critical if Indiana had been able to find any success against MSU reliever Chad Girodo. After starter Trevor Fitts lasted just 2 1/3 innings, Girodo entered and pitched into the ninth inning. The lefty gave up seven hits, but he stranded eight runners, including five in scoring position, and fanned 10 IU batters.

The Hoosiers struck out a season-high 14 times overall in the game.

"(Girodo) was mixing up his pitches real well and spotting up," Donley said. "He was coming off sliders a lot. He was keeping us off balance. He was able to locate and keep the ball down in the zone. We have to step up there and put the ball in play."

The loss puts Indiana's season on the line in a showdown at 8 p.m., Monday (ESPN) against Oregon State (51-12), which beat Louisville 11-4 earlier Monday. The winner of that game will play Mississippi State (50-18) on Friday and will have to beat the Bulldogs twice to advance to the best-of-three championship series.

As much as his offense struggled to push across the critical runs Monday night, Smith is confident the bats will rebound to keep IU's season alive against the Beavers.

"My thought is that it's an anomaly," Smith said. "This is a good group, and we're going to regroup and go get it. We are who we are at this point. So we're a good hitting team. We will be a good hitting team next baseball game."

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