BLOOMINGTON – Championship baseball teams usually receive stellar performances from their best players on the largest stages.
That certainly was the case Saturday for nationally fourth-seeded Indiana, which got three hits, a pair of runs, two RBI and a solid game-ending defensive play from junior first baseman Sam Travis in a 4-2 Bloomington Regional victory against Pac-12 Conference power Stanford.
Travis, a second-team Louisville Slugger All-American, singled home a two-out run in third to give the Hoosiers (44-13) a 2-1 lead. He blasted a two-out homer in the fifth to increase the advantage to 3-1, and he singled and scored in the eighth for a 4-2 lead.
He then robbed Dominic Jose of a potential game-extending single with a diving stop of a sharp grounder with a man on second with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
Indiana will play the winner of this afternoon’s elimination game between Stanford (31-24) and Youngstown State (17-37) at 6 p.m. today. Youngstown State avoided elimination with a 5-2 win over Indiana State on Saturday.
An Indiana victory will send the Hoosiers to the Super Regional for a second consecutive season. If IU loses tonight, a final game will be played Monday.
While a crowd of 4,312 at Bart Kaufman Stadium watched IU left-hander Joey DeNato improve to 13-1 with 7 1/3 innings of six-hit pitching, it was Travis who delivered when he was needed.
Coming up in those clutch situations is kind of what you live for, said Travis, who was 3 for 5. I was proud of myself, but more proud that I was able to step up like that for my team. I love to be up there in the clutch. I want to do whatever I can, especially in postseason play. This kind of night couldn’t have come at a better time.
Indiana’s path to victory Saturday night was a basic one. The star player had a huge game. The starting pitcher was sound throughout with only one walk while scattering six hits, and the Hoosiers scored each of their final three runs in two-out situations.
All three of those factors were big, IU coach Tracy Smith said. As I was driving here, a lot of things go through your mind, but the one thing I settled in on was that if you trust your players, and they are good enough, it is going to happen.
Indiana took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when catcher Kyle Schwarber doubled home Casey Rodrique, who drew a lead-off walk. Stanford pulled even on an Austin Slater double in the bottom of the first.
After that, it was all Travis with plenty of help on the mound from DeNato and reliever Jake Kelzer.
DeNato really baffled us a lot, Stanford coach Mark Marquess said. He changed speeds very effectively after the second or third inning, which, kept us off balance. Indiana is a very good veteran team with a lot of power and speed. They are very dangerous throughout the lineup. They were better than we were tonight. They won the big spots and got the big hits.