Memorial Day weekend has become a pretty special one for Indiana University and former South Side High School pitcher William Coursen-Carr.
A year ago, he helped lead the Archers to their first ever sectional baseball title in school history, while on Sunday, he went all nine innings for the 11th-ranked Hoosiers in a 4-3 win over Nebraska in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game at Target Field in Minneapolis.
“I was thinking about it in the dog pile, I had déjà vu or whatever that is, and I was like 'Oh yeah, doing this again,'” Coursen-Carr said via phone. “I haven't been in my tip-top shape pitching wise, except for a few innings against Louisville and Kentucky, since that sectional game last year at South Side, so I was really excited to throw well.”
The complete game was the first for the freshman all season. It was also only his second appearance in a Big Ten Conference game all year, where he had accumulated all of 1/3 of an inning of work.
Coursen-Carr certainly delivered in his first Big Ten start, though. He gave up eight hits, three earned runs, three walks, and had three strikeouts, as he threw 127 pitches.
“We kind of ran out of relievers, I mean, we have a few guys, but I was expecting to go deep,” Coursen-Carr said. “At one point in the seventh inning, coach (Tracy Smith) came out to ask me something, and I thought he was going to ask if I need to go out, but I said 'I'm good to go' before he said anything.”
Coursen-Carr got the start in the crucial game following the Hoosiers losing on a walk-off home run Saturday to Nebraska. With the top guys of Indiana's rotation having already pitched games in the tournament, he was slated to go out.
“We felt really, really confident with Will,” Indiana coach Tracy Smith said to reporters following the game. “He'd been a mid-week guy for us, but he's a quality pitcher and I think we got to see that today.”
As the team's mid-week starter, Coursen-Carr had accumulated a 1.81 ERA in nine starts, including one against top-20 Louisville. His abilities had carried over into his first Big Ten start for the majority of the game, as he avoided any serious trouble. He only gave up one run until the seventh inning when fatigue started to set in, as Nebraska plated a run and then loaded the bases.
“It wasn't my arm that was tired, it was really my legs from going up and pushing off that whole time,” Coursen-Carr said. “I was just like I wasn't trying to throw as hard as I could, but was kind of out of gas a bit. I was just throwing strikes and keeping it low and hoping that would feed into a grounder or something.”
His approach worked as he got out of the jam by forcing an out up the middle of the infield. This led to a 3-3 tie heading into the bottom of the ninth, where Indiana got some revenge on the Cornhuskers with their own walk-off victory.
Following a lead-off double by Will Nolden and two walks to load the bases, Scott Donley drove a single in the gap to left center to seal the title and automatic NCAA Tournament berth.
“That hit was awesome,” Coursen-Carr said. “This is huge, it's huge for our program. We haven't ever had a College World Series visit and coming in with our new stadium, I think it will bring a lot change.”
Coursen-Carr's performance earned him a place on the All-Tournament Team along with five other Hoosiers, including Most Oustanding Player Sam Travis.
The win was the first tournament title since 2009 and third overall for the Hoosiers to go along with their first regular season outright Big Ten championship since 1932.
Indiana (43-14) will host one of the 16 NCAA Regionals beginning Friday and running through June 3. The Hoosiers will find out their first opponent during the NCAA Selection Show Monday at noon (ESPNU).