BLOOMINGTON – Indiana freshman pitcher Will Coursen-Carr had the weight of his team on his shoulders last Sunday.
The South Side graduate was called upon to start for the Hoosiers against Nebraska, which had forced the deciding game in the Big Ten tournament with a 7-6, 11-inning win last Saturday.
It was nerve-wracking, Coursen-Carr said of starting the title game, but it was really cool to help the team out.
The 6-foot-4 left-hander, who pitched primarily in midweek games this season, pitched like the ace who had posted a 0.40 ERA and a 10-1 record as a senior at South Side.
He gave up three runs on eight hits while striking out three in the complete-game effort as the Hoosiers defeated the Cornhuskers 4-3 last Sunday.
Indiana was projected to play host for an NCAA regional for the first time before the Big Ten tourneys deciding game, and the victory sealed the regional.
The Hoosiers (43-14) open regional play against Valparaiso (31-26) at 7 p.m. today at Bart Kaufman Field.
The other game pits Florida (29-28) against Austin Peay (45-13) at 1 p.m.
Coursen-Carr, who threw 127 pitches in his complete-game victory, will not be starting either of IUs first two games.
IU will start Big Ten pitcher of the year Aaron Slegers, a sophomore, against Valparaiso, and junior left-hander Joey DeNato will likely start Saturdays game of the double-elimination regional.
While sophomore Kyle Hart has primarily been IUs third starter, IU pitching coach Ty Neal said Coursen-Carr has made the decision-making process difficult. Coursen-Carr hasnt pitched in quite as many games as Hart, but that doesnt necessarily mean Coursen-Carr would be a bad choice, Neal said.
Hart is 8-2 with a 3.01 ERA in 15 starts this season, and Coursen-Carr is 3-0 with a 1.81 ERA in 13 appearances with nine starts.
Unfortunately for (Coursen-Carr), he hasnt been handed the ball as much as he would like because of the older guys that are getting it done in front of him, Neal said. We feel just as good with Will Coursen-Carr as we do about anyone on our pitching staff.
IU coaches have not kept Coursen-Carr completely out of big games as he has started against Louisville and Kentucky. Coursen-Carr said his performance in the Big Ten tournament added to his confidence.
Coursen-Carr and his teammates have plenty of reasons to feel confident entering regional play. The Hoosiers won the Big Ten regular-season title for the first time in 81 years, and coach Tracy Smith was named the conferences manager of the year.
This isnt the first regional Smith has been to at IU. In 2009, his team qualified but lost both of its games. Smith said it was a major accomplishment to earn a spot in the 2009 NCAA tournament, but this year is different.
Ive heard several people and the kids (say), Enjoy the moment, Smith said. Well, were going to do more than enjoy the moment. Were actually going to try to win.
Notes: Snider graduate and Valparaiso designated hitter Grant Yoder sat out this season after undergoing back surgery. Indiana catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber was named to the Louisville Slugger All-American second team, and Slegers and infielder Dustin DeMuth were named to the third team.