BLOOMINGTON – Even before qualifying for the College World Series this past weekend with a sweep of Florida State in their NCAA Super Regional, the Indiana baseball team was making history.
Indiana, a school that has been playing baseball since 1895, had never played host to an NCAA regional, had never appeared in an NCAA Super Regional and had never qualified for the College World Series. This season, IU coach Tracy Smiths team accomplished all of those feats.
Every pitch we make, every hit, every out is really making more history for our baseball program because this is certainly uncharted territory for us, Smith said.
The Hoosiers success was historic not only for Indiana, but for the Big Ten. The conference has not had a team in the College World Series, held annually in Omaha, Neb., since 1984, when a Michigan team led by MLB Hall-of-Famer Barry Larkin qualified.
Smith, said the accomplishment is a large one for all of northern baseball.
People dont understand what teams in northern conferences have to go through to get to this point, Smith said after Sundays win, and Im happy that were able to carry the torch, if you will, for some of the schools in our league to say, You can do this.
For much of the season, Indiana has been a willing flag-bearer for Big Ten baseball. Many experts picked Indiana to win the Big Ten, and since the Hoosiers defeated Florida twice on Floridas home field in April, IU has consistently been nationally ranked.
It was in that Florida series that sophomore first baseman Sam Travis said he first seriously envisioned IU as a team capable of making it to Omaha. For fellow sophomore outfielder Will Nolden, that revelation came much earlier.
During the middle of the 2012 campaign, Nolden said, the team really started to figure it out, and finished the year with impressive late-season performances and a strong Big Ten tournament run.
Nolden said he knew then that this team could reach Omaha.
Now that the goal has been realized, however, Nolden thinks it might be a very long time before the accomplishment seems real to him and his teammates.
I think this is one of those things that wont sink in until youre there, Nolden said, and then once youre there, you dont want to let it sink in because this is a business trip for us, were headed out there not just to be there. Were headed out there to win it.
Sophomore utility man Chris Sujka is still trying to wrap his mind around the accomplishment, but, for now, hes doing what he can to appreciate the achievement.
I still wake up every morning since we beat Florida State and its like, Wow, were going to the College World Series, Sujka said, and I just crack a smile on my face.