BLOOMINGTON – After his team defeated Florida State on Sunday to advance to the College World Series, Indiana manager Tracy Smith mentioned that he modeled his team after a rival school two hours from Bloomington.
Today, his Hoosiers will face that team – Louisville – in the first game of their first College World Series in Omaha, Neb. Indiana is guaranteed two games in this weekend’s double-elimination opening round.
The CWS begins today with Mississippi State facing No. 3 national seed Oregon State. Sunday’s openers pit No. 1 seed North Carolina against rival North Carolina State and UCLA against No. 4 seed LSU.
Smith mentioned Louisville specifically because the Cardinals made their first-ever College World Series in 2007 after building their program and recruiting talent in the Midwest, just as IU has done in recent seasons. IU senior shortstop Michael Basil said the Cardinals have soundly defeated the Hoosiers in recent seasons.
They beat us almost every time they played us, Basil said. We knew that they were the team in our region that we would like to go and be better than.
This season, however, the IU players made it a goal of theirs to defeat Louisville twice out of their three meetings. They accomplished that, defeating Louisville at a neutral site and in Bloomington.
But Smith said he puts no stock in the regular-season success against the Cardinals. The final time the two teams met was March 27, and since then, Louisville has gone 32-7, capped by a sweep of the No. 2 national seed Vanderbilt in the super regional. Louisville’s pitching staff gave up four runs on 12 hits in the two games.
Smith said the Louisville bullpen, which gave up just three hits and a run in six innings against Vanderbilt, is more dangerous than just about any in the country.
I think you’ve got to have a lead by the fifth or sixth inning, because what they’re able to do with their bullpen is what the rest of us can’t do, which is play matchups literally every inning and still have quality after quality after quality arm, Smith said. We’ve got to get out to a good start and I hope the bats will do that.
The Hoosiers have consistently gotten off to fast starts this season. They have scored in the first inning of 28 of their 62 games and have a 59-24 scoring margin in the first.
Junior southpaw Joey DeNato will start against Louisville junior Chad Green. DeNato will try to limit walks, which he has struggled to do this season, and hold runners on the basepaths, at which he excels.
While much of the attention is falling on the rematch between the teams, Basil said that when it comes down to it, the games this weekend will be more about IU does that what its opponents do.
Once you step on the field, it’s just baseball, Basil said. It’s what we’ve been doing all year long, so we try not to focus too much on who we’re playing, but on what we’re actually doing with our game.