BLOOMINGTON – Having returned a week ago from Omaha with a second consecutive Big Ten Conference baseball championship trophy in hand, Indiana now hopes to play its way back to that Nebraska city for a second consecutive College World Series appearance.
That journey for coach Tracy Smith’s Hoosiers begins at 7 p.m. today when they face surprising Horizon League champion Youngstown State (16-36) in the second game of the NCAA Bloomington Regional at Bart Kaufman Field.
The four-team, double-elimination tournament begins at 2 p.m. today when No. 2 seed Indiana State (35-16) plays No. 3 seed Stanford (30-23). IU (42-13), which ran roughshod through the Big Ten’s regular season with a 21-3 record, is this regional’s top seed. Youngstown State is the four seed.
Indiana, which has outscored its opponents by a collective 345-158, is batting a lofty .294 and has a team earned run average of 2.17, led by Louisville Slugger third-team All-American Joey DeNato (12-1, 1.77 ERA). The Hoosiers are 18-3 this season at Bart Kaufman Field, now in its second season of operation.
Smith is eager for IU to begin a journey he hopes will take it back to Omaha.
These are exciting times for Indiana baseball, and really for the community of Bloomington, Smith said after Thursday morning’s practice.
DeNato, who was joined among Louisville Slugger All-American honorees by first baseman Sam Travis, catcher Kyle Schwarber and third baseman Dustin DeMuth, realizes how significant it is to be selected to host an NCAA regional. Travis and Schwarber are second-team picks.
All year, it was our expectation to host a regional, DeNato said. It was one of our goals to be a national seed. We’re going to handle it like it was any other game.
Outfielder Brad Hartong, who is batting .314, believes a key for IU this weekend is to remain on the same course.
We’ve just got to keep playing the way we have played all year, Hartong said. That is taking care of the baseball, getting quality starting pitching and just stay with our approach, not get out of ourselves because it is a regional game or the playoffs.
Today’s winners play at 6 p.m. Saturday after losers play at 2 p.m. Saturday.