Coming off a 3-2 win against No. 25 Minnesota on Saturday, the IU baseball team will look to build on its momentum against Chicago State at 3 p.m. today on Sembower Field.
The Hoosiers (8-15, 1-1) lost eight of their past nine before earning the victory to split the Big Ten opening series. IU’s third game against the Golden Gophers was canceled due to inclement weather.
IU sophomore outfielder T.C. Knipp said his team’s weekend performance proved they could compete with anyone in the country.
“Coming out and getting a win on Saturday was huge for us,” Knipp said. “(IU junior pitcher Eric) Arnett threw well, pounding the zone in the second game, and our hitting is coming along. Going into the season, one of our main goals was to become Big Ten champs, and that is still controllable.”
The recent success might come as a result of IU coach Tracy Smith’s altering the starting lineup and fielding positions. Among the key changes were junior Evan Crawford moving from second base to center field and junior Jake Dunning also shifting from third base to shortstop.
IU sophomore outfielder Sterling Mack and freshman third baseman Vince Gonzalez were both moved into the starting lineup on Sunday and made significant contributions to the win. Mack played well defensively, and Gonzalez drew a key walk that brought home IU sophomore outfielder Kipp Schutz for the Hoosiers’ initial run.
“We are trying to find the best way to strengthen the middle of the diamond defensively,” Smith said. “I thought Vince had one of the most key at-bats in the game as a freshman. Vince is going to make the routine play, and right now that is what we need to do.”
While the recent win was much needed for the Hoosiers, junior catcher Josh Phegley said the biggest problem the team must address is a lack of scoring early in games.
“The early lead gives our pitchers confidence,” he said. “We cannot come out and feel our way through it and then turn it on in the fifth or sixth inning. I think that is one difference from this year to last year’s team. Our bats are cold early in the game.”
In Chicago State, IU will take on a team that has been struggling this season. The Cougars are 2-22 on the year and are currently on a three-game losing streak. CSU senior infielder and pitcher Patrick Hernandez leads the team in hitting with a .348 average.
The Hoosiers will have 2008 All-Big Ten pitcher Matt Bashore on the mound to face the Cougars. The Tipp City, Ohio, native will look to improve on a 0-3 record and 7.24 ERA.
Smith said he has faith Bashore will bounce back after a tough early part of the season.
“We may go two, three innings with him and then use the bullpen to shape up for the weekend,” Smith said. “He would definitely be on a strict, low-pitch count because it’s more important what he does on the weekend for us. He is going to get it going; he is too good not to.”