In a season full of uncertainty, IU has managed to be consistent in its toughest portion of the season.
The Hoosiers started the season losing 15 of their first 21 games, but now IU (13-17, 3-2) is tied for second in the Big Ten.
IU will face a team to which it bears many similarities in its weekend series against Iowa (11-17, 2-4). While IU and Iowa both have wins against top-tier teams – the
Hoosiers beat Illinois, and Iowa beat Michigan – they also share puzzling losses to far more obscure competition.
One major difference is present in how the teams have recently fared in their last eight games.
The Hoosiers have won six of theirs heading into Iowa City, Iowa, while the Hawkeyes have gone 2-6.
Although the numbers lean in his team’s favor, IU coach Tracy Smith said no trek in the Big Ten is an easy one.
“They’re probably playing their best baseball right now,” Smith said. “We’re going out to their place, and anytime you go on the road in the Big Ten, it’s going to be tough.”
Numbers suggest IU is playing its most inspired ball of the season, but a host of Hoosier players and coaches have dissenting opinions about their team’s recent play.
“It’s a positive, but I think we still need to be a little more intense,” freshman designated hitter Alex Dickerson said after Wednesday’s 9-5 win against Valparaiso.
“I feel our intensity grows for the Big Ten,” Dickerson said. “Last weekend we did great and everything went perfect, so we want to continue with that this weekend.”
Smith and junior pitcher Chris Squires both pointed out problems in different components of IU’s game. Smith focused on pitching, while Squires stressed the need
for offensive output.
“We’ve got to get good starting pitching,” Smith said. “And whenever we get good starting pitching, we have the chance to win a baseball game.”
Squires recounted IU’s 15-1 loss to Louisville on Tuesday, where the Hoosiers struggled to produce runs and allowed 16 hits. He said IU’s Wednesday performance, the win against Valparaiso, proved it was capable on the offensive side of the ball.
“I really think (Wednesday) was good to show us that we can still hit the ball even though we haven’t been lately,” Squires said Wednesday. “(The Valparaiso game) showed us we’re still a good hitting ball club, and if we pitch it, we can win every ball game.”
The team has been able to combine offensive and defensive production in Big Ten play away from Sembower Field.
IU is 2-1 against Illinois in the former’s only road series, and Squires said his team will win another if it can perform on the field and in the batter’s box.
“We’ve been kind of slow with the bats in the last couple of games,” he said. “I think we’ll have more confidence going into the weekend because we know that if we score
it and we pitch it, there are not a lot of people who can beat us in the Big Ten.”