After a three-game sweep of Iowa this past weekend, IU coach Tracy Smith stressed the importance of weekday games to future success.
“We need to pitch better and play better defense during midweek,” he said. “I was a little disappointed with how we have thrown the ball during the midweek games, and those guys need to improve and come up with a better performance. I’d like to see these guys show that we can have the confidence to use them on the weekend.”
IU looks to build on a four-game win streak at 3 p.m. today in Muncie when they take on Ball State (15-15). The Hoosiers (16-17) are currently tied for first place in the Big Ten with a 6-2 conference record.
Hoping to answer Smith’s challenge against the Cardinals is sophomore pitcher Joey O’Gara. The Cincinnati native is 1-2 this season with a 7.89 ERA in nine appearances.
Though he had a rough start early on, O’Gara is coming off of a win April 1 against Cincinnati in which he allowed only three hits and struck out three in three innings.
Along with O’Gara, Smith said sophomore pitcher Matt Carr and junior pitcher Chris Squires might also make appearances against Ball State. Carr is 1-3 with an ERA of 4.91 while Squires is 1-1 with an ERA of 4.73.
Outside of the solid starting pitching this weekend by freshman Blake Monar and juniors Eric Arnett and Matt Bashore, one hitter that had a breakout series against the Hawkeyes was sophomore outfielder Kipp Schutz.
In the away game in Iowa City, Iowa, Schutz had five hits, four RBI and scored two runs.
The Evansville native credited a different approach at the plate for his recent success.
“We didn’t have a ton of hits, but we got the hits when we needed them and drove in the runs,” Schutz said. “I was staying through the ball a little bit more. I just needed to start driving balls, and I was able to do that this weekend.”
In the Cardinals, the Hoosiers will face a team that is currently on a three-game losing streak. Ball State junior center fielder Jeremy Hazelbaker leads the team in batting average, hits and runs.
Bashore said the latest victories have helped bring a more upbeat attitude to the clubhouse.
“Right now we feel that we are in good position,” he said. “We know what we want and are going to keep after it, trying to get that Big Ten Championship.”