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Saturday, Feb. 24
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

RedHawks pose problem for mid-week pitchers

Sophomore pitcher Matt Carr watches a man on third base during IU's 7-4 loss to Indiana State April 22.

Visitors to the Indiana baseball locker room are greeted by a nearly bare casing – one in which only two teams are honored.

The more prominently placed of the two displays is the Hoosiers’ 1949 Co-Big Ten Champions, providing a window into IU’s past in more ways than one.

The sparsely accomplished IU baseball team is now in the middle of a Big Ten race, with only midweek games holding it back. The Hoosiers will face Miami (Ohio) at 4 p.m. today at Sembower Field in an attempt to become as consistent as they have been in conference play.  

Senior right fielder Chris Hervey said the team needs to take the games more seriously to end its longtime postseason struggles.

“I don’t think we are as sharp or as focused as we are on the weekends,” Hervey said. “If we want to become a program that’s synonymous with winning, I think these are the games we need to start winning.”

IU will compete with Miami on the heels of a series win against Michigan, its fourth consecutive Big Ten series victory. The 10-4 Hoosiers are in a tie for second place in conference, but have an overall record of 20-21.

The disparity in conference and overall wins illuminates the heightened stake IU places in conference games.

Each weekend, IU plays the most talent it faces all season. Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan are in the Big Ten’s top six teams – IU has defeated them all. Each team has been more successful than IU in its overall schedule, as none are below .500 on the year.

Any team that assumes it will win is sure to lose, IU assistant coach Ben Greenspan said.

“If you take the attitude that this game doesn’t mean as must as the next one, you’re doomed from the start,” he said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have an at-large bid right now, so we have to put all of our energy toward the Big Ten games.”

Making the Big Ten its focal point might pay immediate dividends for IU as conference wins pile up. However, when scouring the Midwest for talent, IU sees its midweek foes on the recruiting path.

IU competes with Louisville, Xavier and Indiana State for players. These three teams have defeated IU on five occasions, including a 15-1 loss to the Cardinals and 11-2 defeat at the hands of the Sycamores.

“It’s not something we take lightly – losing to those teams,” Greenspan said. “We need to pick it up midweek and get better pitching.”

At the root of IU’s troubles has been a depleted staff on the mound. IU sees an insurmountable drop-off from weekend to weekday games.
But run support has not been a problem.

The Hoosiers’ offense is one of the best in the Big Ten, with players consistently belting home runs and batting over .300. Two hitters in the middle of IU’s batting order, junior Josh Phegley and freshman Alex Dickerson, are in the Big Ten’s top-15 batting average and top-five home runs.

Sophomore pitcher Matt Carr, who will start against Miami, has proven one of IU’s more reliable pitchers. While his 5.74 ERA and 1-4 record are less than impressive, Carr has pitched solid innings from the bullpen. With a team that tends to fall behind, Carr said he will temper his teammates from the mound.

“Sometimes during the midweek we relax more than we should,” he said. “We have to come out tomorrow and put them away.”

The mound will play just as big as it has all season, Greenspan said.

“I think it’ll start on the hill,” he said. “I think we need more consistency out of our midweek pitching staff. Once they get going, the wins will start coming.”

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