Indiana Daily Student

Big Ten/Big East Challenge awaits Hoosiers

The IU baseball team readies for another inning during the first game of the Cream and Crimson World Series October 8, 2008 at Sembower Field.
The IU baseball team readies for another inning during the first game of the Cream and Crimson World Series October 8, 2008 at Sembower Field.

During the 2010 season’s first four games, the IU baseball team’s starting pitching staff averaged less than three innings of work per game.

That number has to change, IU head coach Tracy Smith said, in time for the Hoosiers’ three-game trip this weekend for the Big Ten/Big East Challenge. IU’s first game comes at 1 p.m. Friday afternoon in a contest against West Virginia at Jack Russell Stadium in Clearwater, Fla.

Freshman Walker Stadler was the lone bright spot for the starting staff during last weekend’s series at the University of San Diego, picking up a win after working six innings and giving up just three runs on seven hits.

“We’ve got to get better on the mound,” Smith said. “Our starting pitching, outside of Walker, was bad.” The other three starters — freshman Jonny Hoffman and sophomores Matt Igel and Blake Monar — each got into trouble early, with Monar lasting the longest with 3 1/3 innings pitched.

“I felt like my mound demeanor was pretty good,” Stadler, who will get the start against Villanova on Saturday, said. “I’m just going to do my best to attack the hitters, get ahead in the count, and I think the rest will take care of itself.”

Monar, who pitched the first game of the San Diego series, is tentatively scheduled as the starter for Sunday’s game with Connecticut due to an arm Smith described as “tender” after practice Wednesday.

Sophomore Drew Leiniger will toss the first pitch for the Hoosiers on Friday.
Life looks a little rosier on the offensive side for the Hoosiers, though, with last season’s top hitter Alex Dickerson already back in form. Dickerson hit .421 in the San Diego series in 19 at-bats, including two home runs and eight hits.

Dickerson, who batted .370 a year ago, isn’t too worried about solely being relied upon for the Hoosiers’ offensive production.

“Especially after this weekend seeing everyone in the lineup swing the bat, I realized I can have a really bad day and they’ll pick me up,” Dickerson said. “We faced some of the best pitching we’ll face all year last weekend, and we still hit pretty good all the way.”

As a team, IU batted .284 in 141 at-bats against San Diego, with a .461 on-base percentage, though Smith is still trying to tweak the batting order to his liking.

“This time of the year you’ll be moving guys around and trying different combinations, because you don’t know what you’ve got,” Smith said. “I’m not real concerned offensively, because I think we’re going to swing it.”

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