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Tuesday, June 18
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

IU's powerful bats meet OSU's perfect pitcher

Baseball

IU coach Tracy Smith tweeted early Thursday morning that he couldn’t sleep, but he didn’t blame it on the fact that his team would take the field against one of the nation’s best collegiate pitchers Friday at Ohio State.

Instead, Smith blamed his three maltese dogs sleeping on his legs — a slightly odd update, though in line with many of his Twitter posts this season.

But the pitcher — OSU’s Alex Wimmers — might very well have played a role in Smith’s sleeping troubles, as the junior righthander’s perfect 6-0 record and 1.98 ERA indicate Wimmers has yet to meet an equitable match in 2010.
The Hoosiers (14-13, 1-2) start the first of a three-game weekend series Friday night with Ohio State (17-8, 2-1).

“We’re facing one of the best pitchers in the country in Alex Wimmers,” said Smith of his team’s Friday pitching foe. “But you know, we swing the bat probably as well as a lot of teams in the country.”

Certainly, Smith isn’t off the mark with such a claim. Two Hoosier players have been simply smashing the baseball this season, and in doing so, have placed themselves near the top of the charts nationally for total hits.

At the start of the week, junior first baseman Jerrud Sabourin was tied for third overall in the country with 55 hits this season, while sophomore Alex Dickerson sits tied for 15th with 50 hits to his name. Such numbers don’t even portray a completely fair measurement for both, as they have competed in less games and had more than 10 fewer at-bats than the league leaders with 56 hits.

Both Sabourin and Dickerson are hitting well over .400 in 2010, though Sabourin’s .480 average is startlingly close to having a hit in half of his at-bats.

In 2009, a .343 batting average with 36 RBI and 48 runs scored earned Sabourin a spot on the All-Big Ten Second Team — not a bad achievement for a guy who was cut on the first day of practice as a freshman at the University of Arizona.

What, then, did Sabourin do during the offseason to go from a consistent staple of IU’s offense to being an exceptional Hoosier batter every time he steps in the box?

“I think he’s a little stronger this year, but he’s got a really, really good awareness of the strike zone and he’s got a great feel for his swing,” said Smith, backing up Sabourin’s team-leading .515 on-base percentage.

Smith said there haven’t been dramatic modifications to Sabourin’s swing, either.

“The art of hitting is a very fine thing to do, and to make adjustments, you’ve got to be able to feel your body as well as make adjustments to it,” Smith said. “When you’ve got guys who understand their swing, you don’t tinker with it too much.”

Sabourin said he made some minor adjustments with a hitting coach in the offseason to lengthen the end of his swing, but he said the trigger to such an increase in production might just be that he’s figured out the right state of mind to approach each at-bat.

“The way it feels this year is that I almost don’t even have to try,” Sabourin said. “Baseball’s a funny game because that’s kind of how it’s supposed to be. The less you try, the more relaxed you are. And maybe that can be attributed to me being more relaxed this year.”

Sabourin said in previous seasons he’s been more “jumpy” in the box, but now — with the help of a few minor tweaks of where he places his feet in his batting stance — he’s better able to hone in on the pitch being hurled toward him.

“It’s just come to the point where I’ve been playing baseball for so long that I’ve just kind of figured it out,” Sabourin said. “There hasn’t been any pitcher in any game this year that I haven’t felt like I could get a hit off of.”

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