Thanks to sunny skies and 60-degree weather, the IU baseball team was
able to practice outside of Mellencamp Pavilion on Tuesday.
“We were able to get out into the football stadium, which was really the first opportunity for our outfielders to see some fly balls,” IU coach Tracy Smith said. “I wish we could get on our field, but it was nice just to get a fly ball.”
More sunny skies will greet the Hoosiers this weekend as they open their 2011 season in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and participate in the Caravelle Resort Invitational.
However, the teams facing IU this weekend won’t be as friendly as the temperatures.
At noon Friday, IU will take on a Virginia Tech team that finished sixth last year in the Atlantic Coast Conference and lost to eventual National Champion South Carolina in the NCAA Tournament.
Another ACC opponent awaits the Hoosiers on Saturday: Freshman pitcher Joey DeNato of Boston College will make his collegiate debut.
The No. 20 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers will be the final opponent for IU in South Carolina this weekend. Led by Big South Preseason Player of the Year Tommy La Stella, the Chanticleers led the nation last season with 55 wins.
Facing them will be IU junior Blake Monar, who will return to the mound after suffering a season-ending injury to his throwing arm during his first start last season.
The three starters Smith will send to the mound this weekend will all be lefties, but his biggest worry resides in the unproven bullpen.
“I’m most concerned about the young pitching staff and how that will fall into order and most specifically trying to figure out defense,” Smith said.
Smith said playing against two teams who made the NCAA Tournament last season will give the Hoosiers the measuring stick they need to start their 2011 season.
“We are going to know exactly what our deficiencies are and what our strengths are,” he said. “I love the fact that we are playing good teams. This is really going to give us a good idea of coming back next week knowing that we are strong here or where we need to make some adjustments.”
One place Smith won’t have to worry is in left field, where 2010 Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year Alex Dickerson returns.
The Hoosiers also bring back three players who batted higher than .300 last season in senior Jerrud Sabourin, junior Josh Lyon and sophomore Micah Johnson.
The Hoosiers might have been able to get outside for the first time all winter this week, but they will be even more excited to see something other than Cream and Crimson in the opposing dugout this weekend.
“We have been looking at each other way too long, and we need to go play somebody else and figure out what we’ve got,” Smith said.