We’ve all heard of those program-changing years, the years that make a certain team go from bad to good, good to great or great to historic.
The year of 1976 changed the IU basketball program from great to historic. We are still waiting to find out if 2007 was that bad-to-good year for IU football, when the Hoosiers won their first Bucket game since 2001 and began construction on one of the most state-of-the-art facilities in college football in hopes of boosting recruiting and the game day atmosphere. Let’s give it two or three more years.
And this year, the IU Athletics Department could be facing one of those make-or-break years as it relates to its baseball program. New stadium or no new stadium, IU baseball fans have something to be excited about.
At 3-1 during its last four games, the baseball team beat then-No.18 Coastal Carolina in 16 innings and then-No.14 Connecticut 3-1. Prior to the 2009 season, in which
Tracy Smith’s team won the Big Ten Tournament, IU had lost at least five of its first nine games the previous three years.
IU has experience to go along with three straight winning seasons and one NCAA tournament appearance in that span. The question is, will it turn the corner?
It’s more than fair to assume this could be the year IU makes a deep run in both the conference and league tournaments. Last year, after sending seven underclassmen off to the pro ranks, IU tallied a winning season and finished third in the Big Ten.
In order for IU to take the collegiate baseball world by storm in 2011, two things have to happen specifically relating to this team. One, and probably the most crucial, is for the Hoosiers’ bats to pick up where they left off with the gaudy offensive numbers.
Last season, IU averaged a remarkable 7.9 runs per game, thanks largely to Big Ten Player of the Year and First-Team All-American Alex Dickerson’s ridiculous .419 average and 75 RBI. The junior has started all 113 games in his two-year collegiate career thus far and will be expected to carry the workload offensively for IU.
The second thing that must happen for the Hoosiers is they must remain healthy. This is a team with just six seniors on the entire roster. Underclassmen, including
Dickerson and juniors Brian Ritz and Josh Lyon, played a vital role in last year’s winning record. If IU can stay healthy, they could be a tough force with which to compete with regards to the experience factor.
And there are the off-diamond implications that a successful year could bring. The most important thing in my mind is the status of a new facility. Why is winning now important with regards to the status of a new stadium? Nothing breeds dollars like winning games.
Yes, players, coaches and fans have the right to feel somewhat jilted as it relates to continual postponement of a new stadium. The bottom line is that while many involved with the baseball program feel snubbed by construction being continually postponed, the best thing they can do right now is win, and win fast.
The opportunity for a hallmark season is there for taking, as is the formation for a case advocating a new stadium in the very near future.