The IU baseball team will take a Big Ten-leading 2.75 ERA into today’s matchup with Xavier (2-4) in Mason, Ohio.
The Hoosiers (3-3) have leaned on their pitching staff during the early part of the 2011 season and have already reaped the benefits of two ranked victories.
In particular, the IU bullpen has been near perfect in the first six games.
Fourteen different Hoosier arms have been called on from the bullpen this season, with nine of those pitchers having an unblemished ERA. Perhaps even more impressive, of those nine pitchers with 0.00 ERAs, four have thrown at least 3.2 innings.
“You have a lot of capable guys, and I think it is just a matter of getting guys out there and getting them confident,” Smith said. “They believe in each other and are having fun being aggressive.”
One of the men who has been called upon three times already this season is Matt Igel. The junior from Vincennes, Ind., will get his first start of the season today.
Igel started five games for the Hoosiers last season and said the main difference between coming out of the bullpen versus starting is preparation.
“Being a starter, you know exactly when you are going in. As a reliever, you have to be three pitches away and get it going real quick,” Igel said. “Out of the bullpen, you can let it go more and throw harder, but whatever position they want me to fill, I will.”
Another veteran in IU’s bullpen is senior Matt Carr. The Indianapolis native leads the Hoosiers with four appearances and has recorded 10 strikeouts in nine innings of work.
Heading into IU’s 7-5 loss to Oregon State on Sunday, the Hoosiers’ bullpen had thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings.
At 6 foot 7 inches and 240 pounds, junior Chad Martin has played a large role in the
scoreless streak. The junior college transfer recorded the first IU save of the 2011 season
Saturday when he went 3.2 innings, closing out No. 14 Connecticut with five strikeouts and no walks.
The Hoosiers also lead the Big Ten in fewest hits allowed (42, 10 fewer than any other team) among the 10 teams that have played six games this season. Although Smith is pleased with what his pitching staff has given him this early in the season, he knows they will have to work on their Big Ten-worse 35 walks.
“We are walking too many guys,” Smith said. “We have some really talented kids, and they are living up to that up to this point. We need to cut down on our walks, but I’m not surprised by the numbers because I know that guys are capable.”
Even though the Musketeers bring a sub .500 record onto the diamond today, Smith said they will be ready to go.
“Coach Coogins (a former IU assistant) always plays a tough schedule early on in the season, so their record isn’t always indicative of how good they are going to be,” Smith said. “He always has those guys ready to play, and I will expect no different. If we aren’t ready to play, they will beat the snot out of us.”