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Saturday, March 2
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

Baseball looks to snap 7-game skid in weekend series

Baseball Seniors

Two weeks ago, the IU baseball team was receiving votes in the Top 25 USA Today poll.  

Now, after being swept on two consecutive weekends, the Hoosiers (25-19, 6-9) are just fighting to make the Big Ten Tournament.

The seven straight losses for Tracy Smith’s ballclub account for the most losses since 2008, and timely hitting and unforced errors are two of the main reasons IU has moved from the top of the Big Ten to four games behind the division leaders.

The seven-game losing streak started during Easter weekend when Minnesota swept IU at Sembower Field.  

The Hoosiers followed that with a 10-3 loss to Miami (Ohio) on April 26 before being swept by Purdue last weekend.

During that stretch, IU has left 57 runners on base while being outscored 55-19 with 15 of those 55 runs being unearned.

“It has been pretty freaky, the lack of production with guys on base, and therefore it puts a lot of pressure on the other areas of the game—pitching and defense,” Smith said. “It seems like when you aren’t able to swing your way out of a mistake, then every mistake you make defensively gets compounded.”

Still with three Big Ten series left in 2011, Smith made it more than clear that he has all the confidence in a team he labeled as a top-25 team back in February.

One of the players that Smith is sticking with down the stretch is 2010 All-Big Ten designated hitter Josh Lyon.

After hitting .371 with 11 home runs last season, Lyon has hit below .200 for much of the season and has split time in a crowded but unproven Hoosiers outfield.

Smith said he is still searching for productivity within a couple of positions, but Lyon ­— along with some speed in the outfield — will be what the Hoosiers will roll with in May.

“These last nine ball games I’ve got what I would say in mind is the formula for success, even though they are not producing right now,” Smith said. “For us to play at the level we need to play at, these guys need to be producing well.

“My commitment to them is we are going to ride it out with you these last nine or 11 games, and either we get it done with you or we don’t. I think we will get it done.”

On the mound, Smith will make a change in the weekend rotation by sliding freshman Joey DeNato up to the No. 2 spot and fellow freshman Brian Korte into Sunday’s third spot. The move means Chad Martin will move back to the bullpen where he excelled earlier in the season. In his last two starts, Martin gave up 17 hits and nine earned runs in only eight innings of work.

Northwestern (14-25, 6-9), like IU, comes into this weekend series at Sembower Field one game behind Penn State for the sixth and final spot in the Big Ten Tournament.

“It is a must-win series,” Smith said. “My team’s focus will be on Friday, but we have to go out and win the next three series.”

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