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Saturday, April 20
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

Questions linger for IU baseball prior to season

With IU Coach Tracy Smith and the IU men’s baseball team kicking off the season at Wednesday’s Media Day, here are three big questions the Hoosiers will have to answer this season.

1. Where is the offense going to come from?

Entering the season, the Hoosiers will need to figure out what their identity will be, as they lost two of the program’s all-time biggest hitters.

Jerrud Sabourin, the all-time IU hits leader, and Alex Dickerson, a two-time All-American and last year’s leader in batting average (.367), home runs (9), RBI (49), slugging percentage (.540) and on-base percentage (.440), will not be in the middle of this year’s Hoosier line-up to intimidate pitchers.

To make up for this loss, Smith might adjust to play more “small ball” this year with Micah Johnson (19-for-22 with steals last year) and Justin Cureton (16-17 steals last year). Johnson, who has been selected as the Big Ten’s only preseason All-American, will be the focal point of the team’s offense and will try to improve upon last year’s .335 average, 43 runs, four triples, three home runs and .474 slugging percentage.

If guys such as sophomore Dustin DeMuth can get on base in front of Johnson, Johnson has the ability to pick up the offensive load for the Hoosiers.

2. Who will step up in the pitching rotation after the loss of ace Blake Monar?

Last year, Monar, who graduated, led the Hoosiers with 13 starts, 79.1 innings pitched and 61 strikeouts. In Monar’s absence, look for sophomore Joey DeNato to build on his 7-3 freshman season. While DeNato will not be under the radar like last year, he will try to improve upon his 2.80 ERA and .264 batting average against.

Besides DeNato, IU will rely on seniors Chad Martin (2-5 in 17 appearances and eight starts last year) and Drew Leininger (4-3 in 14 appearances and eight starts last year) for staff leadership, while sophomore Brian Korte (2-4 in 11 appearances and nine starts last year) might be the pitcher ready to take a step up in the rotation.

As far as the bullpen goes, closer Ryan Halstead (9 saves in 22 appearances last year) will be looking to close the door on more wins this year for the Hoosiers.

3. Will the Hoosiers be stronger up the middle defensively this year?

Last year, one of the weaknesses that reappeared throughout the season was poor defensive play up-the-middle from shortstop Michael Basil (19 errors) and second baseman Johnson (12 errors).

After a year of adjusting to playing second base, Johnson’s errors should go down this season. At this point, Basil is the front-runner to play first base for the Hoosiers, so his number of attempts should go down, which will help his overall defense.

DeMuth, who played third base last year, will move to shortstop as Johnson’s double-play combination. Demuth only committed nine errors last year (.945 fielding percentage) but might go through an adjustment period as he learns the new position.

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