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Saturday, April 20
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

9 IU baseball players to feel at home during Calif. road trip

Southern California is well-represented on the IU baseball team’s roster. Of the 35 Hoosiers, nine players hail from the region.

IU Coach Tracy Smith said it’s not a coincidence that during spring break, the Hoosiers will play eight games against southern California foes.

“The west coast part is just something we want to do for them,” Smith said. “I’m proud of the fact that they made the decision to come here, and I want to show them off.”

Two seasons ago, the team traveled to San Diego to take on the No. 23 Toreros. Then-freshman Jonny Hoffman surrendered seven runs — all earned — and six hits in 1.1 innings.

The junior pitcher from Oceanside, Calif., said this trip will mean a lot for his father.

“(I’m) excited to play in front of family and friends,” he said. “It’s good competition out there. It’s always fun.

“For my dad, it has special meaning because he got to watch me all throughout high school, and he doesn’t really get to see me much now.”

Hoffman said he aspires to pitch more effectively this time.

“I’m excited to get back out there because as a freshman, I didn’t do too well,” he said. “I started on Saturday and didn’t get out of the second inning. Hopefully I can redeem myself, and we can win more games.”

Senior starting pitcher Drew Leininger relieved Hoffman in game three of the series. Leininger threw 5.2 innings of shutout baseball, allowing five hits and striking out four.

He said this trip will be different for a couple of reasons.

“Back then, USD was ranked, and that was our first four games, our first four days outside playing baseball,” Leininger said. “Right now, we’ve got three series under our belt.

“We’ll treat it the same way: a business trip. It’s not an average spring break. It’s different because we’re a little bit more into the season.”

Their first opponent on the trip will be California State Northridge — a team freshman second baseman Chad Clark could have played for.

“They offered me a scholarship,” he said. “I turned them down to come to Indiana just because their offer was a little lower than I expected. I’m pretty pumped to face that coach.”

Three Hoosiers are from the greater Los Angeles area — Clark, sophomore closer Ryan Halstead and freshman infielder Rhet Montana — and three are from San Diego or its suburbs — sophomore starting pitcher Joey DeNato, Leininger and sophomore infielder Dillon Dooney.

Clark said there is no rivalry between players from the two cities.

“We kind of stick together in the locker room, socially, because we have something in common that we’re from California,” he said. “We’re pretty close to each other.”
Leininger said he agreed.

“It’s kind of Southern California in the group,” Leininger said. “It’s not really San Diego vs. Los Angeles.”

Leininger hails from the same town as departed slugger Alex Dickerson.

“We made the situation individually,” Leininger said. “He was recruited before I was. Coach Smith was out in California, saw him and recruited him. Alex committed before I was looked at. Through Alex, Coach Smith asked about any pitchers. He came down and watched me throw.

“I had other options, too, but Indiana was my choice. I made the decision on my own, and we ended up coming to the same place.”

Meanwhile, Smith said he and his staff will to continue to recruit there.

“We’ve been able to grab some guys out of that area that have been successful for us,” he said. “It opens the eyes of the guys out there. ‘Where’s such-and-such? He’s going to Indiana? What? Where?’ It kind of puts us on the map. You keep going back to where you have connections and success.

“As long as we keep grabbing good players out of that area, we’re going to keep going after it.”

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