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Sunday, April 14
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

After 20 road games, IU plays 1st home game at Sembower Field

After starting the year with 20 consecutive road games — including a stretch of 12 games in 10 days — the IU baseball team will play its first home game of the season at Sembower Field on Wednesday against Eastern Kentucky.

“It’s going to be great to finally be back at home,” IU Coach Tracy Smith said. “I know our guys are tired. It’s been five or six weekends in a row that we’ve been gone. I don’t care who you are, that’ll take a toll on your body.”

Wednesday’s game will be the back end of a home-and-home series with the Colonels. On Tuesday, IU (7-13) rallied from giving up early unearned runs to defeat EKU 6-4.

Freshman left fielder Chris Sujka and junior short stop Michael Basil combined for four hits, one homer, three RBIs and three runs to lead IU.

Sujka, who did not play Sunday because he was struggling toward the tail end of IU’s California trip this past weekend, said he spent extra time in the batting cages to work with coaches.

“I put in a little extra work with the coaches during the time we had off,” Sujka said. “It was nice to see it pay off on the first pitch I saw when I saw it and jumped on it to drive it out of the park.”

Sujka, who leads the team with four home runs and 18 RBIs, put the Hoosiers on the board with a solo shot in the second inning and added another RBI on a one-out fielder’s choice to the short stop.

Smith said Sujka’s aggressive approach has allowed him to be successful in tough RBI situations as a freshman.

“He’s a tough competitor, which is half the battle, to want to be in that situation,” Smith said. “For a freshman still trying to find his way, it’s important that every at-bat he has been a competitor.”

On the mound for IU will be freshman Collin McEnery (0-0), who has allowed two runs and three hits in four appearances and two innings of work this season.

Because Smith wants to begin to set up his rotation heading into the first weekend of Big Ten play, he expects to use multiple pitchers out of the pen against the Colonels.

“We will split up (who pitches) again (Wednesday),” Smith said. “We want our pitchers ready for the conference opener, so I expect (senior Chad) Martin will come in, and hopefully we can get (sophomore) Walker Stadler some time.”

IU’s bullpen was stellar Tuesday as four Hoosiers combined to allow only four hits and two runs in five-and-a-third innings of relief work.

Tuesday’s winning pitcher, junior Jonny Hoffman (1-1), was the first man out of the pen and earned his “W” by working out of a bases loaded, nobody out situation by allowing only one run to preserve the Hoosiers’ lead at 4-3.

Hoffman, who will probably not be used in the home opener, said the length of a start is always important to a team’s success.
 
“It’s always important that our starting pitchers are going deep into games, but especially now that we are going into conference,” Hoffman said. “It’s going to feel great to be at home because we’ve been in a tough stretch of 20 straight road games. I think our freshmen will be a lot more comfortable at home.”

This will be the final season that the Hoosiers play at Sembower Field, which was constructed in 1951.

The Hoosiers will be moving to a brand new stadium at the corner of the Indiana 45/46 Bypass and Fee Lane next season.

While the freshmen on the team will be excited to play in the first home game of their careers, Smith said he knows his entire team is ready to return home to a friendlier field.

“We went 20 straight games of people yelling nasty things to you from the stands,” Smith said. “I know the guys will be very excited to finally get to play a game in front of their friends and family.”

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