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Saturday, April 20
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

IU baseball team to begin Big Ten play against Penn State

IU v EKU

Perhaps the Hoosiers are peaking at the proper moment.

IU’s 11-5 win Wednesday against Eastern Kentucky gave them their fourth win in six games. Their stop at Sembower Field was brief, as the team took a bus to State College, Pa. to open Big Ten play this weekend with a three-game series at Penn State.

Against the Colonels Wednesday, the Hoosiers got on base at a .523 clip in the last home opener at Sembower Field.

Sophomore third baseman Dustin DeMuth, second in the Big Ten with 85 hits last season, picked up five in seven at-bats against the Colonels.

“He’s a good hitter,” IU Coach Tracy Smith said. “The kid’s done it at this level. He knows he can hit. We know that he can hit. It’s good to see him get some results today.”

DeMuth said he’s made an adjustment at the plate, and it’s made him more comfortable.

“At the beginning of the season, I was not comfortable at all,” DeMuth said. “I don’t know what it was. Now I feel like I’m ready, and I feel good in there.

“A different approach, being ready to hit early in the count. My teammates (have) been keeping up all year when I was struggling. Kudos to them. I’m glad to be back.”

Junior shortstop Michael Basil hit 5-for-8 against EKU. On a team that started five freshman position players Wednesday, Smith said it benefits the team when more experienced players have success.

“It’s huge,” Smith said. “We’ve been saying all along (that) we’re struggling right now record-wise. Early in the season, good opponents, playing good teams. But Mike and Dustin (were) really not doing a lot offensively. It’s tough when you ask a bunch of freshman to carry the load for you.

“I would much rather have these guys swinging very well right now as we head into conference play as opposed to early and taking a dive.”

Freshman first baseman Sam Travis said the biggest gain from their two wins was something intangible.

“Biggest part of it is to get momentum going into Big Ten play, going in with two wins under our belt,” he said. “Looks like we got the bats rolling a little bit. Let’s hope we can keep that going through Big Ten play.”

After junior pitch hitter Trace Knoblauch singled to begin the sixth, freshman second baseman Chad Clark came to the plate. He hit a ball down the left field line and tried to stretch his hit into a triple. Though he was called out at third, his RBI extended the Hoosiers’ lead to 11-0.

Smith said that’s the kind of base running he likes to see.

“That’s kind of a judgment thing,” Smith said. “Obviously we wouldn’t have brought him if we didn’t think he was going to make it. They made a good relay. Credit to them. Probably could’ve gone either way. I love the aggressiveness right there.”

The Hoosiers’ first games in conference play since Illinois ended their 2011 season via the walk-off home run come against a team struggling offensively. The Nittany Lions rank last in batting average, hits, on-base percentage, runs scored and RBI.

Meanwhile, the Hoosiers send reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Week sophomore Joey DeNato to the bump to begin the series.

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