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Saturday, April 20
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

IU focuses on small ball, defense in game against Xavier

After exploding for 14 runs in their Big Ten opener against Penn State, the Hoosiers managed three and two runs, respectively, in their next two games.

Though they won the series, IU Coach Tracy Smith said he wants to see more consistency from his team offensively.

“We sometimes fall asleep for a few innings during the game and give a bunch of at-bats away,” Smith said. “We need to be locked in for nine innings, everybody giving a good at-bat every single time.”

Smith said at the beginning of the season he wanted his team to play more small ball.

Against Penn State, the Hoosiers were able to do that, as they hit six sacrifice bunts in the weekend series against the Nittany Lions — including four Saturday.

During that game, two of the Hoosiers’ three runs came via the sacrifice fly. Freshman left fielder Chris Sujka explained how the team practices to execute this.

“It starts at practice,” he said. “We work on that stuff every day at practice and BP before every game. We work on the offensive approach and the defensive approach. It’s just a big part of the game. (Us) executing (during) the game is no surprise because we work on it so much in practice.”

Sujka also leads the team in RBI with 22. He said he has come to the plate in situations conducive to driving in runs.

“It’s very easy to hit with runners in scoring position when there’s less than two outs,” he said. “Really all you have to do is put the ball in play somewhere, and usually you’ll get a run home. I like the opportunity to hit with runners in scoring position because you don’t always have to get a hit. You just have to put the ball in play.”

Meanwhile, Smith said he’s still looking for his team to improve defensively. Against Penn State, the Hoosiers committed two, two and zero errors, respectively.

“We’ve got to be a better defensive team,” Smith said. “We’ve got to understand not only what it means to take care of the baseball, but we need to start executing because we’re living on the edge right now. I want us to focus, you know, be good defensively at practice, be good defensively in pregame, and that’s how it translates into the game.”

The Hoosiers take on the Xavier Musketeers today in their second home game at Sembower Field, and Smith said he will split up the pitching duties. He said his team pitched well against Penn State.

“That was our key,” he said. “Defense has been our problem all season. We didn’t play great defense again this weekend. We swung the bats the first night but didn’t have good approaches the next two games.

“It goes to show you if you get good pitching, regardless of what’s going on in the other facets of the game, you still have a chance to win. That’s, to me, what stood out.”

It won’t be the Musketeers’ first games against Big Ten opponents. On March 3, the Northwestern Wildcats defeated them 3-2. Later that day, Xavier defeated the Michigan Wolverines 7-4. A day later, they again defeated the Wolverines 5-3.

The Hoosiers will be looking for their fifth win in six games.

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