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Saturday, April 20
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

IU to face Eastern Tennessee State University on the road in 3-game series

Baseball vs. Northern Kentucky

After being swept by Tulane last weekend, the IU baseball team has one bright spot for this weekend’s series against Eastern Tennessee State University — the performance of freshman left fielder Chris Sujka.

Earlier this week, Sujka, from Oak Park, Ill., was named Co-Big Ten Freshman of the Week after going 6-for-12 with a home run and four RBIs against Tulane.

Sujka also had a slugging percentage of .917 on the weekend and is currently in a first-place tie for most RBIs (10) in the Big Ten.

Sujka said knowing his role on the team as a scrappy guy who gets on base at the top or bottom of the order has allowed him to relax and play with confidence.

“In high school, I was more of a power hitter that had to drive in runs because the talent level wasn’t as good around me,” Sujka said.

“Now that the talent is a lot higher, I just have to know my role. It takes some pressure off because now I can be one of the younger guys that can take advantage of the leaders in front of me.”

Sujka and the Hoosiers (2-4) will miss one of those leaders this weekend, as junior second baseman Micah Johnson — a preseason All-American selection — will not play because of elbow tenderness.

IU Coach Tracy Smith said that while Johnson’s ability at the plate will be missed in the line-up, Smith looks at the void as an opportunity for other guys to step up.

“Whether we replaced (Johnson’s) numbers or not, I’m not sure, but what we got to have is somebody that will get on base and make pitchers think,” Smith said.

Replacing Johnson at second base will be Chad Clark.

Clark, a right-handed, 5-foot-7-inch freshman from West Hills, Calif., surprised some with his power against Tulane as he belted a no-doubt-about-it home run in his first collegiate at-bat.

Clark would have had a triple on a ball he nailed over the center fielder’s head, but was eventually called out because he missed second base.

“He has been playing really well and gave us a real spark on Sunday,” Smith said. “We want to have a balance between speed and power, and Chad can steal a base, so maybe he can give some of Micah’s production.”

Besides Clark being inserted for Johnson, Smith said the line-up will remain relatively the same as it did against Tulane.

On the mound, Smith said, the Hoosiers’ starting pitchers will need to go longer into games to make it easier on the bullpen.

This strategy is something IU did not do well against Tulane, as the starting pitchers combined for a total of only 11 and two-thirds innings in three games.

Senior southpaw Drew Leininger’s first start of the season will be Saturday.

This past week, Leininger (1-0) pitched 2 1/3 innings of shutout ball Friday in relief before giving up three runs in an inning and a third on short rest in the series finale.

Leininger said pitching against the tough hitters of Tulane last weekend reemphasized the importance of executing specific pitches.

“If you execute your pitch, you can have success, but when you get away from that, that’s when they begin to hit you around,” Leininger said. “You have to focus on what you can do until that ball leaves your hand. After that, you can’t control it.”

As the Hoosiers look to rebound this weekend, Leininger said he has confidence the Hoosiers will be ready to play.

“We got to try to get that bad taste out of your mouth after getting swept,” Leininger said. “I think we have a good chance to win three games if we play our best, but it’s one game at a time, so we have to come out strong Friday.”

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