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Saturday, June 22
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

IU men's baseball team ready for Michigan series

A six-game respite from conference play proved timely for the No. 17 IU Hoosiers (31-8, 8-4) as the recess allowed IU Coach Tracy Smith to rest sophomore Kyle Schwarber from catching duties in advance of a series against Michigan.

The Hoosiers’ penultimate series at Bart Kaufman Field features significant implications for the Hoosiers’ preseason goal of winning a regular season conference championship, their first since 1949. Bart Kaufman Field will be dedicated an hour prior to the first pitch, scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Friday. Saturday’s first pitch is scheduled for 4:30 p.m., and the series will conclude Sunday at 1:05 p.m.

The Wolverines swept in-state rival Michigan State in early April, then they broke out the brooms again against Penn State, a series bookended by wins against Notre Dame. At 8-4, first-year head coach Erik Bakich has his Wolverines in a tie for third with IU in the Big Ten.

Sophomore Chad Clark said it’s a huge series.

“I think every game is big for us on a national standpoint,” Clark said. “Michigan, I know they’re going to come with their best. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing. We’re playing a lot better baseball, especially the last few games.

“(Wednesday night) is definitely a little motivation for us to keep doing what we’re doing: Being smart on the bases, being smart on the mound.”

Smith said Wednesday night he does not know if Schwarber will catch against the Wolverines. If Clark turns in performances like he did against Indiana State, the Hoosiers will not rush Schwarber back.

“We’ll listen to him, see how he feels,” Smith said. “We’re not going to push it, especially if we can get performances behind the plate like that (Wednesday) by Chad (Clark). When he’s ready, we’ll put him in there, and probably not a minute before.”

Senior shortstop Michael Basil said after the Hoosiers’ victory March 27 against Louisville that a lineup devoid of freshmen does not happen very often. There have been no issues with freshman infielder Nick Ramos filling in for Clark as Basil’s double play partner because Smith said that Ramos and freshman infielder Brian Wilhite had really solid fall seasons.

Meanwhile, Clark said he still takes ground balls at second base, the position he vacated to move behind the dish. He gives pointers to Ramos, who has started nine of the 11 games since Schwarber sustained a knee injury.

“I think he’s doing a good job,” Clark said. “I feel like every freshman gets a little anxious and aggressive. I just tell him to slow the game down, just make it easier on himself.”

During the break from conference play, the Hoosiers went 5-1 in their six games, including a 4-1 record against in-state foes. Smith said maybe such success provides some recruiting fodder. In contrast, he expressed certainty that his team is playing well at the right time, going into the weekend conference series.

“This game is cruel. It’s unforgiving, and it’s unpredictable,” Smith said. “It doesn’t matter how you played the day before. If you’re not locked in and ready to play that day, it can turn on you in a dime.

“I’m happy we’re playing good baseball. I’m happy that we had the bye weekend to get guys healthy, but it really doesn’t play into what we do on Friday. We’ve got to be ready to play Friday.”

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