Indiana Daily Student

IU to put win streak on line in Jacksonville

Despite seeing his team shake off a string of early-season losses with three consecutive wins, IU Coach Tracy Smith said he still has yet to see a complete performance from his squad.

“I still don’t think we’re firing on all cylinders,” Smith said. “I’d still like to see us play a little bit better than what we’re doing. More competitive at-bats for the lineup all the way through.”

The No. 17 Hoosiers, who started the season 2-5 before rattling off victories against Toledo, No. 19 Louisville and Xavier, will put their newly acquired .500 record on the line with a three-game series against Jacksonville (3-7) in Jacksonville, Fla., this weekend.

Their resurgence has been powered by a series of strong pitching performances that have allowed opponents to score only six runs in the past three games after giving up 5.4 runs per game in 2014’s opening seven contests.

Smith will give the ball to senior Joey DeNato and sophomores Will Coursen-Carr and Christian Morris to continue the Hoosiers’ pitching success.

It will be the third different group of weekend starters for IU as Smith looks to solidify the rotation.

“We’re going to try to start getting it set,” he said.

The Hoosiers will be bolstered by the full return of senior third baseman Dustin DeMuth, who missed two games with a hamstring injury before playing a full nine innings during Wednesday’s win against Xavier.

DeMuth, a 2013 third-team All-American, is one of only two Hoosiers batting over .300 this season. He has bat from the No. 6 position in Smith’s new-look lineup, which features junior catcher Kyle Schwarber in the leadoff position the first time in his career and junior first baseman Sam Travis hitting third.

Slotting in between the two Hoosier sluggers has been junior Casey Rodrigue, who said he has settled into a rhythm at the plate.

“Yeah, I feel very comfortable at the plate,” he said. “My approach right now is not to try and do too much. I’m just getting up there ... get on base for the big bats in our lineup with Travis, DeMuth and Schwarber.”

In Jacksonville, the Hoosier lineup will be tested by the Dolphins’ rotation of left-hander Josh Baker and right-handers Alex McRae and Justin Russell, who have allowed 16 runs in 47 combined innings this season.

Smith, who said he would take his first look at the Dolphins on Thursday, said his team has stayed focused despite faltering early in the season.

“We’re a mature team, just trusting the guys,” he said. “We battled back to .500 now, but we got a lot of questions early on, about ‘What’s wrong with you?’ Nothing’s wrong with us.

“They hit, they do well,” Smith said. “We just weren’t hitting. So we’re going to keep being who we are, and I’m going to trust in the players and hopefully they trust in what we’re doing. If we do that, we’ll come out on the winning side more than not.”

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