IU Coach Tracy Smith is finally happy with the performance of his baseball team.
After a slow start to the season that saw the preseason No. 3 Hoosiers drop out of the rankings, the team rallied to win eight of its last 12 games and sweep a three-game series at Ohio State last weekend.
They returned to the top 25, with IU coming in at No. 24 in this week’s Baseball America rankings.
The Hoosiers brought together their sharpest series of the season in Columbus, Ohio, outscoring the Buckeyes 21-7 and outhitting them 42-19.
“We’re hitting stride right now,” Smith said. “We know the way we’re capable of playing. It wasn’t a shock, I mean, honestly, that’s the way we play. We’ve just kind of been waiting for it to happen.”
Smith will look for a continuation of that momentum today as IU (15-10) takes on his former team.
The ninth-year head coach and his Hoosier squad will welcome Miami (Ohio) to Bart Kaufman Field for a first pitch scheduled at 6:05 p.m. today.
Smith, a four-time letterwinner at Miami, spent nine years in the RedHawks’ dugout before accepting the IU job prior to the 2006 season. His Hoosier teams have fared well against his former squad, going 4-5 against the RedHawks since he came to Bloomington.
He will tap sophomore left-hander Sullivan Stadler to take the mound in pursuit of victory Wednesday afternoon.
After pitching just one inning in 2013, Stadler has made two starts for the Hoosiers this season. He has compiled a 1-1 record with a 5.23 ERA in 10.1 innings.
Miami will send freshman right-hander Christian Bokich to the mound to complete the pitching matchup. Bokich has struggled this season, allowing 9 runs in just 4.2 innings coming out of the bullpen.
Bokich will make his first career start against a talented Hoosier lineup featuring two 2013 All-Americans that is now hitting its stride.
Smith said it was up to junior catcher Kyle Schwarber and junior first baseman Sam Travis to spark the offensive surge.
“They tried to do a little too much earlier in the season,” Smith said of his two All-Americans. “It’s nice that they’ve settled in with quality at-bats. The thing is, when they do that, other guys are going to follow. You trust the guys around you, you take a walk if they’re going to give you a walk and trust the guys to drive you in.”
Schwarber said he and the rest of the IU lineup have fine-tuned their approach and will look to put up runs no matter the opposition.
“We really focused on putting in quality at-bats at the plate,” Schwarber said. “We haven’t been putting in quality at-bats for the last month or so. We wanted to make a team effort towards that, and I feel like we made a really good adjustment.”
The statistics back up Schwarber’s claim. After scoring 69 runs in its first 17 games — going 9-8 in those contests — IU has scored 51 in its last eight games, winning six of those.
Schwarber said despite the RedHawks’ struggles in recent games, with five losses in a row and a 10-15 overall record, the Hoosiers will look to jump on Bokich early.
“We don’t care who we’re playing,” Schwarber said. “We’re going to come out and play Indiana baseball. If we play Indiana baseball, we’re not going to be afraid of the results.”