June 9, 2013


Indiana Steals Limelight

By D.C. Reeves

Warchant.com Managing Editor

Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – When the program with 21 College World Series appearances pushed, the program with zero pushed back.


When the team with the banners couldn't get runners home, the one that just threw its first Super Regional pitch in program history came up clutch.


That was Indiana, postseason newbies, as it marched into Tallahassee and swept through Florida State in this weekend's NCAA Super Regional. The Hoosiers punched their first ticket to Omaha on Sunday with another impressive offensive showing, topping the Seminoles 11-6.


"It all goes without saying for all the other guys in uniform and the people around the state of Indiana, and just all our IU folks, we are thrilled, we are happy," Indiana coach Tracy Smith said.


His team is the first Big 10 member to make the CWS in 29 years.

"I tweeted out the other day that every pitch that we make, every hit and every out is really making history for our baseball program because this is certainly uncharted territory for us,” Smith said. “But we are thrilled, we are happy and there's a lot of work to do."


Despite the lack of experience in these type of spots, Indiana only showed wide eyes at the plate. After 10 runs in Saturday's win, the Hoosiers (48-14) kept the bats toasty Sunday, plating four runs in the first inning off of FSU starter Scott Sitz.

And like Saturday, when FSU was down early, it clawed back in the early innings, tying the game with a three-run fifth inning. And with the game tied at 5, FSU had its golden chance. But a fitting microcosm of FSU's untimeliness on the weekend, Josh Delph struck out with the bases loaded. In all, Florida State stranded 27 runners in the two games including 13 on Sunday.


FSU catcher Stephen McGee, who is nursing a hand injury suffered during last week's Regional, was 0 for 5 with two strikeouts on Sunday. Florida State also had three loud outs caught on the warning track on Sunday.


"It's very frustrating to go up there working every at-bat, every pitch, and we just couldn't come up with the key hit when we needed it," FSU left fielder DJ Stewart said.

Timing was no issue for Indiana, which got crucial relief outs from left-hander Will Coursen-Carr (5-0) on both days. He picked up for starter Aaron Slegers and struck out Delph to stop the bleeding in the fifth on the way to four innings of one-run ball and the win. He picked up the save in Saturday's 10-9 win.


"It's funny how you sit over there and say somebody, somebody pick us up,” Seminoles coach Mike Martin said. “You have to credit them for making pitches when they needed to make them…There again, it's just part of the game. It makes it interesting every night. We of course had good at bats to position ourselves to get us in the situation of having chances, but as I said, sometimes things just don't go your way."


Then, like Saturday, Indiana responded at the plate. Sam Travis hit a two-run home run in the bottom half of the fifth to give Indiana for good at 7-5. The Hoosiers added another run in the seventh and three more in the eighth to put the game away.


Indiana's resolve - in the face of unfamiliar postseason territory and a hostile crowd - was the key. Starting in the fourth inning on Saturday, Florida State tied or took the lead four different times. In the ensuing half inning on those four occasions, Indiana combined to plate seven runs.


When the Hoosiers needed hits, they got them.


"As soon as we tied it, they hit the two-run homer [Sunday]," said Martin, whose team owns the longest Super Regional appearance streak (6) in the nation. "We never seemed to get a lead we could add to. I think we led one time in two games. You just tip your hat to that bunch. They came in here poised, they just got it done."


Even the series clincher followed suit. In the eighth Indiana's No. 9 hitter Justin Cureton, who sported a .219 average entering Sunday, squeezed a two-run triple down the first-base line to make it 10-6.


"I don't think you [push back] unless you have confident, talented kids," Smith said. "And that's the one thing that we just said, don't get caught up that it's Florida State. This a storied program, one of the best programs, has been for a long time. Don't get caught up on what it says on the jersey, don't get caught up with the crowd, don't do this, don't do that, just be nine guys vs. their nine guys and let's be better than those nine guys. And I think our guys had confidence in that and they felt like they could do that. And certainly offensively we thought we were this weekend."


Sunday marks the fourth time Florida State has been swept in Super Regional play and the third time at home. It was also the first series FSU lost at home since May 19-21, 2011 against Clemson.


Sitz (10-2), who made his last collegiate start, was saddled with just his second loss of the year. He allowed six earned runs in 4.1 innings, the most earned runs he's allowed since his freshman season in 2010 - a span of 56 appearances.


Nonetheless, Florida State won 48 games in the face of inexperience and injury. FSU's top four hitters were gone following 2012 while team captain Justin Gonzalez (hip) and pitcher Mike Compton (elbow), a freshman All-American a season ago, missed the vast majority of the year.


"I feel like we just did a great job. A quality year. Pitching, hitting, defense, everything just came together, we played great together as a team," Sitz said as his eyes welled. "I feel like that is why it's so hard right now."


"We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you buddy," Martin said. As Sitz lowered his head, Martin slapped Sitz on the back.


On this weekend, though, it was the team that had never seen this stage before that answered everything thrown its way.


"I could not be happier that it happened here because I think it makes a statement, hopefully it does, that this is not a fluke," Smith said. "I think our team is pretty good and we'll see how we do moving forward."