I covered Monday’s NCAA baseball regional announcement in Bloomington and wrote a little about two Region kids who play for IU for the Post-Tribune, and I’ll be covering the IU baseball regional this weekend for the P-T. The teams had open practices and media availability on Thursday. Other job responsibilities kept me from making it, but here’s some highlights from quotes distributed by IU’s sports information department:
IU coach Tracy Smith noted that, of the four teams at Bloomington, the Hoosiers are the only one that didn’t compete in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
“They have the experience. The good thing about that is that this is a veteran ball club,” Smith said. “If you’ve followed our season to this point with the way we concluded on the road with Ohio State and certainly a very competitive Big Ten Tournament, we’ve been in tournament mode for the last two weeks. I think that certainly is going to bode well for us …”
None of the players on this year’s team were around when the Hoosiers last competed in the NCAA Tournament, in 2009. But Smith still believes there’s a different mentality between the squads.
“There was so much focus on getting to the regional, there was not an emphasis on winning the regional,” Smith said of the ’09 Hoosiers. “I think that is the difference with this team. If you watched even the celebration and response of this team, it wasn’t this jubilance or these guys jumping around and going crazy in 2009, it was like Mike (Basil) said, ‘check’ now we are in the tournament and on to our next goal.
“It’s not fake, these guys are very even-keeled. I think it’s an overall attitude.
“Talentwise, that 2009 team was very talented with several draft picks, three first round draft picks, but I just think the mindset with this team is that we are not satisfied. I can tell you for a fact this mindset is different than in 2009.
“These guys expect to win and they want to win. And they feel like they have a lot of season left to play.”
As much as the Hoosiers are eager to do more than just show up, the Crusaders, who IU will face in the first-round Friday night, are looking for a better showing than last season.
“We have a little bit of seniority now. We’ve got the jitters gone after being in the tournament for the first time in 44 years last season,” Valpo coach Tracy Woodson said.
“I think you’re going to see a much more confident team. I think that’s what did us in last year. It was the butterflies, the 22-inning game before us with Kentucky and Kent State and not starting until 11 p.m. I’m hoping the storms stay away and we don’t get pushed back, because I think sitting around really hurt us last year.
“Overall, we are excited to be here and we feel like we have a chance to win some games here.”
The Crusaders aren’t intimidated by IU’s dangerous offense.
“It’s the Big Ten champions, but at the same time, it’s not going to change what type of pitching I am going to do or we as a pitching staff are going to do,” said junior pitcher Cole Webb, who’s slated to start tomorrow night against IU’s Aaron Slegers. “We just need to hit our spots and focus on our game plan and not let any of the outside circumstances affect us.”
The No. 3 seed comes in with a 29-28 record but earned its at-large bid to the tournament with one of the country’s toughest schedules.
“We played one of the hardest schedules in the nation for a reason and that’s to prepare us for the tournament and make it back to Omaha (and the College World Series),” senior shortstop Cody Dent said. “If you want to be the best, you have to play the best and beat the best. That’s what we do.”
And although Florida was in the tournament last year, they don’t have that much experience.
“We don’t have a whole lot of guys that have played in the postseason, we have a bunch of guys that haven’t,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Last year is last year, this is a totally different club than we have had in the last four or five years.”
The regional’s No. 2 seed comes in with the nation’s longest current winning streak, 15 games.
“We’ve just gelled really well together,” said junior Jordan Hankins.
“The bigger the stage, the better we seem to play, and I think that we can do that again this weekend,” said senior Reed Harper.