Tracy Smith waited as long as possible to reveal his starting pitcher for the evening and while he mulled over the usual suspects of Joey DeNato, Christian Morris and Brian Korte, he also mentioned Scott Effross as a candidate to make the start. Effross took over the closing role after Ryan Halstead went down with a torn ACL and had never started a game for the Hoosiers in his entire tenure.
That changed tonight.
With a little under two hours before the first pitch of the evening, Smith revealed Scott Effross would start for the Hoosiers against Youngstown State. He had gone on record earlier in the week as wanting to use as little pitching as possible, which made the selection of a bullpen arm to be somewhat curious. But digging deeper than that, Smith has also described Effross as a "pitch-to-contact" guy and when those guys are turning that contact into outs, they tend to come more quickly than guys who go for the strikeout. Simply because a strikeout takes at least three pitches, and usually more.
All that said, Effross looked the part of a strikeout pitcher against an under-gunned Youngstown State lineup, as he collected four strikeouts in four efficient innings, leaving the game having thrown only 58 pitches. Smith went with Evan Bell after that, and by then the game was well in-hand. Evan Bell would get touched up for a run in the 6th but limited the damage to just that. Will Coursen-Carr came in and finished the job after 3.2 from Bell, pitching the last 1.1 for the Hoosiers. It was nice to see C-C on the mound again, he started in the rotation this year but control problems saw him relegated to the bench. He didn't walk anyone but he did hit a guy with a pitch, but overall a good outing for him.
The Hoosiers offense was humming from the start, alternating three-run frames in the first 5 innings, jumping out to a 9-1 lead. The Penguins added a run on a misjudged line drive by Will Nolden, who took a step in before realizing the ball was headed much further out, and it went over his head for an RBI triple. The Hoosiers offense in the first came from some hard-luck defensive miscues for the Penguins, who let a ball drop between two outfielders for a 2-run double by Dustin DeMuth, and had a hard grounder eat up the third baseman, allowing another run to score.
After a scoreless second, the Hoosiers doubled their run total in the third thanks to two-run missile-like home run from Sam Travis, rendering the triple that Kyle Schwarber had just hustled for pointless, and making the score 6-1. They'd follow that up with a scoreless 4th before tacking on a three run bomb by Schwarber in the 5th to make it 9-1. Schwarber's homer was of the "no-doubter" variety, which has been his favorite kind, lately.
With one out in the 5th, Casey Rodrigue hustled down the line to beat out what was a tailor-made double play ball and gave Schwarber the opportunity to hit his ridiculous home run. Again and again we come back to this: the Hoosiers' ability to do the little things right sets them up for a lot of their success. There's no uncrossed t's or un-dotted i's with this roster; every pitch on both sides of the ball, from the first one to the last, there's a simultaneous laser-focus and a loose confidence.
All-in-all, the Hoosiers did what was expected of them on a day where a lot of top seeds struggled in their regionals. They'll play Stanford tomorrow at the Bart at 6 PM, and I'd guess Joey DeNato will be on the bump for Indiana. There's not much else to say, the Hoosiers did pretty much everything right tonight. They also conserved pitching, outside of Effross, only oft-used guys saw the mound this evening, with Bell only having 18 innings of work on the year. It only gets harder from here, but the Hoosiers looked up to the challenge tonight.