After yesterday's drama with who would or would not pitch for the Hoosiers going up until just before game time, some may have wondered if Tracy Smith would, again, play his cards close to the chest in preparation for Saturday's game.
He would not.
In the press conference following the Hoosiers' 10-2 victory over Youngstown State, Smith confirmed he'd be turning the ball over to the staff's ace. The TorNato would not disappoint, with a line of 7.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, over 104 pitches. After giving up a double in the 8th, Smith would turn it over to the freshman Jake Kelzer, who worked around a 2-out double in the 9th to close out the last 1.2 innings for the Pingbats.
His mound opponent, John Hochstatter, would match DeNato's endurance but not his effectiveness, going 7.1 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 K over 114 pitches. The Cardinal were in a tight spot with their pitching decisions, as they had to balance what gave them the best chance to win today while also remembering that a loss would set them up for a potential double-header tomorrow. Should they prevail against Youngstown State in the early game (who shockingly eliminated Indiana State in the first game of today's slate), they'll have to be ready to take on the Hoosiers again at 6 PM.
The offense couldn't get the same rhythm as last night, and understandably so with the increased overall talent level of Stanford's pitching staff. The always helpful "crooked" number eluded them, but they managed to score one run in four different innings, while Stanford only managed the same feat in two. The game that was billed as a pitcher's duel from the outset, given the sterling statistics attached to each starter's name lived up to that billing.
I spent the day wedged between about six major league scouts who were evaluating roughly 5-6 players on the field. So here's some tidbits I overheard up from them. Keep in mind, these are scouts from different teams talking back and forth in a very casual fashion, so who knows how much the words are actually worth:
"Sam [Travis] is making some money this weekend." - This was said before his final AB. Travis went 3-5 with another home run. Scouts were pleased to see him keeping up his torrid pace against non-B1G pitching. He also time out well running to first base, to the point of surprise to at least one of the scouts.
- Continuous raving about Kyle Schwarber's offensive ability, coupled with a lot of disbelief that he can stick at catcher. Particularly in regards to his receiving skills, as they pointed out his lack of pitch framing on more than one occassion. "I'd try him in the outfield. He's got enough athleticism." Like I've said before, Schwarber's defensive position in the pros is the lynchpin to his draft stock. If he can't go anywhere but first base, he could take a substantial hit. But stepping in and being effective against a really good lefty shows how little weakness he has at the plate at this stage.
- Regarding DeNato, they were all pretty lukewarm on him. No question he's a tough as nails college pitcher, but lots of concern about his lack of velocity. Perhaps, and this is me spitballing, a bullpen role would allow him to add velocity, but there's no question his approach of mixing pitches and velocities, along with a mastery of all of them, gives him an edge in the college game over more raw, underdeveloped talents.
- One of them paid a lot of attention to Nick Ramos and kept asking me for his stats and metrics. I didn't try to engage him any further because I don't really know how much scouts are willing to talk about guys.
In other college baseball news: totally deserving national seeds that Ben McDonald did not rip for being unworthy during the NCAA Selection Show, Florida and Florida State, have no made it to the first Sunday of the tournament, each going 0-2 in Regional play. As a postgraduate alumnus of the University of Miami, I was pretty tickled by that, in spite of the Hurricanes being down 3-0 in their own regional at the time of writing.
Hoosiers take the field at 6 PM tomorrow with a chance to clinch the Regional Championship and move on to Super Regionals, also in Bloomington. Their opponent will be determined by the YSU-Stanford game at 1 PM.