This site always has been more focused on football and men's basketball than on any other IU sports, but I definitely wish I had given the baseball Hoosiers more attention so far, because they richly deserve it. IU recently posted the longest winning streak (18 games) in college baseball this season, and the Hoosiers stand at 26-4 and 8-1 in the Big Ten. IU has broken into the Baseball America top 25 for the first time in program history, and the Hoosiers currently are ranked 12th.
In addition, the interest in the program has never been higher. It has been my sense that the advent of the Big Ten Network has helped Big Ten baseball get some exposure, and IU opened Bart Kaufman Field this season, and sold out a home series against Illinois last weekend. This has been an amazing transformation for a program with only three NCAA bids ever. The timing of the new stadium could not have been better. The top 16 seeds in the NCAA Tournament host regionals, and the top 8 teams host "super regionals." That means that a team that finishes in the top 8 can reach the College World Series without leaving its home field. Obviously, it's ridiculously premature to even mention the CWS, but obviously the Hoosiers are in the mix. If IU were playing at Sembower Field, there is no way the Hoosiers would have a chance to host. Last year, Purdue won the Big Ten and finished in the top 16, but because Purdue's new stadium wasn't finished, the Boilers had to host their games at the minor league park in Gary.
So, how have these Hoosiers excelled? On offense, the Hoosiers are hitting .318 as a team and are getting on base at a .402 clip. Sophomore C/OF Kyle Schwarber leads the team with a .420 average, .493 OBP, and 7 HR. Of the ten Hoosiers with enough at-bats to be qualified leaders, 7 are hitting over .300, 6 have an OBP of over .400, and all have an OBP of over .300. Virginia Tech transfer Scott Donley also is hitting .371/.398, and Sam Travis gets on base nearly half the time thanks to 24 walks and 8 HBP.
IU's pitchers rank #8 in the NCAA with a team ERA of 2.40. The offseason departure of ace closer Jonny Hoffman seemed like a big loss, but despite 26 wins the Hoosiers have only 9 saves, meaning they have been winning by a lot. Again, of the eight Hoosiers with enough innings to be qualified leaders, there isn't an obvious weak link. Particularly impressive have been Scott Effross, a true freshman with a 1.02 ERA in 35.1 relief innings, junior Joey DeNato, who averages a strikeout per inning, and sophomore Aaron Slegers, who has a 1.41 ERA in eight starts.
Despite their gaudy overall record, the Hoosiers have only a one-game advantage over 7-2 Nebraska. The Hoosiers travel to East Lansing this weekend for a three game series against MSU. The biggest series remaining is the first weekend in May, when IU heads to Lincoln to take on Nebraska.
I hope to keep up with the Hoosiers as they enjoy what appears to be the best season in program history.