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Hoosiers Win 1-0, Go 1-0 on the Season

A sacrifice fly in the first inning proved to be all Joey DeNato, Scott Effross and Ryan Halstead needed, as the Hoosiers secured a 1-0 win over Texas Tech on Opening Day in Lubbock.

Joey DeNato pitching in the CWS.
Joey DeNato pitching in the CWS.

The Hoosiers wasted no time getting on the board, which projects to be a theme this year. Nolden lasered a ball off the wall and the Hoosiers small-balled him in with a couple of outs, a sacrifice fly by Sam Travis would get him across the plate. Sadly, this would be the only run the offense would generate on a day that I figured IU would score in bunches, with a gusty wind blowing out to right field and a ton of left-handed power in the lineup. A few observations on the day:

- The lineup contained a couple of minor surprises, as Chad Clark was replaced by LSU-Eunice transfer Casey Rodrigue and freshman Craig Dedelow got the nod in left field.

- There's a heavy debate in baseball about where your best hitter should be batting in the lineup, as they have traditionally hit 3rd, but a growing contingent (including yours truly) believes that the best hitter should be going second. Now, in a lineup as stacked as IU's, it's not as shocking to see Schwarber in the 2-hole, because either way a great hitter is going to end up there. However, I think Schwarber is IU's best pure hitter and Tracy Smith's decision to bat him second makes me swoon.

- Speaking of Schwarber, I noticed Texas Tech shifted him egregiously in each of his ABs and it'll be interesting to see if this trend continues throughout the season. Admittedly, I don't know the prevalence of shifts in college baseball. He still hit a double off the wall before getting caught in between second and third on a routine flyout, allowing himself to get doubled off second base. It's Opening Day for everyone, I guess.

- Things got rough for DeNato in the 2nd inning as he gave up a double, then a sac bunt attempt that was ruled as a hit despite DeNato very obviously booting it, giving him runners at the corners and no outs. He managed to nab the same guy on a terrific pick-off move during the next at-bat. A cumbersome, yet effective fielding of his position got him an out at first on a sharp come-backer that went off his glove and he kept the runner at third. DeNato then walked a guy but followed it with a strikeout to end the threat.

- The southpaw otherwise cruised. He faced the minimum in every inning except the aforementioned second inning and ended with 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K. Effross replaced him in the 7th and opened up his season with a "maimed batsman," as Old Hoss Radbourn would put it. After the HBP, he made quick work of the Red Raiders in the 7th.

- Effross would struggle in the 8th, giving up a one-out single who then swiped second, thanks, in part, to a bad throw by Schwarber. A swinging strikeout and a flyout to foul territory ended the threat. The final out should have been more routine than it was, as three guys convened on the ball and a communication breakdown resulted in Casey Smith making the catch as he tumbled over a teammate. With a guy on second, a drop in that situation would have tied the game up.

- Ramos looked slick at shortstop with several excellent plays and if that holds true for the balance of the season, it'll be a case of the rich getting richer. As I touched on in the primer, replacing Basil's bat can be done by the entire lineup, but replacing his defense falls solely on Ramos and he looked great today.

- Halstead pitched a perfect 9th for his 23rd career save, first of the year. Texas Tech uses a terrible behind the backstop angle as their primary camera for baseball and it made it impossible to really see how the pitchers were doing, but even from up there, Halstead looked filthy. He'll be fun to watch this year.