Some of you may not be taking this that hard, but over the last 3 years or so, I've become very attached to our baseball team. We have a coach that I believe epitomizes what we should want in a Hoosier. They're successful. They're a great blend of pro prospects, role players and 4 year players who've shown loyalty to their school in a world where neither schools, coaches, or players seem to have much loyalty anymore. There are Indiana, California, Ohio, Illinois, Florida, Kansas, and Louisiana natives that all chose to put the word Hoosiers on their chest. Indiana baseball is what I wish we could have in all of our university athletics. They're a squad to look up to. That's why I'm devastated by last night's loss.
I'm sure there are others out there that feel the same way. So we're going to walk ourselves through the five stages of grief to hopefully get over it. Why do this? Because it will be easier to move on from this and look towards the future. A lot of basketball fans still don't seem to be past the Sweet 16 loss to Syracuse well over a year ago. I don't want that sort of resentment to be felt about a still growing baseball program.
1. Denial and Isolation
I can't believe that happened last night. More shocking is the way it occurred. Indiana has been a team all year long that can get hits when they need them and critical outs when necessary. Instead, the Hoosiers leave guys on base in crucial spots and give up a walk-off home run to a freshman. It hurts. To be honest, I don't want to even think about Indiana athletics for a few days. I'd like to shut off the internet and just focus on the world outside of IU. I just can't believe this happened in a year where we were supposed to win a championship.
But to hell with shutting off the rest of the world. Let's talk about the bullshit that is the structure of the regional. Indiana worked its ass off all year to earn that hosting spot. They had a complete season and won 40 games in a dominating fashion. They're rewarded with what? Some idiotic structure where the host team is the visiting team in 2 of the 3 games played against its biggest competition? Including being the away team in an elimination game?! How f*%$ing stupid is that?! What's the point of playing all year long if you're going to not get the last 3 outs to influence the outcome? Man, that pisses me off.
If only we just got some of those key hits when they were necessary. The Hoosiers left 9 of their fellow runners on base last night. Sadly that wasn't the only game this weekend they did that. This just happened to be the one where it mattered. Driving in just one or two more of those guys completely changes the scenario for Indiana pitchers. Or better yet, if we could have just held on two nights ago. Instead of losing the lead on that three run shot and holding steady, we give up another three runs to put us in an insurmountable hole. 4 runs is damn near impossible to scrape out in one inning at this level. Instead of having bases loaded on Sunday with no outs and down 1 in the bottom of the 9th, we put ourselves in a situation where just putting the ball in play wasn't enough. If only...
Is this it for Indiana baseball? I mean yeah, 5 other national seeds also didn't get out of their regional, but we're the team of the north. The southern teams will always get more chances. Indiana was a case study on whether a northern squad could become a powerhouse in baseball. We answered that call with an emphatic, "meh." Now we're losing Dustin DeMuth, Kyle Schwarber, Joey DeNato, Casey Smith, and Brian Korte. Quite likely we'll lose a chunk of Will Nolden, Scott Donley, Sam Travis and Luke Harrison as well. That signifies what will be a major rebuild for the Hoosiers. Purdue did something similar after their B1G championship season and have spent the last two season in the conference basement. Now, I don't think it will be that bad, but how long if ever will it take to get back to this season again?
Ultimately it shouldn't matter. Last night was what last night was. It's over and we're moving on. The Hoosiers are going to continue playing baseball and with the leadership of Tracy Smith, you've gotta have faith that we'll always be right there. We may not be a national seed for awhile, but Smith has found guys over and over again with a lot of talent. Add in that our performance over the last two years has greatly grown our recruiting capabilities and we're still right there. Can we remain on the national stage on an annual basis? I don't know. But I know that the baseball games I went to were a blast and it is hard to beat the family entertainment that comes with America's pastime. I know no matter where this team stands, I'll be filling those stands to catch a game. Indiana has a squad it can be proud of and I can't wait to one day take my son or daughter to Bart Kaufman Stadium and tell them about the teams that could have been and maybe some day will be.