Woof. Ew. Yuck.
Choose to describe Indiana baseball's troubling weekend however you please, but I'm going with "ouch." The losses to the Presbyterian Blue Hose (5-2) and the Furman Paladins (6-5 F/12) were defensive nightmares for the Hoosiers and were incredibly difficult to watch. (At least the Furman game was. Apparently the Greenville Drive couldn't put a camera in Centerfield and another behind the plate so that the Presbyterian and Xavier contests could be watched from afar. But we'll presume that the Presbyterian game was even more unsightly.)
A few factors could have contributed to the weekend setback for Indiana, including cold weather, which will make a baseball tougher to catch and throw, or the fact that the beginning of their weekend involved a stadium and start time change. (Fluor Field, home of the Greenville Drive, evidently was a frozen tundra and the single-A club sent the teams to Furman's campus on Friday and Saturday.) I would suggest that each of those things contributed slightly to what now could only be considered an anomaly of a weekend for Indiana baseball.
But for more than any other reason, I'm going with "ouch," because these were growing pains.
The growing pains, however, came at the hands of veteran Hoosiers. During Friday's letdown against Presbyterian, the five Indiana errors were committed by Casey Rodrigue, Nick Ramos, Brad Hartong, Scott Effross, and Logan Sowers. Sowers, the reigning Mr. Baseball in Indiana, is the only newcomer on that list of offenders. The other four are the cornerstones of this team. Four of Presbyterians runs were unearned and all five runs came in an inning where Indiana committed an error.
Against Furman, Indiana limited themselves to one error, which didn't produce any unearned runs. But more veteran trouble--specifically the 4 earned runs given up by veteran P Christian Morris and Ryan Halstead's blown save and loss after giving up one run in the 11th and 12th innings--did the Hoosiers in.
Sunday, after Indiana scored four runs in the bottom of the 1st, Xavier stormed back to tie the game at six late after two errors (including another by Ramos) in separate innings led to runs. In the bottom of the 9th, Dedelow walked to lead off, and a Xavier throwing error on a Hartong sacrifice bunt brought Dedelow around for the win.
In the end, this weekend's results won't kill the Hoosiers' postseason hopes, just like last weekend's series win won't give them a national seed. But the ways Indiana lost this weekend are as discouraging as the last weekend's wins were encouraging. The veterans on this club are going to have to carry it until the youngsters get their ears wet, and this weekend in South Carolina, that absolutely didn't happen.
For whatever reason--playing down to competition, the trap of a lackluster weekend falling between series with Stanford and College of Charleston, cold weather, scheduling problems, etc.--Indiana's veterans didn't show up this weekend in the way they need them. In our preview article, I discussed in great detail the offensive challenges this team will face, and highlighted the need for outstanding pitching and defense.
8 errors over one weekend is not outstanding defense. Four earned runs from an all-conference starting pitcher and a blown save and loss from the school's record holder in saves are not outstanding pitching.
Let's hope that it was one of the aforementioned reasons, one of the mentally weak reasons, that kept Indiana from playing well this weekend, because if there's something else behind the poor play, next weekend against the Cougars of the College of Charleston won't be any prettier.