Both Indiana and Louisville came into this season with high expectations and each entered the game on fire, with the Hoosiers off to their best start in school history and the Cardinals to their 2nd best. Both have dominated teams early, each with a +19 scoring margin over their opponents in the first inning.
And, each came in with something on the line, Indiana fighting to prove that they are for real, Louisville seeking revenge on the Hoosiers after stumbling to Indiana in the season opener.
The only difference being, Louisville has been here, they have tasted success. The Cardinals finished last season ranked nationally and atop the Big East, winning its 3rd conference regular season championship in four years, a feat Indiana hasn’t accomplished since 1949.
Unfamiliar territory, maybe, but Indiana showed no signs of shying away from the challenge, and solidified their hot start, winning their 12th straight game in an emphatic 6-2 victory, moving them to 19-3 overall and 3-0 in the Big Ten.
Wednesday’s game not only marked the first ever Indiana game in Bloomington between nationally ranked teams, it also faced off two Freshmen pitchers, both of whom have had early success.
Indiana’s Will Coursen-Carr (1-0, 0.64 ERA) and Louisville’s Kyle Funkhouser both impressed early, but when each was replaced during the 4th inning, the Hoosiers had a 5-1 lead behind Carr, who gave up only two hits in his outing. Fellow freshmen pitcher Scott Effross replaced Carr and continued the pitching excellence, also giving up just two hits in his 3.2 innings.
IU’s offense backed up their pitching efforts, punching in six runs with each hit coming outside the top four batters of the lineup. Head coach Tracy Smith credited this depth for the consistency of the Hoosiers.
“To be a good team, to be a consistent good team, you have to have depth,” he stated, “I just noticed myself that our thumpers really didn’t do much and we still found a way to score some runs.”
Some things in sports are just expected; the Lakers will be in the playoffs, the Yankees will be in the pennant race, Joe DiMaggio’s hit streak will go another year unscathed, to name a few. The Indiana Hoosiers being in the top-20 in collegiate baseball and favored to win the Big Ten title, isn’t one of them.
But make no mistake, the Hoosiers are the real deal and are poised to make noise in the conference and compete for a B1G title.
Indiana is now 5-0 at the new Bart Kaufman Field, outscoring opponents 43-9 over those games. Though the new state of the art facility was a much-needed addition to the program, Indiana’s sudden success goes far beyond the new venue.
From their potent offense, which is dominating the conference in nearly every offensive category to their deep rotation, touting a 2.11 ERA, good for best in the conference and 4th nationally, the Hoosiers are clicking on all cylinders, winning with a well-balanced attack.
When opposing hitters have been able to get the bat around and make contact, the Hoosier defense has been consistently solid all year long, an area that is much improved from last season.
Junior shortstop Michael Basil credits the improved defense for the team’s confidence and current success, stating, “We know that we have good pitching and we know that we can hit, but the biggest question coming into this year was defense…I think that’s the difference, just knowing that our defense is playing so well has escalated to other parts of our game.”
The 3rd and final matchup of the season between Indiana and Louisville is scheduled for May 8, where the Hoosiers will look to complete the season sweep. The schools may want to get used to each other though, as they could be seeing each other a month prior at the Final Four in the Georgia Dome, just in a different sport, with a whole lot more on the line.