Big Ten champs Indiana host NCAA regional
May. 30, 2013
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — When Indiana made the NCAA tournament in 2009, manager Tracy Smith recalls that the Hoosiers were just happy to be there.
They were quickly bounced after two straight losses, and they haven't played in a regional game since.
That will change Friday. The Hoosiers, winners of last week's Big Ten tournament, will host an NCAA regional for the first time in school history this weekend at Bart Kaufman Field. They open Friday night against Valparaiso.
"There was a collective sigh of relief amongst the players to just get to the regional," Smith said of 2009. "There was so much focus on getting to the regional, there was not an emphasis on winning the regional. I think that's the difference with this team. ... It's not fake. These guys are very even-keeled."
When the Hoosiers won the Big Ten tournament title in 2009, Smith said there were dog piles on the field after the win. There were no such celebrations this time around. The Hoosiers expected to claim the title.
"I just think the mindset with this team is we are not satisfied," Smith said. "I can tell you for a fact that this mindset is different from in 2009. These guys expect to win and want to win. And they feel like they have a lot of season left to play."
Indiana (43-14) will send sophomore right-hander Aaron Slegers to the mound against fourth-seeded Valparaiso (31-26), the Horizon League champion. Slegers, the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, went 9-1 with a 1.93 ERA this season.
"For us, it was a no-brainer," said Indiana pitching coach Ty Neal. "He's earned it. He's a strike thrower and we know we are going to be in the baseball game every time he is on the mound."
In Friday's other game, No. 2 seed Austin Peay (45-13) will play No. 3 seed Florida (29-28) on Friday afternoon. Austin Peay, which earned the automatic berth from the Ohio Valley Conference, enters regional play on a 15-game winning streak. The Gators earned an at-large berth after finishing eighth in the Southeastern Conference.
"We've just gelled really well together," Austin Peay's Jordan Hankins said of the winning streak. "Our bullpen has been really strong and we've found ways to win and bear down at getting one more run than the other team. We have just been playing really well together."
Play will continue Saturday with the loser of each game meeting at 2 p.m. and the winners at 6 p.m.