Indiana beats Florida State, 11-6, punches first ever ticket to Omaha

Dustin’s Note: Had to make a Counting Crows reference here, and more for this reason than any other. The PA guys at IU baseball games have been playing this song for years, going back to the days at Sembower for teams that truly had no chance of seeing this. The presentation was very subtle. It wasn’t like someone mentioned it as a destination. But it was just in there between innings — my recollection is it was somewhere around the fifth inning usually but it might not have been uniform — for people to interpret it as they would, whether it was a purposeful message or if someone just liked the Counting Crows. I always appreciated the boldness of it even though I never believed I’d actually see it happen and probably scoffed a little. So on the day that impossible dream became reality, this seems fitting.

WHAT HAPPENED: Sam Travis hit a two-run home run to break a 5-5 tie in the bottom of the fifth and Indiana tacked on four more runs to beat Florida State 11-6 in Game 2 of the Tallahassee Super Regional in front of 4,193, sweeping the best-of-three series to advance to the College World Series for the first time in school history.

The Hoosiers become the first Big Ten team since Michigan in 1984 to reach Omaha. No Indiana team has ever been close, and the Hoosiers won all of one NCAA Tournament game this season. They are 5-0 so far in this postseason.

WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Travis remains on a tear. The Indiana first baseman’s only hit on Sunday was his two-run blast over the left field wall in the bottom of the fifth, but he drove in four runs with a sacrifice fly in the first inning and a chopper to third in the seventh that brought center fielder Justin Cureton in from third. He wasn’t quite as hot in the Super Regional as he was in the Bloomington Regional and the Big Ten Tournament, but the runs he drove in were critical.

As usual, though, the offense was a team effort and what made Indiana’s lineup difficult for Florida State is that there were no easy outs. Everyone in the lineup either drove in a run or scored one. Designated hitter Scott Donley had an RBI double off the wall in the first and a solo home run in the third, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBI. Shortstop Michael Basil had an RBI double and scored a run on a single by left fielder Casey Smith. Even Cureton, who has been struggling mightily at the plate, was 2-for-4 with two runs scored, including an insurance run producing two-run triple in the bottom of the eighth.

Indiana’s pitchers struggled all weekend, but freshman Will Coursen-Carr was something of an exception. He gave up just two hits and one run in four innings, striking out three batters. He struggled with control, walking three batters and hitting two more and threw just 43 of his 85 pitches for strikes, but he kept Florida State off-balance by getting ahead in the count with fastballs and then working the big slow curve that Florida State tends to struggle with.

WHY DID IT HAPPEN: Again, because Indiana just doesn’t stop hitting. Florida State was very much a worthy adversary, and the Seminoles patience, abject refusal to swing at bad pitches and ability to keep at-bats alive by fouling pitches off wore down Indiana’s pitchers, who had to throw 185 pitches to get through Sunday’s game and 382 to get through the weekend. However, Indiana was just as patient — seeing 335 pitches over two days — and much more powerful. The Hoosiers scored 21 runs on 22 hits in two days, despite facing two starting pitchers with earned run averages under 2.00 coming into the weekend. They showed power with three home runs. They hit gap to gap. They attacked the right field porch, they got two out hits when they needed them. They didn’t so much pitch well, but Florida State didn’t have nearly as much firepower and the Seminoles couldn’t get much accomplished when the Hoosiers had a lefty throwing curveballs on the hill. Florida State got 20 free baserunners over two days on walks and hit batsmen, but they only had two extra base hits and left 27 men on base over two days.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: It will be years before Indiana can quantify the full effect of this. For the slightly-more-than-casual sports fan, college baseball exists only during the College World Series. That’s slightly less the case now that ESPN has made more of a point to broadcast the rest of the NCAA Tournament, but the fact remains that this is the sport’s pinnacle, and to truly be established as a program that matters in college baseball, you have to get to Omaha. Indiana is there. This will without question change the sort of player Indiana will be able to recruit and allow Tracy Smith to go after players he wouldn’t have otherwise have a chance at. The visibility will have plenty of financial implications as well, and it will certainly mean there will be a buzz around Bart Kaufman Field when the Hoosiers return to play next Spring.

But for now, it’s just further validation for a team that was already obviously the greatest to ever play in Bloomington. The Hoosiers enumerated 10 major goals before the season started. “Omaha” was No. 2, but that was the one that seemed like a bit of a pipe dream and an overreach. But now it’s a reality. Because of that, there will exist a permanence to this. There’s not really a place to hang a literal banner in Bart Kaufman Field, but there will be something painted on the wall of Bart Kaufman Field, possibly similar to the mural that Louisville has on its wall to commemorate its 2007 trip to Omaha. It is a team that can now, without reservation, be remembered in Bloomington forever.

One comment

  1. “It is a team that can now, without reservation, be remembered in Bloomington forever.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. This team is one for the ages. When they win it all in Omaha, it will be the stuff of legend.

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