Indiana not panicked after first series, not saving DeNato for Oregon State

Indiana lost as many games in the first weekend of the 2014 season as it did in the first 10 games of the 2013 campaign.

If the Hoosiers drop even one game this weekend, they’ll already be up to four defeats on the season. They didn’t reach that number of losses until April 7 last year, by which point they’d won 25 games, including 18 straight.

But even though Indiana’s 1-3 opening series against Texas Tech was a troubling way for the Hoosiers to begin their first-ever season with a preseason ranking and the follow up to their first-ever College World Series berth, they are not approaching this weekend’s Pac-12-Big Ten challenge in Surprise, Ariz., with an added sense of desperation.

“I’d love to go out and have a great weekend,” Indiana coach Tracy Smith said. “If we don’t, it’s not the end of the world for us. I certainly don’t see it that way, I know the guys don’t. We’re trying to get back into the rhythm of getting consistent at-bats, getting outside for the first time and getting into a little bit of a rhythm. … I think (if we have a bad week people will say) ‘Oh my goodness, what’s going on with these guys?’ Nothing’s going on. We’re a typical northern team trying to get used to getting outside for the first time.” 

That being said, it’s still an important weekend, and the results will echo for the Hoosiers come NCAA Tournament selection time.

The Hoosiers, who fell from No. 3 to No. 10 in the Baseball America poll and from No. 7 to No. 16 in the National College Baseball Writers Association poll, open the weekend with Washington at 9 p.m. today at the Spring Training home of the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers. They then play Utah at 6 p.m. on Saturday before the marquee matchup of the weekend against Oregon State at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The Beavers, who eliminated Indiana in Omaha last year, are ranked No. 1 in the nation this week in the NCBWA poll and No. 2 by Baseball America.

All three of those games will carry a lot of importance in late May at selection time. Washington (24-32 last season) and Utah (21-31 in 2013) are not premier Pac-12 teams but just being a part of a conference that is perennially among the league’s top three helps their RPI as well as that of any team that plays them. Beating Oregon State would establish the Hoosiers as a national championship contender.

There is a temptation to base the entire weekend on Sunday’s game, because the Hoosiers only have one other Top 25 team on the schedule with three games against Louisville (No. 14 NCBWA, No. 20 Baseball America.) Smith, however, said he’s not playing it that way. As he usually does, he will start senior left-hander and ace Joey DeNato on Friday against Washington and not save him to pitch against the Beavers. DeNato was 10-2 with a 2.52 ERA last season and pitched six scoreless innings to get Indiana’s only victory in the opening series against Texas Tech.

“We’ve gotta do what we do best, which is take one game at a time, one pitch at a time, one inning at a time, whatever you want to say,” Smith said. “Our whole focus is on Friday. I’ll worry about Sunday when Sunday happens. … We’ll use whoever we need to Friday and Saturday and we’ll worry about Sunday when we get to it.”

His charges say they support his approach.

“Hell yeah, that’s a huge opponent,” junior left-hander Kyle Hart said of Oregon State. “But we’re worried about Washington and winning that first inning. … You can go into Oregon State 3-3 or 1-5. Skip’s not fronting up Joey DeNato to go. I’m sure a lot of people are going to question that, but I don’t think anyone around here is. We’re going to stick to our guns and go out and try to beat Washington.”

Beating anyone means performing much better at the plate and on the mound than Indiana did in the first weekend against the Red Raiders. Smith said he’s confident in both of those things because the short-comings of both were anomalies.

In the case of the pitching, Smith doesn’t expect to ever see Hart have as bad of an outing as he did as the starter in Saturday’s loss. Last season, Hart walked just 27 batters in 83 2/3 innings. On Saturday, he hit the second batter he faced, then walked the next three before giving up a grand slam. He finished with five walks in three innings in IU’s 10-5 loss.

“I guess I got into panic mode, which isn’t normal for me,” Hart said. “… I must have formed a bad habit right away. I felt really good to that first guy. Then from there on down, it was like a slip-and-slide. I didn’t really know what was going on. But it was a real simple fix.”

The Hoosiers mighty offense also sputtered. After leading the Big Ten and finishing in the top 25 nationally in most offensive categories last season, they hit .209 as a team in the season’s first weekend. They were outscored 23-8 and had just five extra-base hits in four games.

“There’s a tendency early in the season when you come outside for the first time, you’re going to be out front, you’re going to be jumpy,” Smith said. “I think our guys were just that. We were a little jumpy at the plate. I’m not worried about us offensively. It’s one of those things. I think we’ve gotta get more time outside, get in a rhythm, a little bit. This team’s gonna hit, so I’m not worried about that.”

18 comments

  1. Is their a dark cloud sorta surrounding Hoosier baseball after Smith’s son was involved with the Mellencamp brothers in smashing that kid’s face in? I wonder how that sort of thing effects guys in the dugout when it comes to disagreements with the coach’s son and the politics surrounding player relationships..?

    Sure seems like more than throwing a clay pot.

  2. My bad….Glad you cleared that up. Is the son involved still on the football team?

    I guess brothers do tend to hang together. I’m not sure if there still wouldn’t be some dysfunctional culture as a result.

    We worried so much about the hideous culture of the Sampson bad boys….I find it very revealing how a truly violent act can get such ‘silent treatment’ from press and fans alike when it involves the right people that get to remain untouchable and subjected to the same level of judgment and scrutiny.

    And I don’t think it’s a very good reflection to sell things as all hunky-dory.
    We didn’t do it for Armon Bassett getting in a barroom scuffle. The labels and painting of poor character never ceased. Why are we so distant from the same forms of casting blanket judgments now?

    Thanks for showing it’s just not completely untouchable territory in you world, Dustin. We had editorials about an Elston trip. Strange world Bloomington is these days. Don’t most kids on scholarships get kicked off of teams for involvement in such assaults? Doesn’t it make headlines?

    Seems like we’ve made a bigger deal over Hanner than any of this. It speaks volumes to how we’ve allowed a compromising of integrity at Indiana.

  3. It did make headlines. We wrote about it at the beginning when he was taken off the team and nothing actually changed. He didn’t come back. He’s still on the roster but he never returned to practice. That didn’t make a big splash because he is a walk-on and probably wasn’t going to play much if at all. His case and that of both of the Mellencamps is still pending and that’s been written about at length by the police reporters.
    Here’s why this isn’t a problem for the baseball team. Casey’s one of the captains and a respected member of the squad and they all pretty much get along with him. Ty is around the program a fair bit, of course, but he’s a freshman and he’s basically the team’s little brother. He’s 5-10, 185. Kyle Schwarber could snap him like a twig. So even if all of the allegations against Ty are true, it’s not like they have some reason to fear him. When your friend’s little brother does something dumb or violent or messed up, it doesn’t tend to affect your entire group of friends.
    I wasn’t around for Armon Bassett and I didn’t write the trip column. What you as fans choose to get upset about is your problem. It’s not important to me to try to make sure you guys are as angry about this as you were about the Sampson kids. As far as the crime itself is concerned, have at it, say what you will. Like I said, it’s been in the paper. But if you’re asking me if I think this is having an effect on the locker room culture of either team, no, it isn’t, because Ty wasn’t a big enough part of either locker room to make that much of a difference. He’d been on the football team for maybe a month and whether he was around the program or not, he isn’t actually on the baseball team.

  4. What if Sampson’s son would have been involved with two other locals in beating the living daylights out of someone?

    I can tell you’re upset, Dustin. I knew Marines that were 5-10/185 that were skilled in hand-to-hand that could project quite a bit of an aura of ‘don’t eff with me.’ I find the fact that you’re acting like he’s one of the Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz speaks to an inherent defense mechanism I never witnessed when it came to defending Armon Bassett’s tiny size. And I perfectly understand that you had nothing to do with painting a large group of those players as degenerates capable of ruining the image of Indiana. I’m talking more about the shock jocks on the radio and many of the people that were commenting on this and other Hoosier blogging sites. There was plenty of it out there and I think there’s a ton of hypocrisy to now act like the culture is any better. It’s not. Violence is violence. Drinking is drinking. Partying your ass into a drunken state and getting in a car is partying your ass into a drunken state and getting in a car. I’m not seeing the editorials. I’m not seeing the same outrage from fans.

    It’s almost as if crucifying every individual that got near Kelvin Sampson became the justification to let all going forward that damage the image of Indiana Athletics to have an automatic pass, to have their mistakes quickly become yesterday’s news, and to be free of any critical treatment remotely the same in comparison.

    So, yeah…I sorta think that makes for a dark cloud. And if we allow those that commit violent acts that had nothing to do with self-defense get within a football field of a Hoosier stadium, baseball field, or basketball court, I think it’s no less despicable. Put them all on the permanent bus out of town in the same fashion the crowd of Holman, Bassett, Keeling, McCallum, and Knight. I have zero tolerance for any young thugs that would beat a person to death if they wouldn’t have been stopped by a large group that was thankfully there to stop them.

  5. Do you have it in you, Dustin? Could you get drunk enough to want to do severe harm to someone with your fists? Do you, Jeremy, and Andy have it in you to gang attack someone because they damaged your ego at a party? Do you think you’ll impart those values into your children? When you watch a baseball game, America’s pastime, on a wonderful lazy sunny day, do you look in conflict at the peacefulness shadowing the nature of a truth? Violence is violence. Simply because it’s disguised by green pastures on diamonds rather than the hardness of maple floors varnished in storied tradition doesn’t change the crime.

    It’s isolated. We can hide. We can hush. We can eat our popcorn and peanuts and chase everyone else around the planet to call them nothing better than the dirt kicked up at a slide into at second base. Take me out to the ballgame, take me out to the crowd….

  6. There’s your editorial…Now you don’t have to mess with it. We’re 9 months elapsed since the violent attack, so I would assume that was plenty of time to allow for any journalist in a personal editorial/commentary fashion.

    I guess the reality of the entire thing is that a Sampson thug would have only had Kelvin Sampson to turn for the $5000 illegal gift/bond to get released from jail.

  7. Typical day at the Scoop, 7 posts, 5 Hillbilly’s. In many areas the same newspaper Monday through Sunday.

  8. The basketball team is 4-8, Clarion. Outside of the usual winter car repairs to the old Hoosier football clunker, there just ain’t much reason for sane people to get all fired up and comment about Indiana being bottom-dwellers in two sports.

    But, hey…If you want to use it as spitballs to shoot across the classroom at Harvard, knock yourself out.

  9. hfh,

    I too knew those basketball players to be much different people than the ones portrayed in the media. and luckily, I learned long ago to be wary of believing everything I read. that being said, I request another beautifully written hfh “editorial” when you finally get the facts about my son Ty. jaime

  10. Your son will get the benefit of the chosen facts brought to the forefront a year after the accusations and the images of a young man’s face pummeled. He’ll be protected by the university. Time has already deemed most of it irrelevant in the eyes of small-minded bigots that did not give a Sampson “thug” a week of facts or forgiveness.

    I don’t assume any guilt upon your son. That is for the courts to decide. It is the complete difference in handling stories that unveils an ugliness that my “editorials” attempt to depict as something not very beautiful. We made a young man look like Charles Manson for throwing a clay pot. I don’t remember seeing any blood or busted faces. We just let a young man driving drunk back on a team in three weeks. Have you ever seen the busted faces of an entire family killed by a drunk driver? There is an ugliness. If you are actually Jamie Smith(we have a lot of impostors here that use names not their own), I hope you realize that I’ve always believed facts are important. I also believe forgiveness is important even when the facts aren’t the most redeeming.

    Growing up is tough. Campus life is full of temptations and poor examples. What I find rather sad is how accountability ended with one giant crucifixion of young men, Kelvin’s degenerates, that were no more lacking in values than most struggling to find their way. Why is that?

    And I certainly don’t believe everything I read. What I merely point out is that there is a arbitrary set of rules that squelch from print certain ugly deeds. And much of that squelching is done by the same “fans” and local news outlets that created the massive volumes of hatred and endless columns of unfounded accusations aimed at young sons no different than yours when there was never a photo, an arrest warrant, or a picture of a broken face.

    Why is that?

  11. Jeremy-

    Rather odd it took two weeks for my words to circulate and prompt a response from “jaime smith.” I certainly hope you’ve not just allowed another impostor playing games(much like the Damon Bailey impostor recently gracing the pages of Scoop).

    I sure hope your group of pristine moderators aren’t falling that asleep at the wheel.

  12. Just when I start enjoying me some Harvard, you go and hijack another thread and…….totally redeem yourself! Rocky Mountain high my (butt). Yeah, John Denver was full of crap.

    Seriously, this is giving me a headache. I feel like every story that is done that even mentions baseball is going to have 400 posts of Harvard going nuclear about this issue. Harvard, you got your say. We get it. You think it is all full of injustice that Sampson’s kids got more press than these kids and you see the infractions as far more morally reprehensible.

    Devin Dumes was accused of attempted murder. They reported on it and those accusations were far worse than all of the ones they talked about. However, it wasn’t that prominent of a story because the HT Sports Section is not about analyzing or breaking news on criminal trials. They reported on the story and will continue to do so as events transpire. Just because you don’t like the answer you’ve been given doesn’t mean the comments section of the blog needs to be filled with conspiracy accusations. I feel like I’m reading through the comments section of a story about 9/11 filled with truthers who completely hijack every and any mention of the subject.

    Go get angry with whomever reports on these issues with the Herald Times, not their sports reporters. Go call Rolling Stone up and throw a hissy at them for not being outraged enough to report on a daily basis about the issues re: Mellencamp’s son. It isn’t Jeremy, Dustin or Andy’s job to run crack this case or give it the attention that you want from them.

    Also, I know you know the difference between why stories that highlight the downfall of one of college basketball’s most illustrious programs gets more ink on the Sports Page versus a couple of fights surrounding a sport where less than a 1,000 people see at a given time. I think you just like stirring up crap. I get a little ribbing on this subject and others, but my vote is in the column of “Flogging of Deceased Equine” is bold and in Sharpe.

    I can see the steam pulsing out of your ears as you read this. I fully expect you to completely react personally to this post instead of listening to the substance of what I have to say and considering it. You’ve already determined in your mind that you are right and any comment challenging you will see 7 responses of me joining in the conspiracy, not having the moral compass to fight for the oppressed or yet another cog in the wheel of the Establishment.

    Save your fingers and the internet of the 1s and 0s required to express those feelings. Any other retorts are welcome.

  13. Yeah, I was thinking about what Doc Libby said on her blog…”If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say it.”

    I was thinking about that while I watched many Hoosier Scoopers hijack a thread to waste breath and spew nothingness and hatred at John Calipari. We’ve become quite the experts of morality here in Bloomington.

    And to Ms. Libby…Maybe you should reiterate those sentiments to the coach you so admire as flawless in his white robe as the words your own thoughts lacking any perspective whatsoever. And maybe to the Double Down pious blowhole as well. Look in the mirror..Hold one up to your perfect scripture-quoting coach next time he chases someone around a court calling them a “program wrecker.”

    Where was “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all” the day ‘Mr. Because It’s Indiana’ showed us all how to never cast that “first stone” you talk about?

    Suddenly we’ve grown up. No more casting of first stones. Hate to break it to you…This ain’t casting first stones. It’s called throwing a few pebbles back. Some people of such impeccable moral high ground just can’t take the tiny sting of a mirror they refuse to look.

  14. More name calling, sugar pie? Sprinkled on top with a little folksy wisdom. Is that all you got? It must suck for you knowing that I know you have nowhere to go. So of course you get personal and lash out like a 8 year-old who lost his Xbox privileges. A strong indication that a man is beaten is when he’s reduced to defending Calipari in a thread that was linked to an article discussing Calipari.

    Harvard the “Scoop Wrecker” – the Jeff Meyer of this blog.

    Oh, the irony.

    PS – Does anyone here know if Jeff Meyer talks about himself in the third person?

  15. It appears you’ve been sucked into the nowhere land of nowhere to go. Your weakness in claiming your superiority within your wasted breath on me thoroughly unveils a man that is in wanting.

    I don’t believe Ms. Smith’s comments were directed at you. You keep putting on that cute little superhero costume to save Scoop from the “Wrecker” of what you see as your one arrogant truth.

    It’s all good, Double Down. Right now, that’s really all I got.

    I was hoping to keep things focused and cheer on our basketball team against Nebraska. I thought it rather strange that Ms. Smith picked today to have her fight with my words. I should have just let her speak her piece and shut up. I’m sure she’s a good mom. My apologies to her for taking aim at him when all the facts are not on the table.

  16. Harvard, (and anyone else who would like to understand the seedy world of intercollegiate athletics and recruiting)…. if you want to get upset at the social environment that robs kids of opportunities, read the Chicago Tribune’s coverage of the Chicago City Tournament Championship game between Whitney Young and Mme Curie Metropolitan HS, won by Curie by two in quadruple overtime (packed gym in the presence of Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s Mayor and former Obama Chief-of-Staff during O’s first presidency).

    This will be a long post. For that I apologize, but it is an important and way-too-often repeated story (in Chicago and elsewhere- this is the world created by predators who disguise themselves as ‘well meaning adults’.

    In summary, (though I really recommend you to do the search and watch that story develop in either the Trib or the Chicago SunTimes over the four day period), this is the story. \

    It involves two perennial city basketball powers, a long train of nauseatingly corrupt world, the demeaning and corrupt practices by coaches, administrators, yes…the media which is perfectly aware that this is going on but rarely investigates or monitors because …well frankly because the sports stories sell too many newspapers, ad space and tv sports time…in other words, if they are up to their noses in a toilet cesspool…’don’t make waves’.
    It involves two players (one at Whitney Young and one at Curie; so named after the famed civil rights leader who established and led the Urban League; and after the famous scientist Mme. Curie- who both must be puking in their coffins.

    It involves the (arguably) two top basketball prospects nationally in the class of 2014- both well known to us, Whitney Young’s Cliff Alexander–a Kansas signee; and future Duke player, Curie’s Okafor (we attempted to recruit him).

    They and their team mates were to face each other in the Chicago City public school championship fianl. Only a few minutes before the bus was to depart for the Tourney’s final game, an anonymous call was received alleging that seven (7) – yes SEVEN Curie players were actually ‘ineligible’ and had been so throughout the entire season. From the statements, for the next couple of hours, administrators and coaches from both schools discussed the situation, discussed it some more, checked their records…considered the full, packed house (including the Mayor) in the gym, the revenue sitting in the stands, the fact that the final game rights had been sold to TV (ESPN I believe) and….decided to go on and play the game anyway, despite the substantial questions raised about ineligibility.

    As I said, Curie (last year’s state champ I think) won in quadruple overtime. Only…a couple of hours later (and I assume after the ticket window/tv take had been counted, bank deposits made, sponsors satisfied) the CPS vacated the championship from Curie (which had won) and announced that it would not be given to the losing Whitney Young team’s.

    Why? Because it had found that the ‘CPS’ eligibility rules had been violated and indeed seven (it has since confirmed four) Curie players not only did not meet the 2.0 participation GPA, but also had failed to develop a ‘special study plan’ necessary for CPS athletes to ‘remain eligible’ through ‘special dispensation’ in the event they fell below the Illinois Dept of Education 2.0 minimum mandate GPA for athletic participation. It also suspended the Curie coach for a year, though he was reinstated yesterday in time to play in the opening sectional game (Curie was upset).

    No, the drama is not over. A day later the Curie principal said that he thought the coach was in charge of writing the ‘special study plan’. The coach, in turn, said he remembered having made arrangements to have the Athletic Director responsible for the plan for the seven failing players (remember, it is a 12-man team)…and when asked the Athletic Director said “say wha???” and refused to answer with a ‘no comment’. In addition, the 6-foot-9, 240-pound Alexander’s nationally ranked Curie Metropolitan High (24-1), was ordered to forfeit all 24 of its undefeated season victories.

    BUT!!!, the IHSA said tha despite the fact that Curie was now 0-24 and did not qualify by being Chicago City champions, the school would be allowed to play in the state championship tournament for failure to meet CPS academic requirements, according. The IHSA, the organization responsible for protecting the integrity of the state’s high schools- including its athletic programs- KNOWS, that there’s ‘gold in them ‘thar’ bleachers and tv rights’.

    Two days later, of course, the Reverend Jesse Jackson of the PUSH coalition mobilized Curie parents to demand the City championship crown be returned to the team. Jackson argued the ‘children’ were not responsible, the adults were and it was a typical maneuver against minority kids. (Issues such as these are a normal and long running story of the educational corruption that robs kids in schools such as Curie of any possibility of receiving an education that may make them minimally competitive in the job markets they will be facing.

    Harvey, this is why these kids (and their kids, and their kids’s kids) end up sleeping in the back seat of a car in some Chicago alley. Because, the adults simply don’t give a good damn. The parents don’t want to walk their kids two extra blocks to a better school. The teacher’s union doesn’t want to consolidate two schools running at less than 50% seat-occupancy rates because it means needing fewer teachers (the contract allows the CPS to fire teachers according to their student performance when the school is closed due to low enrollments), but that means fewer teachers paying their monthly dues to the CTU (Chicago Teacher’s Union) Associated Press report. Seven unnamed students reportedly did not maintain the district’s minimum 2.0 GPA….but it’s ok…they’re good basketball players.

    “As adults, educators and mentors, it is our responsibility to teach our students right from wrong,” Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a statement released to the media, “and, unfortunately, the adults let these student athletes down by failing to do that and comply with CPS policies.” She, of course, failed to say what her role was to protect those kids from ‘not learning’.

    Administrators refuse being held accountable (the AD seemed to not even be aware that a ‘special academic plan’ had to be filed for the ineligible players to be eligible). And what’s a ‘special academic plan’ anyway? And why is it necessary. What is owed these kids, at a minimum, is an education.

    You get the point. As I said, for the full flavor of this miserable story of sports, child neglect, professional abandonment, and teacher/coach/administrator malpractice read the Chicago SunTimes or the Chicago Tribune of last week (last week in February 2014.

    I believe the story of the Sampson recruits is an equally nauseating history before they ever arrived at Indiana. I also believe that if we do nothing else, given the moral and ethical collapse of the adults involved in high school sports, we have a sacred responsibility to make these kids aware that, if nothing else, they are accountable to themselves for their own failure; that we should set standards of academic performance no less stringent than the standards of basketball performance we hold them themselves …

    ..and if we don’t do it, WE (You and I and everyone else who makes a Temple out of intercollegiate athletics) we become part of the exploitative world that condemns these kids to empty lives, to sleeping in the back seats of cars parked in dark alleys and the wasted years of their lives they will likely spend in the unemployment lines and the jails of our communities.

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