Hoosiers finish season-sweep of Louisville

Dustin’s note: I should’ve been doing this all season. Bringing it back for the stretch run. 

WHAT HAPPENED: No. 9 Indiana quelled a late Louisville rally with four ninth inning runs, including a mammoth three-run blast from catcher Kyle Schwarber, to beat the No. 10 Cardinals 7-2 in front of 2,433 at Jim Patterson Stadium on Tuesday night.

The Hoosiers improved to 36-12 overall and have won 24 of their last 26 games, including nine straight. Louisville fell to 40-13.

Indiana went up 2-0 on a two-run single by right fielder Will Nolden in the second, then took a 3-0 lead in the sixth. Designated hitter Scott Donley opened the sixth with a triple, then scored on a sacrifice fly by left fielder Brad Hartong.

However, Louisville started a comeback in the seventh. Third baseman Alex Chittenden reached with a one-out double, then scored on an RBI single by pinch-hitter Kyle Gibson. In the eighth, pinch-hitter Mike White led off with a single, stole second, then scored on an RBI single by center fielder Cole Sturgeon.

In the ninth, though, IU right fielder Will Nolden reached with a one-out infield single and went to second on an errant pickoff throw by Louisville right-hander Zach Burdi. Shortstop Nick Ramos singled to right, but Nolden held at third. Center fielder Tim O’Conner brought him with a chopper over the head of Louisville pitcher Cole Sturgeon for an RBI groundout. IU second baseman Casey Rodrigue then drew a two-out walk and Schwarber pummeled a 2-1 pitch over the 40-foot batter’s eye in center field for a three-run homer to make it 7-2 and push the Louisville fans toward the stands.

WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Schwarber’s home run was a jaw-dropper and it crushed Louisville’s spirits. He was 0-for-4 at that point, but that home run —which, at least according to the press box chatter, was one of the furthest home runs ever hit at Jim Patterson Stadium — matched the run production of Indiana’s first eight innings combined. It effectively ruled out any possibility of a Louisville comeback.

Still, IU coach Tracy Smith was corrected when he suggested that the bigger at-bats were the ones that happened earlier in the inning. Nolden’s single was big and he had to hustle to beat out a nearly-spectacular play by Louisville shortstop Zach Lucas. Ramos’s hit was critical as was Smith’s decision to hold Nolden, who probably would’ve been out if he tested Colin Lyman’s arm. And Tim O’Conner’s RBI groundout might have been the biggest at-bat of the night. His chopper found the perfect spot on the field, especially because Louisville was playing at double-play depth and he had space to drop it in.  Without Rodrigue’s walk, Schwarber still doesn’t come to the plate, so a lot needed to happen just to make way for the spectacular.

Nolden hit the ball hard all day, going 3-for-4 with that run scored and those two RBI. Donley was 3-for-5 with two runs scored. Ramos had a pair of hits and Hartong a hit and an RBI. Third baseman Dustin DeMuth had a hit, walk and run scored and has now reached base in 45 straight games, a streak that stretches back to IU’s second game of this season.

Sophomore left-hander Sullivan Stadler gave up two hits, but struck out two batters in three scoreless innings to start. Sophomore right-hander Luke Harrison pitched three scoreless innings and struck out four batters before giving up a run in the eighth. He got the win and improves to 5-0. Scott Efross struggled, but Jake Kelzer pitched an inning and a third to get the save.

WHY DID IT HAPPEN: Because Indiana is simply firing on all cylinders at this point, and the Hoosiers believe that even when the momentum is starting to swing, they can swing it back at will. Indiana was a double-play ball from their No. 9 hitter away from heading into the ninth with a one-run lead and a redshirt freshman on the mound and their two most reliable relief pitchers having already been used. Each of the hitters in the bottom of the order battled, however, and when their most powerful hitter made contact they had given their freshman a cushion.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: This victory is critical for the Hoosiers on a number of levels, about as big as a non-conference game in early May can be. It’s only one game, but it helps Indiana significantly in the RPI, which is an important number to the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. The Hoosiers came into the week No. 4 in the RPI and winning a road game against the No. 18 squad in the Cardinals can help a good bit. Road wins are worth 1.3 times the value of a neutral site win against the same team and almost double the value of a home win over that team. The Hoosiers appear safe to assume they will at least host an NCAA Tournament regional, and this victory could be one of the ones that puts them over the top for one of the eight national seeds and the chance to host a super regional if they advance that far.

It’s also big for morale, and IU’s players  pointed out it could have long-term implications for the program as well. The Hoosiers have looked at Louisville as a model program almost as long as Smith has been the coach, because the Cardinals have the same climate constraints early in the season as the Hoosiers do, but still managed to reached the College World Series in 2007. Indiana has now swept the season series against the Cardinals and have won six of the last seven games against them, beating them in Omaha at the College World Series last season. For now at least, they’ve clearly established supremacy in a rivalry against a legitimate national power.

WHO SAID WHAT:

AUDIO: Tracy Smith

15 comments

  1. I highly appreciated the fact that you had Jim Patterson Stadium dial up Ray Charles’ “America the Beautiful” for the postgame interviewing of Kyle Schwarber.

    The diamond symbolic of a game in pace with the rhythm and contrasts found in our country’s greatest pastime; where spring blends into summer and freedom grows greenest in ballparks cheering the 450′ blasts off bats as if the rockets red glare still lighting the stars and stripes over McKinley..It’s Ali in a Louisville gym putting his first blows to a speed bag…It’s Harry Caray singing Holy Cow to a Jody Davis zinger to Waveland…It’s Schwarber quietly describing his cannon shot that went sailing “from sea to shining sea” to a Pennsylvanian of Slovakian roots now blurring his regimented profession into a far less objective warm and loving truth his joy in covering Hoosiers …..It’s Ray’s soulful reality gleaming with the night lights in the amber waves of grain…There is nothing remotely comparable to America and its wonderful melting pot gathered in grandstands to rejoice in love of game and a life in liberty.

    I hope we make baseball an honest game again…I hope we get the steroids/PEDs out forever. I hope the long ball to be as forever representative the uncorrupted humble beginnings of an equal playing field that Lady Liberty opened her arms and held her torch for all.

  2. Dustin-

    Probably some dumb questions here(I don’t follow college baseball very passionately). Why don’t they use wood bats in the college game? Is it simply the dollars to replace the large numbers of broken bats? It’s my understanding that the movement against aluminum was because they were far more dangerous(larger sweet spot and the ball would come off with such high forces that it created real danger for pitchers). Would it be accurate to say that the NCAA implemented changes to aluminum to bring it closer to the forces a ball comes off of a wood bat? are the college bats still aluminum or are they a composite material blended with aluminum? Can any aluminum/composite bat be doctored/altered to cause the ball to carry more? Does weather(e.g. cool nights) effect the composite bats more than it would effect wood bats? Do the rules allow college players to swing a variety of weights or is it highly narrowed and restricted?

    In the interview with Nolden, there was a suggestion that Schwarber’s homer would have carried even more with a wood bat. Is that really true? I thought the college bats(even with the new restrictions)were still livelier than wood.

  3. Love Ray Charles singing “America the Beautiful” and wow have the Hoosiers become a very good baseball team in the last few years. Well done to Mr. Smith and team.

  4. Harvard,
    Nolden was pretty off on the idea that the ball would’ve carried farther with a wooden bat, but it certainly would have carried farther if the standards for bats were what they were prior to the 2011 season. At that point, the NCAA adopted the .50 BBCOR standard, which stands for bat-ball coefficient of restitution.
    What that means is this. Prior to that season, the NCAA regulated bats based on the exit speed ratio of the ball coming off the bat, but found that that standard hadn’t been all that effective. It realized that what was really dangerous — and also what was really causing the bats to not play at all like wood — was “trampoline effect.” When you swing a bat and when it makes contact with the ball, the material of the bat actually bends backward and rebounds, sending more force into the ball and driving it further. The bats used before 2011 were not regulated for the amount of “give” they had, and that’s why you were still seeing really high home run and run numbers at that point. The .50 BBCOR standard limits the amount of give in a bat. There is still give, and more give than there are in wood bats, but not nearly as much. In terms of aluminum or composite, I’m not entirely certain on that. I’m sure there’s both, but whatever material is used in the bat has to adhere to that BBCOR standard.
    As far as wood is concerned, the answers I got involved both cost and use of natural resources. Obviously, wood bats break. Metal bats also do, but you’ve really gotta do some damage before that happens. Keeping a college team stacked with wood for a whole season is going to cost a good bit of money. Also, another answer I got explained it this way. Say you’re Louisville Slugger and you have the bat contracts for so many Major League teams and so many minor league teams. You also own so much forest land that you use to make the wood. You’re already prioritizing and giving the Major League teams better quality wood than the minor league teams. Now considering that there are far more college teams than there are minor league teams, imagine you add those contracts on to what you already have. You’re probably going to give those college teams lesser quality wood, which means it will break easier, and more so, you’re either using up the entirety of your forestry or you have to buy new land to continue your business, in which case you and every other wooden bat company is taking a significantly larger chunk out of the country’s trees.
    Now, that was a somewhat self-serving answer I got from a sporting goods business advocacy group on a story I did on the new bats in 2011 and I didn’t delve too much into the wood bats question in the story because it made it too convoluted. But at the very least, that’s the logic they’re using. Part of it also has to be that there’s a much greater profit margin on every metal bat they make because they charge $150 to $200 on each of those and can only charge somewhere in the $30 to $40 range for each wooden bat. But that’s at least some of the thought process there.

  5. DD, well done.

    In regards to aluminum vs composite, in 2009, the NCAA banned composite bats because they exceeded the standard at the time, which was based on BESR Ball-Exit-Speed-Ratio. Then, when they switched to the better and more accurate BBCOR in 2011, the NCAA allowed any material as long as it complied to the .50 standard.

    Nolan actually is correct. I played semi-pro baseball for a summer, which required using wood bats (holy smokes, was that expensive (I broke 8 bats that summer and cost almost $1k). As they’ve equalized the “sweet spot,” wood bats have the advantage of having more flex. So while they might be equal to .50 BBCOR standard, the flex from the wood bat adds a little something extra. You get better momentum – especially if you have a great rotational swing – due to that flex. You actually get a lot more backspin the ball carries better. However, a metal bat is lighter and easier to get around on, so you can get around on balls faster than with wood. If you have the bat speed, though, you get a little more play off a wood bat.

  6. Double Down,
    Do wood bats really have more “flex?” Because that’s what the BBCOR standard actually is, a limit on flex, and the point of the bat standard was to get the coefficient of restitution close to that of wood. I wasn’t under the impression, though, that the COR of these bats would actually be lower than that of wood. (I guess it’s lower. I mean, I’m not smart enough to comprehend the calculation.) But point being, I didn’t think these bats actually flexed less than wood bats. Have you heard/experienced different?

  7. When thinking of the amount of wood used in construction and furniture making, I find the preservation of natural resources a rather weak argument(granted that only certain species of wood are ideal for bats..Ash and Hickory?).

    The profit range explanation behind the use of metal bats was interesting….Higher price with actually much lower beginning to end production costs(forestation to final product). Wonder if any recycled aluminum is used in bat manufacturing?

    Flex argument: I think of the old covered Indiana bridges and their purposeful arched design to flex from the weight of crossing vehicles. Steamed bent wood(often applied to oak) is some of the strongest methods to build the large bowed backs and rails in Windsor chairs. Wood is quite amazing in its natural properties of strength and “give.” But being that it is wood, there will never be two bats truly alike. Can we imagine “The Natural” without all the symbolism that moved from the tree struck by lightning on the Hobb’s farm all the way to “Wonder Boy?”

    Anyway, thanks a lot Dustin.

  8. oops. [Hobbs’] farm

    Could it be that the ball comes off of an aluminum bat with more initial spring(more of the trampoline/pop effect), but the wood bat has more total up-and-down flex from knob to barrel? Is there more stored inertia/energy exerted upon or infused into the ball because of the flex-power of wood? Is the ball actually reacting to the forces longer with wood beyond the point of contact?
    Add those flex forces and stored energy to additional weight in bats used by hitters that can get around the ball with heavier lumber?

  9. DD,

    Ah, this is a different kind of flex. One that comes through the length of the bat that happens when you swing independent of the ball hitting it. The bat bends a little. The BBOC measures the impact of the ball when it makes contact with the bat. As in, the ball makes contact with the bat and the composite material of old would initially absorb the ball allowing it to compress into the bat and then would then spring the ball off when it returns to its original form. BBOC limits how much “flex” or “give” that the bat can have.

    Here’s a great video showing BBOC in slow mo:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxI3svB_O44

    Here’s a shot of Bryce Harper in slow mo. When he starts his swing, his rotation is so powerful, you can see the bat slightly bend as it comes from his shoulder in that whipping motion. By the time the bat is coming through the zone to meet the ball, it evens out.

    It is very slight and hard to see because it is so fast, but it is there.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=molFh4peCCw

  10. My three favorite sounds in all of sports in no particular order:

    – Perfect swish of a leather basketball going through the net
    – Crack of the ball off of a wooden bat
    – Sound of a fastball hitting the catcher’s mitt

  11. Harv, you pretty much nailed it.

    The heavier bat isn’t exactly linear. The real driver in power is bat speed. If you have someone that swings a 30 oz bat at 35 m/s and then a 32 oz bat at 35 m/s, the heavier bat will produce a faster ball of the barrel and thus, farther hit balls. But, as we know, the heavier the bat, the slower the bat speed.

    Funny, throughout history, players have been widely divergent on heavy/light bats. Babe Ruth swung a 54 oz bat! Joe D I think was 40 oz. Ted Williams kept his down at 30 – 33. Barry Bonds, even in his Roid days, only swung a 32 oz bat. He was crushing balls way before he put needles in his hiney. Most players today don’t swing anything heavier than 35 ounces. Even Pujols would have a heck of a time swinging a 54 oz bat and catching up to Champman’s 103 mph fastball!

  12. BTW, my phone auto corrected from BBCOR to BBOC in #11 and I didn’t proofread. Sorry about that. My brain has a BBCOR of .75 today.

  13. And then we have the differences in the tightness a baseball is wound, its core composition, its seams, from the days of Babe Ruth to the present. Is there really any way to compare stats through the ages…? It’s useless and pointless. Yes, pitchers throw the ball faster, but Ruth wasn’t sticking needles in his ass and the baseball may have been far less tightly wound(producing less pop off the bat).

    And try catching a ball with those tiny mitts.

    I didn’t read the entirety of this piece that draws a lot of interesting comparisons while chipping away at some of the myths how much “better” today’s bballplayers.

    Wish I would have played more baseball..I believe that I actually had some real skills at the game. It seemed to be one of the more cliquey sports(from Little League to Babe Ruth to high school)where popularity with the basketball and football jocks(that often played baseball as well)was paramount to getting into the exclusive circle that never seemed to change from grade school forward(just from my own personal experiences and observations). I got turned off by the club atmosphere of it all. Too bad because I really loved the game.

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