Hoosiers focused on spoiling plans in Austin

Indiana’s trip to the Big Ten Tournament didn’t go as planned.

In fact, it went rather poorly.

IU was dispatched from Omaha after two losses in three days, a short stay for a team with championship aspirations. It led to a change of mood for Chris Lemonis’ Hoosiers, one the coach hopes can propel Indiana to a better start this weekend at the NCAA Tournament.

“Obviously, we wanted to win the Big Ten Tournament,” coach Chris Lemonis said. “But when we didn’t, I think it’s made us a little — I don’t want to say the word — pissed. But we’ve come out and practiced a little harder and got after it, from coaches and players and everything else.”

The No. 2 Hoosiers are hoping that narrowed focus serves them well in today’s Austin Regional opener, a 5 p.m. contest against No. 3 Texas A&M at Disch-Falk Field.

During the final two weeks of the regular season, IU seemed to rediscover the momentum that had eluded it in early May. But errors and situational hitting — a season-long problem area — surfaced at all the wrong times, dooming Indiana to an abbreviated and disappointing appearance in Omaha.

“I don’t think the team is happy,” left fielder Matt Gorski said. “We have a good mindset going into this weekend, but performance-wise we haven’t played to the best of our abilities. So I think we have a really good chance to prove ourselves.”

The Hoosiers are outsiders this week in Austin, the only non-Texas team in a field that also includes the No. 1 Longhorns and No. 4 Texas Southern.

And don’t think Indiana hasn’t noticed the buzz swirling around a potential Saturday night matchup between Texas and Texas A&M.

This weekend, IU is embracing its place under the radar.

“It feels like everyone is about one matchup,” Lemonis said. “Hopefully we can spoil that for everybody.”

Indiana is looking to top an Aggies team that is a year removed from their sixth all-time appearance in the College World Series. Texas A&M opened the season ranked No. 10 in the Baseball America poll and won 19 of their first 21 games. From there, the Aggies started to slip.

They lost their first three Southeastern Conference series, before dropping seven of 10 to close the regular season. At last week’s SEC Tournament, A&M opened with three consecutive wins over Vanderbilt, Georgia and Auburn before bowing out with a 2-1 loss to eventual champion Ole Miss.

Today, IU will face Aggies left-hander John Doxakis, who struck out 10, while allowing only one run (unearned) on two hits over 7 1/3 innings in last week’s win over Auburn.

“(They have) a really good arm throwing on Friday night, which you would expect in a regional,” Lemonis said. “They’re a perennial top 20 team that’s there every year. They play really tough, hard-nosed baseball and can really pitch and defend. They also have a couple guys in that lineup that can hurt you. On the flip side, I think it’s pretty similar to us. It’s two teams that are very similar in how we play the game.”

Lemonis wants his group to be sharper at the plate this weekend after the Hoosiers batted .206 (6-for-29) with runners in scoring position across their three games at the Big Ten Tournament.

So prior to leaving for Austin on Wednesday, Lemonis put his team through a couple hard practices to get things in order for the next leg of the postseason.

“We’ve done a lot of bunting stuff and we’ve done a lot of controlled scrimmage stuff where we do a lot of situational stuff,” Gorski said. “I think it’s really going well. We’re trying to get more execution done right. You’ve got to be able to do it during a high pressure situation, just like you’ve got to be able to get it done during practice.”

If there was any positive to the early exit in Omaha, it was that IU — particularly its pitching staff — is well rested and back to its normal schedule.

After making a Thursday start against Maryland in the regular season finale and starting a Wednesday outing against Illinois to open the postseason, Jonathan Stiever will be back in his usual Friday night role against Texas A&M.

Pauly Milto will follow in his normal Saturday slot.

“Just got to enjoy the moment here,” Stiever said. “I know we did not get to host and that was our goal, but we are embracing the opportunity to come as an underdog and we have to fill that role.”

One comment

  1. I have no doubt this team can focus and make some historical noise in this CWS.

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