OMAHA, Neb. – Numbers never lie. Joey DeNatos start Saturday night against Louisville validated the statistics Indianas pitching staff posted all season. Hoosiers pitchers led the Big Ten in ERA. They gave up the third-fewest runs. The back of Indianas bullpen was strong: The Hoosiers finished second in the conference with 18 saves.
Regardless, Baseball Americas Aaron Fitt ranked Indianas starting pitching second-to-last in his College World Series preview. Mississippi State, the Hoosiers opponent tonight, placed last.
Junior left fielder Casey Smith said DeNatos outing broke some ground for the conference.
Thats huge, Smith said. Hes the pioneer for the Big Ten and the numbers do show it. Hes making the numbers honest. If you say (the statistics) were really good, and then hes able to come out and put that performance (up), that makes them pretty true numbers. There are the naysayers that say Hes throwing this well, but its in the Big Ten. I think he showed that the Big Ten numbers are pretty accurate and measurable up to SEC and ACC stuff.
DeNatos third career complete game kept the Hoosiers bullpen fresh. Indiana Coach Tracy Smith said at his news conference Saturday night that he has not decided who will start against the Bulldogs (49-18).
He repeated his answer Sunday because he said he had not had sufficient time to pick todays starter.
I just think were gonna go matchups, right-lefty combinations, those types of things, the eighth-year coach said.
I think a little bit has to be who you think is going to throw the most strikes. I keep saying that thats when you get yourself in trouble, is free base runners.
By defeating Louisville, the Hoosiers were able to enjoy Sundays off day. Theyre not stressed because their season is one loss short of its conclusion.
Its huge to come out and get that first win to stay in the winners bracket, designated hitter Scott Donley said. I think the toughest thing you do is if you drop the first game, youre in the losers bracket. Its just a huge grind, then. Its still gonna be real tough for us right now. We got to come out and play a huge game against Mississippi State.
The Hoosiers (49-14) are 6-0 in the NCAA tournament and 9-1 postseason play, including the Big Ten tournament. Smith called the day off in between games a luxury.
Indiana rides a seven-game winning streak into tonights game.
We dont want to be that team, first-timers that get all fat and sassy after the first win and think the mission is over, Smith said.
This group does not. Were going to let them enjoy some time today. Well circle the wagons again come evening and get guys focused in on the next baseball game.