Friday, March 30, 2007

IU baseball.

Unlike at many southern and western schools, baseball has never taken off as a quasi-major sport at IU. Frankly, there are very few quality baseball programs in the northeastern quadrant of the country. Of the 25 teams ranked in the current USA Today coaches' poll, Wichita State is the only school that wouldn't be considered southern or western. Of the 26 teams "also receiving votes," only Missouri, Nebraska, Minnesota (?!), Southern Illinois, and Kansas State fit the bill. Kentucky is ranked #18 despite a climate similar to that of southern Indiana's, but UK has the advantage of gong south for all of its conference road games. On the other hand, the Big Ten school with the least hospitable climate is the only Big Ten program in the top 50 right now, so go figure.
One of IU's disadvantages is antiquated Sembower Field, a Pony League-caliber field across the street from Briscoe and McNutt quads. If IU's facilities enhancement plan comes to full fruition, IU will be building new baseball and softball facilities that would be worthy of being called "stadium" rather than "field." Until that happens, it seems unlikely that IU will do anything to put a dent in the southern/western dominance of college baseball. On the other hand, with the least severe climate in the Big Ten, IU would seem to be in a decent position to produce a quality baseball program if the resources are provided. A couple of years ago, IU replaced the long-tenured Bob Morgan, who won only one Big Ten title in a generation of coaching, with Tracy Smith, a former IU pitching coach who executed a nice turnaround at Miami of Ohio.
IU begins the Big Ten season this afternoon against Michigan State. The Hoosiers currently stand at 10-8, with all of the wins coming against teams from non-power conferences. IU doesn't have any offensive standouts to date. Amazingly, IU has only one home run this season in 18 games. I don't follow college baseball closely enough to know how unusual that is, but note that the IU pitching staff has allowed eight. Freshman pitcher Matt Bashore, from Tipp City, Ohio, seems to be showing some promise. In 27.1 innings pitched in five appearances (four starts), Bashore has a 1.63 ERA with 22 Ks and only 11 walks. His 1.14 WHIP would be very good by MLB standards, but again, I don't follow college baseball closely enough to know how good that is.
I'll keep an eye on the baseball Hoosiers as the season progresses.

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