IU Insider Blog: Thoughts on pitching

Now that tournament play has arrived, Indiana's pitching rotation could look different. Specifically, who will pitch this weekend if IU needs a fourth or fifth starter? Read on for Terry Hutchens' take on the situation.

The third season is about to begin for the Indiana University baseball team.

In the first season, IU took its lumps a little bit in the non-conference season. Through 17 games, the Hoosiers were 9-8 and still trying to find an identity.

In the second season, Big Ten Conference play, the Hoosiers found a groove. IU went 21-3 in conference, won the Big Ten title outright for the second year in a row and had the fewest losses of a team in conference play since 1999.

Now comes postseason play with the Big Ten Tournament starting tonight when No. 1 seed IU faces No. 8 Iowa.

Unlike the first two seasons though when the Hoosiers could fall into a routine with their pitching rotation things change come tournament time.

And even after losing a player like Kyle Hart early in the season to injury, the Hoosiers appear to have enough depth to hold up now that tournament play begins.

But let's take a closer look at that.

In the best case scenario, Indiana will play Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday in this year's B1G Tournament in Omaha.

That would mean Joey DeNato in the opener tonight, Christian Morris in the second game and Brian Korte in the third game. But then who would you come back with on Sunday in Game 4?

That will be the challenge for Tracy Smith this weekend.

The most obvious choice would be Sullivan Stadler, the left hander that has been getting the majority of the mid-week starts.

But what happens if IU loses a game along the way and is forced to play out of the loser's bracket?

That's where things get tricky. This is where the loss Kyle Hart really hits you hard. You could go with Will Coursen-Carr and hope the postseason atmosphere helps him find his way again but he clearly hasn't pitched with a great deal of confidence this season.

The sophomore from Fort Wayne South has made seven starts this season but the last one was April 13 against Morehead State. Overall, he is 2-2 with a 3.68 ERA. He has 25 walks and 22 strikeouts in 36 innings pitched.

You could always come back with a guy like DeNato but I'm not sure that would be the plan this season. One thing that changes a lot of the thinking here is pretty much knowing that no matter what you do you're going to play in the NCAA Tournament. That has never really been the case for IU in the past. But when you've consistently been a top 20 team and you have an RPI that currently sits at No. 4, it's pretty safe to say that you're going to be in the tournament field when it's announced Monday at Noon.

Another option would be to go with someone like redshirt freshman Thomas Belcher or even setup man Luke Harrison for some extended innings. IU could always go to a pitcher-by-committee plan if it really found itself in a tough spot.

One thing to expect is that Smith will take the attitude this week that he will put in the ball in the hand of whomever he feels gives Indiana the best chance to win.

Luckily for Smith in this regard, he has a lot of options.


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