Who will IU start vs. Youngstown State?

Tracy Smith said he will start one of four pitchers Friday night in the NCAA Regional opener against Youngstown State. Read on to learn more about that decision.

Tracy Smith insisted Thursday afternoon that he wasn't trying to play games with the media.

Even though it was the simplest of questions, though, Smith wasn't prepared with an answer.

The question: Who will be Indiana's starting pitcher Friday night when the Hoosiers open NCAA Regional play against Youngstown State?

In any other opening game of a series this season the answer has been simple: 2010 Big Ten pitcher of the year Joey DeNato.

DeNato is the staff ace and Indiana's career win leader with 36 victories. This season he is 12-1 with a 1.77 ERA. He had 77 strikeouts and 38 walks in 101.2 innings pitched.

But Smith said it's not as easy as just rolling DeNato out against Youngstown State. He said IU's major goal going in is to "win the weekend" and the Hoosiers with a deep pitching staff have plenty of options.

All Smith would say for sure Thursday is that Indiana will start one of four pitchers: DeNato, Brian Korte, Scott Effross or Evan Bell.

"The answer is to your question is that right now I don't know,'' Smith said. "What makes this time of the year different is that every decision you make is made with the idea of trying to put yourself in the best position to win the weekend. And right now the only team that we really have any sense of having played them is Indiana State.

"Until I've actually seen someone play in person it's hard to make a matchup decision. The nice thing about playing the second game (Friday) is that it gives us a chance to evaluate the other two opponents.''

Smith made it clear he doesn't know if IU is in the position to take a chance and try to save DeNato for a Saturday or Sunday game.

"If we look at it and think we should stay status quo we'll run DeNato out there,'' Smith said. "If we look at our potential second round opponent and decide they may have more trouble with a left handed pitcher we may go with one of the other guys (Friday). I don't anticipate making a go decision (on a starter) until sometime tomorrow.

"I promise you'll know before the first pitch.''

Perhaps complicating the decision is the knowledge that IU's first round opponent Friday night at 7 p.m. at Bart Kaufman Field is Youngstown State, the automatic qualifier from the Horizon League with a 16-36 record. The Penguins were 12-36 heading into the conference tournament before sweeping four games there.

In the conference tournament, Youngstown State hit a combined .340 and averaged 7.5 runs per game. During the regular season, Youngstown State hit .256 and averaged 5.1 runs per game. Opponents averaged 8.1 runs per game against the Penguins this season.

No. 2 seed Indiana State (35-16) will fade No. 3 seed Stanford (30-23) Friday at 2 p.m. ET at Bart Kaufman Field. No. 1 Indiana (42-13) will face No. 4 Youngstown State (16-36) at 7 p.m. ET.

The winners will play Saturday at 6 p.m. ET and the losers will meet in an elimination game on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET. Play will continue Sunday and possibly Monday.

Follow AllHoosiers.com for all your Indiana baseball needs. We will have reporters at every IU at the Regional this week.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch

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