The Indiana baseball team will have a new look this upcoming season.
Last season, those three combined for 31 home runs, 146 RBIs and 406 total bases. Each had 16 doubles and batted over .346. Those numbers are nearly irreplaceable.
That trio was the heart of the Hoosier lineup. However, all three have moved on to the pros, and Indiana now lacks pop in its offense.
“I think outside of the program, a lot of the guys talk about how we're not going to be as good or it's going to be a little bit more tough for us to win,” senior outfielder Will Nolden said at the team’s Media Day. “It's going to be a little bit different team.
“Maybe we're not hitting with as much power as we were, but we bring back an unbelievable staff, and we have a ton of experienced hitters in this lineup.”
The new IU staff has a different play style that fits the new-look Hoosiers. New Head Coach Chris Lemonis used a small ball style at Louisville, which focuses on speed to get around the base paths, as well as an increased focus on defense and pitching.
“I know everybody thinks of Kyle Schwarber or Sam Travis or Dustin DeMuth,” Lemonis said. “But if you can pitch and play defense you can play on the national level. We’ve got some very good offensive players, but to be great in this game you’ve got to be able to pitch and play D.”
Returning starters Nolden and senior Casey Rodrigue fit the small ball profile and will likely sit atop the batting order.
Nolden had a batting average of .302 last season, to go along with a .366 on-base percentage, five stolen bases and 33 runs scored.
Rodrigue hit only .264 last season, but he produced a .320 on-base percentage, 12 stolen bases and 48 runs scored.
“In any offense the biggest thing is getting on base, and that’s what (Coach Lemonis) is preaching most,” Rodrigue said. “So we can do more stealing, more hit-and-runs this year, getting guys in motion.”
The offense will count on Rodrigue and Nolden getting on base and getting steals regularly. In order to improve base running, Coach Lemonis implemented a free steal policy during practices, where if a player is thrown out stealing they just head back to first base without receiving an out.
“They’ve got the green light,” Lemonis said. “You can’t be a great base running team if they don’t have the freedom. You can’t be thrown out and get scared, so we will get picked off and will get thrown out, but also we’re going to steal a lot of bases too and we’ll put pressure on people.”
Last season IU stole 68 bases. Lemonis expects that number to go way up this season, claiming it could even be as high as 100.
“The fact that they are going to give us the green light is very exciting for us, opens our game up a little bit.” Nolden said. “I think Casey Rodrigue and myself the past couple of years have been limited a little bit because we didn’t want to run into any outs with Kyle Schwarber and Sam Travis behind us.”Sarah Beeson on IU Baseball Media Day
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