Sights and Sounds of NCAA Regional Eve
May 29, 2014
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana held an open practice prior to NCAA Regional play at Bart Kaufman Field on Thursday. After practice, head coach Tracy Smith along with IU players Dustin DeMuth, Joey DeNato and Brad Hartong addressed the media during the team's pre-regional press conference. Video, photo gallery and press conference transcript can be found here.
The reason everybody is here is certainly the NCAA tournament and the chase for a national championship. When I said the excitement about Bloomington at large, I think we're tremendously excited because of being able to host potentially, and there's a lot of baseball left to play, but potentially host beyond the regional.
Not that that's going to happen. We hope that it happens, but to put ourselves in this position when you think about playing in the days of the old Sembower Field and to be able to host a regional with the quality of opponents we have coming in, we're proud on a lot of levels, not just for our baseball players but for our university so people get to see around the country that there's baseball played in Bloomington, Indiana.
What's different this time around, basically getting into this for the second time? How much different does it feel having been here already?
Brad, what are the keys? What needs to happen both tomorrow and this weekend for you guys to win and advance?
Dustin, you talked earlier this week about a regional being tricky because of the way it lays out and you don't know who you're going to play. How different is this weekend from another weekend where you just face a three game series because you are constantly in adaptation mode to figure out what's next?
That being said, what have you guys learned about Youngstown State? What do they present that you guys have seen?
It's kind of easy to look past Youngstown State, 16 36 record, but what are you guys doing kind of as leaders of the team to keep your team's focus where it needs to be?
What are the lessons you learned specifically from playing Valparaiso last year, that any team can beat you at any point in time?
Who are you starting tomorrow?
I think what's different, what makes this time of the year different well, let me answer your question. Right now we're not sure and here's why, because what makes this time of the year different is every decision moving forward is critical. You try 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 was Indiana State.
You can go over all the scouting reports you want. You can go over all the video, but until to me you see the guys in person, you watch the swings yourself, it's hard for me personally to make a matchup decision. So the luxury of playing the second game is that it gives us time to evaluate the other team's players. I'm not saying we're in a position where we can I guess the baseball term, throw off with Joey DeNato. Right now we're preparing really to me four options of guys that we would consider starting in DeNato, Bell, Korte and Effross. We'll wait and make a decision, but once we kind of see maybe who potentially we could be facing, taking nothing for granted with Youngstown, because still, we've got to win game number one, and if it gets down to a situation where we see that, hey, we're going to keep things status quo, then we're going to run DeNato out there. If we see maybe the second round opponent potentially could have a tougher matchup with a lefty, we may consider one of the two right handers. I wouldn't anticipate making a go decision on that until realistically sometime tomorrow.
The charge from me to Coach Higelin is to make sure all those guys I just mentioned are mentally ready to go. It may seem a little unorthodox, but if you guys have followed our team, outside of DeNato, we've pulled guys in the second inning, second inning, third inning quite frequently because we feel like the depth of our pitching (inaudible), so we'll make that decision probably sometime tomorrow.
I promise you'll know before the first pitch.
I guess if you do go with Evan Bell or Scott Effross, would it be something similar to last week in Omaha where you wouldn't be expecting those guys, barring totally cruising, to be going six, seven innings?
What brought Effross into the discussion? Obviously he's a guy that's got some endurance.
But sometimes guys are different guys in the starters' roles. I just don't know yet, but that's why he's in the discussion for sure. That guy threw an inning or so in 30 something innings of baseball, and that's I'm glad we won, but it's kind of unusual.
What's the update on Korte?
But we'll know more tomorrow based on the medical stuff of what he can he cranked it up on a bullpen the other day full speed, and it looked pretty good. We just want to see how he's responding to that.
What do you know right now about Youngstown, and is it a pretty balanced lefty righty lineup that you see?
And then even you can do everything right. We've been kind of identified by our offense. You can do everything right, ball leaves the bat and still go to somebody. So from our perspective, we're not taking anything for granted. The righty, lefty stuff, all that stuff, I'm not worried about that. We're going to try to play as well as we can. They're going to come out just like we've faced every opponent this year. With our run to the World Series last year, we know we're going to get everybody's best effort.
But I guess I'm not worried about them; I'm not worried about Indiana State; I'm not worried about Stanford. I'm worried about Indiana University. So our focus and preparation has been more on what we're doing because I've sent a message to our team; I don't care who we're playing, three opponents here, it does not matter what records are, it doesn't matter anything, we've got to take care of our business because everybody is good or they wouldn't be here.
You were talking about, you've been here before; just talk about how important it is for these guys to be able to keep a regular routine, sleep in their own beds, all of that. Tracy Smith: Well, you know, yeah, it'll be interesting because I think the expectation this year over last year is a little bit different. But I will tell you there's advantages, honestly, to both. There's advantages to being home because as you said, you sleep in your own bed, you can kind of unwind a little bit and sit around your house and watch television in the comfort of a living room. But being on the road you're confined to a hotel. I feel like we're blessed because we have a veteran group. These guys are in a nice, relaxed state right now, and whether we go out and win this thing or we don't win this thing, I still believe that these guys are going to play very mature baseball, do the best they can and not let any of this stuff, environment, being at home, being on the road, big crowd, small crowd, affect them. This group has handled that stuff all year.
But I like the fact they're at home because we can hit some nice restaurants in Bloomington that I'm familiar with.
A question about if you do go with Effross tomorrow, it seems like this whole season it's been Kelzer Effross one two and some work in the bullpen. If he does go tomorrow and pitches three, four, five innings and is not available for a day or two, who are some other guys you're looking at in the bullpen to go along with Kelzer?
I'm a cliché man, but we're going to go one game at a time. Whomever that first game starter is, I would love to get five out of him and put them together from there. But if they're not on, we'll get them out early. If they're cruising, we'll probably leave them in.
I know you've addressed this a little bit before, but despite the fact you had two significant pitching injuries, your staff doesn't seem to have missed a beat. Can you talk about that, how you were able to address that, how you got the staff where it is right now?
I should probably give a lot of credit to the guy that was sitting right here because if you're a young guy on this staff and you can watch a Joey DeNato go out game in and game out with the demeanor and presence that he has, you're an absolute idiot or a fool if you don't pick something up from him, so I think it's a combination of those things.
But I'm going to go back to, again, the very first question. The reason that we're kind of in this position, I know it doesn't help your jobs any because everybody wants the scoop on who's starting, for us to have that depth, it allows us to have this type of discussion or question and answer session because we've got a lot of options, and we're just going to wait until we have a little bit more information before we choose the option that we feel gives us the best chance to win tomorrow.
But good kids and good coaching by Coach Higelin and some good leadership by the upperclassmen on our team.
We've asked these guys a lot what's different about this year, what feels different, what looks different, just this whole experience. For you observing them through the last week, what is different about the way this team is approaching this postseason as opposed to maybe the way it did last postseason?
I think last year we just kind of went through this thing, the whole thing to Omaha, and I've said it a million times, it happened so fast. We didn't really get to enjoy it, we didn't get to fear or doubt ourselves because it happened so fast. This group having gone through that, now there's no doubt, there's no fear. We want to enjoy this one, and that's what I said to them is I said regardless of what happens, let's make sure we enjoy this because I don't think we really got to enjoy it last year until it was the middle of the summer, but let's enjoy the experience.
But this is a very, very focused group on they want to win a National Championship, and it's not just words. I watch how they win conference championships and you'd think that they just got swept three games by the way they are in the locker room. Their mind is on one thing, and I think that is a result of what we did last year is that it's real, it's tangible, it's not just some thing you throw up on a wall and tell recruits. This is something we can really do, and I really, really believe that.
What's different about these guys specifically this week? If you think back to a year ago when it was the first time you guys were ever hosting this thing, what were they like just mentally going into that first game and how are they different today?
I'm blessed to have Schwarber, Travis, DeMuth, DeNato, those guys, because I don't have to do much. It's their team and they've done a really good job of setting the mood for this team. But I'd say most of them were golfing and fishing this week, mixing in some bullpens and batting practice.
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