Baseball

    Sights and Sounds of NCAA Regional Eve

    Go Hoosiers!
    Go Hoosiers!

    Go Hoosiers!

    May 29, 2014

    Photo Gallery

    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.

    OPENING STATEMENT:
    Tracy Smith: Well, I think these are exciting times for Indiana baseball and really the community of Bloomington at large, and I don't know if you've seen yet, an exciting time for a variety of reasons. We had some news today of four all Americans represented in the Louisville Slugger: Kyle Schwarber, Sam Travis, Second Team, and Joey DeNato and Dustin DeMuth, Third Team that was announced this morning. Just found out this morning, so I thought that was newsworthy.

    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?
    Joey DeNato: Well, I mean, all year it was our expectation to host a regional. It was one of our goals to be a national seed, so I mean, because this was our expectation, we're just going to handle it like it was any other game. I know there's more importance to it, but we're going to have to keep the same mentality and the same drive.

    Brad, what are the keys? What needs to happen both tomorrow and this weekend for you guys to win and advance?
    Brad Hartong: I think we've just got to keep playing the way we've played all year, take care of the baseball, get good quality starting pitching like we've gotten all season, and just stay with our approach, not get out of ourselves because it's a regional game or a playoffs, just the same way we've played all year, and I think we'll be in good shape.

    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?
    Dustin DeMuth: Yeah, it's a little different because you don't play the same team every time. Three game series on the weekends you're playing the same team. You kind of feel what the lineup has and what they can do and stuff like that. It's a little tough with a regional setup just because you don't know who you're going to play, what they can do. You haven't faced them at all yet. Yeah, it's just a little different.

    That being said, what have you guys learned about Youngstown State? What do they present that you guys have seen?
    Dustin DeMuth: Haven't really learned much about them, just kind of trying to focus on ourselves and our game plan and do what we do. We think if we play good baseball we can play with anyone in the country.

    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?
    Joey DeNato: For us at this point in the season every single game is going to be important no matter what the record of the team is that we're playing, so we're going to approach this game just like any other game, whether it's conference play, playoffs or the College World Series. It's going to be the same team going out there.

    What are the lessons you learned specifically from playing Valparaiso last year, that any team can beat you at any point in time?
    Joey DeNato: Yeah, that's just how baseball is. Baseball is a game where any team can beat any team, no matter what their record is or how deep their lineup is. That's just the way it is.

    Who are you starting tomorrow?
    Tracy Smith: Here's the thing. I think you guys know me well enough by now, we typically don't play games with the lineup and things like that and deliberately hold information, and I would say that again in this scenario.

    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?
    Tracy Smith: Yeah, but if you look at the way that things have shaped up for us, I don't look at I love to get five out of a starter, but we're going to take it seriously, and I know this sounds silly, we're going to take it one inning at a time. Because the depth we have in the pen, we've been playing matchups. Pretty much outside of Joey's game, the games that he's pitched in, Morris has been stronger down the stretch, but other than that, we've just been kind of playing matchups and getting a guy one or two times through the order. We'll just have to see how that goes, but our focus is to try to win Game 1 using the least amount of pitching as possible. That's how we're going to play it.

    What brought Effross into the discussion? Obviously he's a guy that's got some endurance.
    Tracy Smith: Well, I think what brought him into the discussion was that we played four games last weekend, four times nine, 36. 36 innings of baseball, and he pitched and I'm sitting here saying, my goodness, this is one of the top arms in the country, and we didn't use him, so I think he has to be in the discussion on that because of the emergence of what Jake Kelzer has done out of the pen.

    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?
    Tracy Smith: Going back to the whole question, he's day to day with a slight just some discomfort in his arm. He's been throwing. He's been throwing his bullpens, been preparing again, but we're going day to day with him to see how he feels. That's probably why we're in a little bit of the position we're in right now, as well.

    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?
    Tracy Smith: The thing that I know is that they're hot. I mean, any time you win four games in a row, and there's some quality opponents in the Horizon League when they got to the championship rounds, but obviously they're playing good baseball, and I think that more so than anything, because I've said it a lot about baseball; you can be good, but this is the one sport that it doesn't matter if you're physically bigger than the other opponent or you outsize them or out strength them. It takes one guy, and we saw it last year in the regional. It takes one guy that can quiet down 4,000 people, 5,000 people, and that's the guy on the mound.

    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?
    Tracy Smith: Well, Luke Harrison has been a guy we've been leaning on quite heavily. We still feel like we need to have a better situation, right hander, left hander coming out of the pen. I think Sully Stadler could be that guy. Effross is a guy, too well, I guess you said if he starts. But Effross is a guy, too, that bounces back extremely well. To me when he's thrown well, he's throwing two and three times a weekend. Thomas Belcher, I look at the same deal. That guy was he's got a sub 2.00 ERA and we pitched him one and a third inning last weekend. So those guys are all capable.

    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?
    Tracy Smith: Well, I said coming at the end of last year, tail end of last year, that we had some pretty good guys that we red shirted that didn't get a lot of time last year that are going to be pretty significant. But I'd be lying to you if I said that I'd be sitting here right now today thinking our staff would be in the top ten or whatever it is in the country ERA. I give a lot of credit to Brandon Higelin, our pitching coach, for what he's been able to do with these guys. I think we're much better across the board. There's a lot of depth on our staff of being able to throw their off speed stuff for strikes consistently, and when you get a staff load of guys doing that, it gives us a lot of options.

    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?
    Tracy Smith: I always speak in analogies, and I can't come up with a good one. You think about anything in your lives where you had a goal and you kind of get to that goal one time, and then you have a chance to repeat, to go back through that same experience. You have a different mindset. I mean, whether it be write your first article as a writer or the first time it was done, you write it (inaudible) and then you get a second shot at it, I can promise you, you're going to have a different attitude about it, and that's kind of where our guys are.

    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?
    Tracy Smith: I think like last year there was this feeling of we really want to impress. We had never hosted a regional before. We wanted to impress Hoosier Nation and quite frankly the NCAA and the pollsters. We wanted to show them that they made a good decision in allowing us to host. This group that's not even on the radar. They're like, we don't care what anybody else thinks, we want to win. We want to have fun and we want to go out and win.

    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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