Indiana Baseball: Another Crack At Postseason Play Vs. No. 3 Seed Texas A&M
Unsatisfied by an abrupt exit in last week's Big Ten tournament, the second-seeded Indiana baseball team gets another crack at the postseason against No. 3 seed Texas A&M in the double-elimination Austin Regional Friday at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
"They're excited," IU head coach Chris Lemonis said. "They've worked all year long for this, and it's a big goal. I think they're excited and just ready to play."
According to Lemonis, the only positive of an early departure from Omaha to Bloomington was that it afforded Indiana extra rest heading into this weekend's regional.
Upon returning, the Hoosiers relaxed and recuperated for a small amount of time before getting back to work again on Monday.
Lemonis told reporters prior to the Big Ten tournament the three keys to a successful run in the tournament were strong starting pitching, solid defense and timely hitting - three areas in which Indiana struggled as it lost to fourth-seeded Illinois twice in a span of three days.
The IU skipper reiterated those same points in terms of what the Hoosiers were focusing on in practice at the beginning of the week.
"Getting back and playing good baseball will be good for us," Lemonis said.
Indiana's ability to bounce back and correct those mistakes will be measured against a Texas A&M team that's almost a mirror image of the Hoosiers in style of play.
Both teams ranked in the top five in their respective conferences in batting average, hits and number of times grounded into double plays. Both also rank first in their respective conferences in team ERA - 3.23 for the Aggies and 2.95 for the Hoosiers.
Unsurprisingly, both will also be throwing their aces on the mound Friday night. Indiana will go with junior right-hander Jonathan Stiever, and Texas A&M will counter with junior right-hander John Doxakis. Stiever, 2.89 ERA, led the Big Ten with 96 strikeouts, while Doxakis, 2.89 ERA, had the fifth lowest ERA in the SEC and was named to the conference's All-Tournament team last week.
"Really good arm throwing on Friday night, which you would expect in a regional, and just a perennial Top 20 team that's there every year," Lemonis said of Texas A&M. "You're playing a team that plays really tough, hard-nosed baseball. Can really pitch and defend. Got a couple guys in that lineup that can hurt you. But on the flip side, I think it's very similar to us. Two teams very similar in how we play the game."
Truly, the only difference between the two teams is practicing in the Indiana heat vs. practicing in the Texas heat.
The National Weather Service forecast for Austin calls for a high of 99 degrees on Friday night, though temperatures did hit a high of 90 on Monday and Tuesday in Bloomington this week. Indiana departed for Austin on Wednesday evening.
"We have been drinking a lot of water this week," IU senior right fielder Logan Sowers said Thursday. "We knew it was going to be hot, we stay hydrated. We just played in Omaha, it was really hot there and it was really hot this week in Indiana. It was 90 degrees and it was pretty humid so it kind of feels like it did in Indiana."
Unfazed by the heat, Indiana is eager to prove the early exit in the Big Ten tournament was a fluke.
"They're ready to get that taste out of their mouth (from) last week," Lemonis said. "They're ready to go."