Indiana head coach Tracy Smith has done a terrific job with this year's Hoosiers club. The Hoosiers lost starting pitcher Kyle Hart and key reliever Ryan Halstead for the year because of injuries. However, this team had little trouble getting back on track and are a national seed entering the postseason. On the mound, lefthanded specialist Joey DeNato continues to lead the charge with great command and a 1.77 ERA, while Christian Morris has risen to the occasion with a 1.82 ERA in 79 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, with Hart out of the rotation, the Hoosiers have gotten some quality innings from lefty Brian Korte, who has a 2.11 ERA in 38 1/3 innings of work, along with 27 strikeouts and 13 walks. Key reliever Scott Efross is having yet another strong campaign, while Luke Harrison (1.98, 50 IP) and Jake Kelzer (2.15, 29.1 IP) are quality options. Kelzer, for instance, has a big-time arm with a good slider … Offensively, things are much the same for the Hoosiers these days. C Kyle Schwarber (.340/12/41) and first baseman Sam Travis (.342/10/53) have well-documented, big-time power, while third baseman Dustin DeMuth is hitting a team-best .381 average with five homers and 36 RBIs. Scott Donley (.312/5/45) is another quality hitter, while Casey Rodrigue (.277) is someone to watch on the bases with athleticism and 12 stolen bases this spring.
Indiana State was expected to take a step back this spring, but that didn't happen – the Sycamores are better. ISU lost a pair of excellent starting pitchers after last season in Sean Manaea and Dakota Bacus, but haven't skipped a beat with a talented weekend rotation of LHP David Stagg, RHP Brad Lombard and RHP Kurt Kudrecki leading the way. Stagg has a 2.96 ERA in 91 1/3 innings, and typically is consistent. However, Stagg does sometimes have a tendency to issue some free passes with 42 walks this season. Meanwhile, the Sycamores have solid bullpen options in Ryan Keaffaber (2.80, 54.2 IP, 11 saves), Josh Dove (2.01, 31.1 IP) and Nick Kolarik (3.13, 31.2 IP) … While the Sycamores are led by a talented pitching staff, they do have some key offensive contributors to watch this weekend, including athletic players such as Landon Curry (.279/0/20), Tyler Wampler (.276/0/16) and Jacob Hayes (.274/4/35), while leading hitter Mike Fitzgerald has a .305 average, three homers and 26 RBIs along with very good plate discipline. Don't look for a lot of power production from the Sycamores, who have just 14 homers this season.
Stanford seemed to be out of the postseason mix just a few weeks ago, but put things together at exactly the right time. The scary thing about this Stanford club is that while it's red-hot right now, it's also a young club with a lot of upside. In other words, getting to the NCAA postseason this spring is an accomplishment, but the future is even brighter for Mark Marquess's club. With that said, the Cardinal has a very quality ace pitcher in ultra-talented freshman righthander Cal Quantrill. Quantrill sits in the low-to-mid 90s with his fastball and has a changeup and slider to go with it, while he has a 2.92 ERA in 92 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, Logan James has moved to the weekend rotation and has a 4.13 ERA in 56 2/3 innings, while veteran pitcher John Hochstatter has a 2.62 ERA in 72 innings. The Cardinal doesn't possess elite quality pitching depth, but does have some talented arms to watch, such as power-armed AJ Vanegas (2.16, 33.1 IP) and Chris Castellanos (4.15, 21.2 IP), among others … Offensively, the Cardinal has one of the nation's elite players in Alex Blandino, who's hitting .306 with 11 homers and 37 RBIs, while the rest of the team has just 15 homers. Austin Slater (.349/1/36) has good plate discipline and leads the team in batting average, while Zach Hoffpauir (.339/6/28) is a consistent hitter with pop.
Youngstown State was the lowest-seeded team in the Horizon League tournament last weekend, but rose to the occasion and knocked off top-seeded Wright State to make the NCAA postseason. The Penguins certainly are at a disadvantage this weekend, and will have to pitch much better than they have the entire season to make some noise. The Penguins have 6.90 staff earned-run average, with their best starting pitcher, Patrick O'Brien sporting a 7.23 ERA in 66 innings. O'Brien doesn't have elite stuff, but does command his pitches well. Meanwhile, keep an eye on reliever Alex Frey (4.58, 37.1 IP) … Offensively, the Penguins don't bring much to the table, but Phil Lipari is a quality bat to watch. Lipari is athletic and is hitting .322 with eight doubles, three triples, five homers and 26 RBIs. He also has the best plate discipline on the team. Anything can happen in the postseason, but YSU definitely is facing an uphill battle.