Sycamores Set To Take On Stanford Friday In Regional Opener
May 30, 2014HOOSIER SPORTS 365
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The Indiana State baseball team will compete in the NCAA Division I Baseball Championships for the ninth time starting Friday when the Sycamores (35-16) take on the Stanford Cardinals (30-23) at 2 p.m. (ET) at Bob Kaufman Field on the campus of Indiana University.
The Sycamores did not have a strong finish to the regular season and were done in two games at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament despite going in with the second seed. Sycamore head coach Mitch Hannahs believes that that early exit and the poor finish to the regular season left a bitter taste in the mouth of the team.
“I think we started to play outside of our abilities toward the end of the season and got away from what worked for us earlier,” Hannahs said. “We went ‘Old School’ on them the last week. We needed to get back to the basics and get back to playing within our abilities like we did last fall and the early portion of our schedule in the spring. The guys responded well and we have had some very intense but very good workouts.”
Remembering who they are is the focus that Hannahs wants of his team at this time of year.
“The focus for our club is to make sure that every single one remembers who and what they are, and this week is just their chance to come out and continue expanding on who they are as a player,” Hannahs said.
Indiana State will be going up against the Stanford Cardinals who finished the season winning eight of their last 10 games including the last four to earn a spot in the NCAA Championships. Stanford has an RPI of 44 and an overall record of 30-23. This will be Stanford’s 29th appearance in the NCAA Tournament but their first since missing the field in 2013.
“We know Stanford is going to throw quality arms out there,” Hannahs said. “We know they are well coached and they are going to execute.”
Hannahs said that the Sycamores will have to work hard to pitch to contact and keep them in the yard, and to stay close the best they can offensively to keep some pressure on those arms.
Building The Resume
Despite losing their first two games of the MVC Tournament, the Sycamore resume was impressive enough to the NCAA Committee for them to be put in as a second seed in the Indiana Regional. Indiana State finished the season with a RPI ranking of 21 according to the NCAA.
The run to the post season had an auspicious beginning for Indiana State. The Sycamores were picked to finished seventh in the pre-season MVC coach’s poll mainly due to questions about their pitching. As Hannahs noted in the preseason, Indiana State did not have an active pitcher who had a start in Division I. The only exception was senior Kurt Kudrecki who started four games as a freshman but worked from the bullpen for the past two seasons.
Indiana State served notice that this team with little or no respect was much better all-around than was predicted right from the opening pitch. A loss to Auburn in their season opener was the only blemish in the first three weeks. The Sycamores rolled off 12 straight wins including two from highly regarded Ohio State and a sweep of Western Illinois in their home opener.
The Sycamores wrapped up their first 17 games (14 on the road) with a 14-3 record which was the second best start in school history. However, even a 12-8 home win over Indiana could not erase the bitterness of losing their first two conference series (at Evansville and at home to Illinois State). The 2-4 league start may have been the ignition to a sweep of preseason favorite Wichita State that completed the Sycamores longest home stand of the season (seven games).
Nine of the next 10 Indiana State games were played on the road beginning with back-to-back mid-week contests at then #11 Vanderbilt (a 6-2 loss) and then #23 Indiana (an 8-4 setback). On the heels of that came a 13-inning loss at Southern Illinois (2-1) which marked the Sycamores first three-game losing streak of the season.
Indiana State came back to take the next two games from the Salukis and earned a win over Eastern Illinois before hitting the road to Canisius where the Sycamores dropped their first two games.
The resilient Sycamores overcame the 3-6 record in their last nine games and started a run of 11 wins in their next 12 games with an 8-4 win in their series finale at Canisius. The only blemish in that run was an 8-5 Saturday loss at home to Dallas Baptist. Indiana State had a seven game winning streak going at the end of the regular season that included a sweep of Missouri State and two wins at Bradley.
After starting the conference season with a 2-4 record, Indiana State had a chance to gain a share of the regular season title, a feat they also accomplished in 1985. However, it needed an Evansville loss and an Indiana State win for that to happen and even though Missouri State beat the Aces, Indiana State could not overcome the Braves who won 2-1 on “Senior Day”.
BLOOMINGTON REGIONAL –
The Indiana Hoosiers (42-13) are the overall fourth seed among the 64 teams selected for the 2014 NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament and the top seed in their own regional. The Big Ten Champion Hoosiers will take on the surprise Horizon League tournament champion Youngstown State Penguins (16-36) at 7 p.m. (ET) Friday. The Penguins are the fourth seed in the regional.
Opposite them will be the regional’s second seeded Sycamores taking on the third seeded Stanford Cardinals (30-23) at 2 p.m. (ET) Friday. The Cardinals are no stranger to the NCAA Tournament as they make their 29th appearance in the last 34 season and have won their last six regional games dating back to 2011. Stanford did not make the 2013 NCAA field.
Two games will be played on Saturday with Friday losers playing at 2 p.m. (ET) and the winners at 6 p.m. (ET). Another two games will take place on Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. with the final game, if needed, at 5:30 p.m. Monday.
Keaffaber To Start First Game, Stagg Second
Indiana State freshman Ryan Keaffaber, the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year, will have the honor of being the Game 1 starter for the Sycamores as they take on the Stanford Cardinals. Keaffaber has a team low ERA of 2.80 with a 3-1 record. This will be his third start of the season and his 24th overall appearance. The left hander leads the team in saves with 11. Opponents are batting .202 against him.
Junior left hander David Stagg has been the Friday guy for the Sycamores and currently carries the teams second best ERA at 2.98 with a 7-4 record. He will be making his 15th start on Saturday in Indiana State’s second game of the Regional. Opponents are batting .217 against Stagg.
“Keaffaber has been our most consistent pitcher the last month of the season,” Hannahs said. “David responded well to Ryan starting the first game. He knows as well as we do the second game is going to be awfully important as well.”
First Meeting Against Cardinals, Penguins
Indiana State has never met Stanford or Youngstown State on the baseball field.
Sycamores, Hoosiers Have History
As Midwestern powers should, Indiana State does have some history with the Indiana Hoosiers including a split of their home-and-home series this season. The Hoosiers lead the all-time series 41-57-1.
The Sycamores hosted the Hoosiers in their fourth home game of the 2014 season on March 26 and took the early lead with three in the first and two in the second. Indiana rallied to cut the Indiana State lead to 6-5 at the seventh inning stretch but the Sycamores erupted for six runs in their half of the seventh to seal the win.
Indiana State played a return game at Bloomington on April 9, a day after going toe-to-toe with #11 Vanderbilt before losing 6-2. The Sycamores and Hoosiers were tied 1-1 after three innings but Indiana was able to push over two in the fourth and three in the fifth to build a 6-1 advantage. The lead grew to 8-1 after seven innings but the Sycamores would not go away, scoring three in the eighth to trail 8-4. Indiana State tried to get something going in the ninth but were unable to score any more runs in the loss.
Hannahs Knows Regional Action
Indiana State head coach Mitch Hannahs is no stranger to post season action on the Division I level. As an All-American second baseman at Indiana State, Hannahs was a member of the 1986 team that won the regional in Ann Arbor, Mich., and played in the College World Series. He was also a member of the team that competed in the 1987 Regional in Austin, Tex., and the 1989 Regional in Starkville, Miss. Hannahs was an assistant coach for Indiana State in 1995 when the Sycamores played in the Oklahoma City, Okla., regional.
Prettyman Knows The Pressure
Indiana State assistant coach Ronnie Prettyman knows the pressure of competing in the NCAA Tournament. Prettyman played his collegiate baseball at Cal State Fullerton from 2003-2005, assisting the Titans to three straight appearances in the NCAA Super Regionals, back-to-back trips to the College World Series in 2003 and 2004, and the 2004 National Championship with a win over the Texas Longhorns. Stanford assistant coach Ryan Garko played for the Cardinals from 2000-2003 and played against Prettyman and his Cal State Fullerton team in 2003.
Second Time Around
Several Sycamores are getting a taste of post season competition for the second time in their Indiana State careers including Tyler Wampler, Owen Conway, Landon Curry, Kurt Kudrecki. Curry was a designed hitter for the Sycamores in 2012 as Indiana State played in the Eugene, Ore., Regional and went 3-for-8 in the two games the Sycamores played. Wampler started at shortstop and went 0-for-6. Indiana State lost to #12 Cal State Fullerton 9-5 in their opening game and then fell 1-0 to Austin Peay in their second game.