OMAHA, Neb. (WDRB) – Hitting a baseball is difficult. Here is something that makes you look even sillier than trying to whack a breaking ball: Predicting what happens on a baseball field.
Can't do it.
Couldn't predict before the season that the Indiana Hoosiers would deliver the baseball program's version of IU's 1967 Rose Bowl season and play their way to the College World Series.
Then, after the Hoosiers got to Omaha you couldn't predict their bats would go as quiet as a reading room and they would exit TD Ameritrade Stadium after scoring six runs in three games.
Wednesday night they did not score any against Oregon State, losing 1-0, in an elimination game. They managed only four hits and stranded only four runners. The Hoosiers join the University of Louisville and Southeastern Conference power Louisiana State in exiting the double-elimination segment of this tournament.
"As I said walking with some guys that are going to return, now we've seen the blueprint," IU coach Tracy Smith said. "We know what areas we need to improve on. We know what it takes to get here."
Strange game, baseball. The U of L baseball team went to Nashville and knocked out a Vanderbilt team many predicted would win a national championship. They showed they could pitch and field. They handled the champions of the SEC.
Then the Cardinals came to the College World Series. They pitched OK, but they did not catch the baseball, committing six errors.
Two and out.
The role reversal was just as dramatic for Indiana. In the Super Regional, the Hoosiers went to Tallahassee and knocked out a Florida State team loaded with professional prospects. They showed they could hit, hit, hit.
Then the Hoosiers came to the College World Series. They did not hit. After mashing 11 extra base hits and scoring 21 runs at Florida State, Indiana managed two doubles and no home runs in three games while playing in a park where only two home runs have been hit in nine games. They only allowed six runs in three games – and lost twice.
Three and out.
"We're a lot better hitting club than what we showed here," IU catcher Kyle Schwarber said.
On Wednesday they were shutout for the first time this season by Oregon State's Matt Boyd, a left-hander who showed why the Toronto Blue Jays selected him in the sixth round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft two weeks ago.
The Cardinals and Hoosiers played five games here. They won one. That was IU's 2-0 victory over U of L last Saturday night.
It happens. You tip your cap. You move on. You know it will take several days, but the people who follow college baseball will remember that both teams delivered remarkable seasons.
Ask Louisiana State. The Tigers were the consensus pick to win this tournament. LSU packed the place with thousands of boisterous fans. The Tigers left town Tuesday with their rally flags tucked under the front seat, after scoring three runs in two games, both defeats.
It won't be today and it likely won't be tomorrow. But it won't be long until people define this Indiana team the way it should be defined – as a team that gave the school its first outright Big Ten title since 1932 and its first College World Series appearance ever. They were the Big Ten's first CWS representative since 1984.
They broke through the way the 1967 Indiana football team broke through to the Rose Bowl. Now they have to do something the football team has not been able to do – do it again.
"Once we got here people gave us a little bit more respect," Schwarber said. "They realized what we were about. We've got something to prove to people now. That we can go farther than this in the College World Series."
"You never want to lose," IU outfielder Casey Smith said. "When you do, guys are all emotional. A lot of guys are in shock by what we really did. This is the turning point for IU baseball, changing the mindset for IU baseball. The College World Series is a goal now, a realistic goal."
Louisville had a similar celebration in 2007. Six years later the Cards made the trip again. When Louisville starts a season talking about Omaha, nobody laughs any more.