Indiana is known for racing, corn, and tenderloins – not your average trifecta. The university is known for basketball, soccer and swimming – winning five or more national championships in each. (Oh yeah, and this too.) Nowhere in there do you see baseball listed. That trend could begin this year as Indiana University etched its name in the
pages of Wikipedia history books with its monumental victory over #7 Florida State in the Super Regionals of the 2013 NCAA Baseball Tournament. As a result, IU will be playing in its first College World Series ever. Equally amazing is the fact that they are the first Big Ten team since 1984 to play in the College World Series, when Barry Larkin graced the field. That’s a long time ago.
The College World Series is a strange place. It’s dominated – usually – by teams in the South and West regions of the United States. The ping of the aluminum bat resonates oddly in the TV audience’s ears because they’re not used to hearing that sound. It’s also the only nationally televised Division 1 sport where teams like Cal Poly and Bethune-Cookman have a legitimate shot of winning the title, as Stony Brook did just last year. Yet, even with the element of random at the College World Series, a big boy school like Indiana University is still showing up for the first time ever.
Having a pitching staff ranked in the Top 10 and a team batting average that places them in the Top 20, IU is a well-rounded, solid team. Their first round opponent is Louisville, who they took 2-of-3 from earlier in the season. Also, only 3 national seeds remain, two of which are on the other side of the bracket. To say IU has a chance to end their magical postseason run the way it began – with a walkoff 2-run homer – is an understatement. So keep in mind that even though they carry the name of Indiana University, that alone should not overshadow what is really at stake here. This is an underdog story worth telling: they won their first Big Ten Title since 1949; this is only their third postseason appearance of all time; and, if not for Ted Kluszewski, Mickey Morandini would be their highest profile alumni. When Springfield College has more CWS appearances than you – and they haven’t existed since the 1950s – I think it’s safe to say this is kind of cool.
So, this Saturday, take the opportunity to cheer on the Hoosiers. You may even see girls in bikinis holding up ESPN signs. Just saying.