Indiana, no fluke, brings Big 10 back to Omaha

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If it seems odd having a Big 10 Conference team in the College World Series, well, it is.

The last time it happened was 1984 when the Michigan Wolverines made it with Barry Larkin as their shortstop. That’s Barry Larkin, the Baseball Hall of Famer who is now 49 years old.

The Big 10 is to college baseball what Jamaica is to the bobsled, an aberration. The college baseball season runs late February through May. Much of the Big 10, which has 12 teams but nonetheless remains the Big 10, is snowed in much of that time.

Despite that, the Indiana team Mississippi State plays in the winners’ bracket tonight is the real deal. They are no fluke. You win two straight in a Super Regional at Florida State, you belong, and that’s what Indiana did.

Then the Hoosiers beat Louisville 2-0 in the first round of the College World Series. That’s 51-13 Louisville, and it wasn’t a fluke either. Check out Indiana’s baseball results this season. The Hoosiers also beat Louisville 2-0 at Dunedin, Fla., to open the season.

In fact, Indiana played its first 16 games in Florida or Myrtle Beach, S.C., while Bloomington began to thaw out. Among those 16 games was a three-game series against the Florida Gators at Gainesville. The Hoosiers won two of the three.

So, yeah, this is a really good baseball team State plays tonight. And like all teams that reach the College World Series they are hot at the right time. The Hoosiers have won seven straight in the post-season, 11 of their last 12.

I watched parts of their two games at Florida State. What struck me about Indiana was the Hoosiers’ size. They look like a baseball team filled with tight ends and linebackers. They scored 21 runs in two games at Tallahassee. They can, in baseball parlance, rake.

One would think that playing before huge crowds in big-game atmospheres would be the toughest adjustment for Big 10 teams, who normally play games before hundreds instead of thousands. That hasn’t been the case for the Hoosiers who have played their best baseball in the Super Regional and in the first round at Omaha.

Neither coach had announced his starting pitcher as this is written, but a look at Indiana’s season stats would seem to indicate the Hoosiers probably will go with Aaron Siegers (9-1, 2.13 ERA), a redshirt sophomore who could conceivably be pitching his last collegiate game.

Siegers stands out even on this team of baseball giants. He is 6 feet, 10 inches tall. He was picked in the fifth round of the draft by the Minnesota Twins.

In fact, he was one of three Indiana players picked in the recent baseball draft by the Twins. The three are roommates, which is a coincidence, not a fluke. Again, these Hoosiers are no fluke

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