#39 Indiana Baseball 2015 Preview

Indiana Hoosiers

Overall Rank: #39
Conference Rank: #3 Big Ten
#39 Indiana Baseball 2015 Preview
Indiana Team Page


Indiana has had an incredible run over the last two seasons. The Hoosiers have gone 94-31 over those two seasons, won a pair of Big Ten titles and appeared in a College World Series. Last year, the Hoosiers looked to be on their way to another College World Series appearance, but Stanford upset the Hoosiers in the Bloomington Regional. The core of last year’s team departs, as All-American’s Kyle Schwarber, Sam Travis, Dustin DeMuth and Joey DeNato have moved on the professional ranks. Also gone is head coach Tracy Smith, who took the job at Arizona State. The Hoosiers may have lost their stars, but a solid group of role players from last year’s team return and they will look to get back to the NCAA Tournament for a third straight season.
2014: 44-15, 21-3
2014 Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament
Coach: Chris Lemonis

Field Players:
Schwarber, Travis and DeMuth are huge losses for the Hoosier offense. The trio combined for 247 hits, 31 home runs and 154 RBI’s last season, which will not be easy to replace. Indiana does return a trio of .300 hitters from last year, led by outfielder/DH Scott Donley. A former Virginia Tech transfer, Donley hit .324 with five home runs and 47 RBI’s from the cleanup spot in 2014. Donley was used as a DH last year, but could shift to the outfield this season. That would result in Brad Hartong moving behind the plate. Hartong transferred in from junior college last season and split time between left field and behind the plate. The California native hit .313 and drove in 36 runs in 49 games. Right fielder Will Nolden is the third .300 hitter returning for the Hoosiers. Nolden batted .302, appearing in 57 games. Leadoff hitter and second baseman Casey Rodrigue, shortstop Nick Ramos and centerfielder Tim O’Conner round out the returning starters. Rodrigue batted .264 and stole 12 bases while serving as the leadoff hitter in his first season after transferring in from junior college. Ramos, .260 average, and O’Conner, .188 average, appeared in 53 and 57 games apiece. The returning group is solid, but the Hoosiers will need to find replacements for Travis and DeMuth at the corner and another starter, depending on where Donley plays.

The departure of DeNato, the Friday night starter for the last four years, leaves a big hole at the front of the weekend rotation, but the Hoosiers do return a pair of starters from that weekend rotation last year and the bullpen returns almost everybody. Christian Morris worked his way into the rotation last year as a sophomore and he posted solid numbers, going 6-3 with a 2.04 ERA. Kyle Hart was a member of the rotation at the beginning of last year and went 3-1 with a 2.29 ERA in nine appearances, including six starts, but he was shut down in April with Tommy John surgery. If he has fully recovered, Hart should be in the rotation this year. New head coach Chris Lemonis is looking to complete the starting rotation by moving junior Scott Effross into the rotation. Effross led the team in saves and appearances last year while posting a 1.98 ERA, but the rotation could be his calling. The right-hander started against Youngstown State in the Bloomington Regional and pitched well, picking up a win after four innings of work. The plan looks to be to keep him there in 2015 after he threw well this fall. Indiana does have a fall back option in Will Coursen-Carr if Effross doesn’t pan out. Coursen-Carr burst on to the scene as a freshman, going 5-0 with a conference leading 1.93 ERA. The former Indiana High School Player of the Year was clutch down the stretch, picking up the win in the Big Ten Championship game, the Regional final and the Super Regional clincher as Indiana advanced to the College World Series. Last year, Coursen-Carr couldn’t return to that form, as he went 2-2 with a 3.49 ERA in 16 appearances. Coursen-Carr looks to be somewhat of a wildcard in 2015, but he has huge upside potential. The bullpen is in great shape with Thomas Belcher, Luke Harrison, Jake Kelzer, Evan Bell and the return of closer Ryan Halstead. Indiana’s all-time leader in saves, Halstead was sidelined last year with a torn ACL but he will be back this spring. Belcher and Harrison combined to go 7-0 on the mound last year and had ERA’s of 1.91 and 2.21, respectively. Kelzer came out of nowhere last year and established himself as a key part of the bullpen. The six-foot-seven Bloomington native was on the swimming and diving team at Indiana as a freshman before shifting his focus to baseball. He posted solid numbers in his first season, going 1-3 with a 3.11 ERA and held batters to a .233 average. Those numbers helped get Kelzer drafted last June in the 22nd round by the New York Yankees, but he opted to return to school. Bell rounds out the group after going 2-1 with a 3.22 ERA in 12 appearances last year and helps to give this staff very good depth.

Who to Watch:
Scott Donley is going to be the player to watch for Indiana. With so much gone offensively, Donley will need to produce in the middle of the order. Aside from Hartong, no other returnee brings much in the way of power, so Indiana will need to rely on Donley in that area. The pitching staff is extremely deep and can carry the team if needed, but they can only do so much if the offense is struggling. Donley will need to lead the effort to create the runs necessary to win ball games for Indiana to have success.

Final Projection:
Tracy Smith, the man who led the recent success may be gone, but he left a lot in the cupboard. Sure, the losses of Schwarber, Travis, DeMuth and DeNato hurt, but there is plenty of talent still in Bloomington for expectations to still be high. The Hoosiers almost surely won’t run away with the conference like they did last year, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be in the mix to win it. Indiana doesn’t get much of a warm-up this season, as they open the year at Stanford and you can bet the Hoosiers will be looking for revenge after getting upset by the Cardinal in last year’s regional. Series with College of Charleston and Cal State Fullerton also highlight the early schedule, so coach Lemonis will get to see how good his team is from the get go. The ultimate success likely depends on what the offense can do. With the pitching returning, if they are able to put up solid numbers at the plate, this is surely an NCAA Tournament team.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Casey Rodrigue, IF, 246
Hits: Scott Donley, OF/DH, 71
Home Runs: Scott Donley, OF/DH, 5
RBIs: Scott Donley, OF/DH, 47
Runs: Casey Rodrigue, IF, 48
Stolen Bases: Casey Rodrigue, IF, 12

Wins: Christian Morris, P, 6; Luke Harrison, P, 6
Innings Pitched: Christian Morris, P, 83.2
Strikeouts: Luke Harrison, P, 57
Saves: Scott Effross, P, 5


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