TERRE HAUTE —
Four Terre Haute Rex players could be crucial parts of the Indiana State baseball team in 2013 as the Sycamores look to maintain the success they had in 2012 with a 41-19 record and NCAA at-large berth.
All four — Michael Eberle, Jacob Hayes, Ryan Torgerson and Casey McCurcy — were transfers into coach Rick Heller’s program last year, and they all hope to step into bigger roles as ISU will have to replace several key players lost to the draft or graduation.
Arriving from Des Moines Area Community College, Torgerson earned the No. 3 starter’s job for the Sycamores and led ISU with eight wins while posting a 3.03 earned-run average in 86 innings.
Torgerson walked zero and gave up just five hits in seven innings in his first start for the Rex on Wednesday. The stocky 6-foot-2 Iowan walked just 14 batters this spring for ISU, a trait that can keep a pitcher competitive against anyone.
“I’m not going to blow it by guys. I’m going to put it somewhere they put it in play, and I’m not going to beat myself,” Torgerson said.
The left-handed hitting McCurdy started 22 games for the Sycamores, batting .275 after arriving from San Joaquin Delta College in his native California.
McCurdy played wide receiver for the football team at Soan Joauin Delta his first two years, hoping to earn a Division I scholarship on the gridiron. McCurdy opted to pursue a third year there, but this time on the baseball diamond.
McCurdy has already shown off his strong arm with outfield assists in each of his first two games with the Rex.
McCurdy hopes to absorb more baseball knowledge from Dorsett that can help him have a big season next summer.
“Just learning the game, getting to know the game a lot better,” McCurdy said. “Just a chance to get a lot of at-bats this summer and just come in next year an everyday guy. Working on my defense so I can play a corner outfield spot.”
Jacob Hayes transferred to ISU from Ohio State, meaning he had to sit out the spring due to moving from one Division I school to another.
The fourth is Michael Eberle is a transfer from Lincoln Trail. The Terre Haute North graduate never suited up for ISU in 2012 due to injury, but manager Brian Dorsett hopes to ease Eberle into the lineup when he’s ready. Eberle batted .438 as a freshman at Lincoln Trail with four homers and 12 doubles before transferring to ISU.
Eberle was hoping to contribute to ISU this spring, but he was hit in the face with a fastball during an indoor workout in February.
Eberle needed major reconstructive surgery, but he’s been medically cleared.
“Got hit in cheek bone, broke all my orbital bones. broke jaw, broken nose, reconstructive surgery, three plates and 18 screws inside my face, operated on my nose,” Eberle recalled.
The 2009 North grad has been in a Rex uniform the past two nights, but he has yet to see live pitching — even in practice. The Rex had the opening for a fourth Indiana State player when Jeremy Lucas was drafted this week.
“Right now I’m just easing my way back into it. Let my body. After BP and warm-ups, my face got swollen up. It just happens,” Eberle said.
“By the end of the summer, my goal is to be 100 percent comfortable. It’s just going to be a little different. That’s the goal, be 100 percent and be a sophomore next year at Indiana State. “
Hayes is the only one who’s a veteran to the Rex, and the Terre Haute South grad has had the chance to play from the beginning of the 2012 schedule. Due to his redshirt status with ISU, he did not travel to Eugene, Ore., for the NCAA regional.
Hayes is among the leaders in the Prospect League with his .412 batting average so far, but Hayes isn’t nearly satisfied with his play. He’s struck out 11 times in 34 at-bats, showing he still has some rust to shake off.
Hayes’ focus is also on the field, where he has the ability to play multiple spots on the infield or outfield.
“I’m looking to find a home defensively,” Hayes said. “I just want to become comfortable in all those spots. I kind of just want to get better everywhere. I also want to cut down on my strikeouts. Just trying to see the ball better.”
After just two days with the team, Torgerson can see a winning formula beginning to form. The excitement of playing in front of about 1,000 fans each night should make for a fun summer, he said.
“It’s a fun environment. It’d be fun to have these guys come out for ISU’s games, but I guess you can’t ask for everything,” Torgerson said.