TERRE HAUTE — If you had to pick one word that would describe the 2013 Indiana State baseball season, it would have to be frustration.
The things that clicked during ISU’s 2012 Missouri Valley Conference championship campaign haven’t come together in 2013, particularly at the plate. ISU ranks last in the MVC in batting average (.247), slugging (.317) and home runs (6), and eight other offensive categories tracked by the MVC.
It was never going to be easy for a lineup that lost Jeremy Lucas, Jon Hedges, Lucas Hileman, Kyle Burnam and Ryan Walterhouse from its championship team, but some of the players that were expected to pick up the slack haven’t lived up to their preseason billing and others have seen production drop off.
It’s put ISU coach Rick Heller in a bind. Do you give up precious outs to move baserunners up via sacrifices and small ball? Or, because of the inconsistent situational hitting, do you keep those outs only to see them erased anyway via a double play groundout or fielder’s choice? It’s a circle the Sycamores have rarely squared.
Add in occasional ill-timed flame-outs by the bullpen, injuries to key arms — such as Daniel Peterson — and a rainy spring that has seen nine games get wiped off ISU’s intended slate, and the ability for the Sycamores to build any positive rhythm has seemingly been stymied at every turn.
Frustration. Its been the name of the game.
Despite all of this, I feel somewhat bullish about the Sycamores headed into next week’s MVC Tournament at Illinois State.
Pending results in ISU’s final regular season series against last-place Bradley — which starts tonight at Bob Warn Field — and Southern Illinois’ series against MVC leader Illinois State, the Sycamores will be seeded sixth or seventh in the MVC Tournament.