BLOOMINGTON -- Could freshman Will Coursen-Carr pitch Indiana into the Super Regional for the first time in school history?
The former South Side standout just might get the chance.
IU coach Tracy Smith wouldn't reveal tonight's starter against either Valparaiso (32-27) or Austin Peay (46-14) with a regional championship on the line. It likely will come between Coursen-Carr, who pitched IU to the Big Ten tourney championship last weekend with a complete-game performance, or veteran Kyle Hart.
“We'll wait and see who we face as far as matchups,” Smith said. “We've got everybody available. I'll get with (assistant coach Ty) Neal and see what we're going to do.”
An IU victory tonight would clinch its first-ever regional championship. A loss would push it to a Monday night winner-take-all finale in the double-elimination event. At stake is a berth in next weekend's Super Regional.
The top-seed Hoosiers (45-14) earned the opportunity with a 15-6 victory over second-seed Austin Peay Saturday night. They rallied from a first-inning 3-0 deficit to win for the seventh time in eight games and end the Governors' nation's best 16-game winning streak.
Hart has been a mainstay all season, compiling an 8-2 record with a 3.01 earned run average. He has 50 strikeouts and 27 walks in 83.2 innings.
Coursen-Carr is 3-0 with a 1.81 ERA. He has 27 strikeouts and 17 walks in 49.2 innings. He pitched just a third of an inning in Big Ten play until going the distance against Nebraska in the Big Ten championship game.
“He's good,” Neal said about Coursen-Carr. “He hasn't been handed the ball as much because of the guys in front of him. We feel as good about him as anybody on our staff.”
Added Smith: “We're very simple in this program -- you get what you deserve. There's no question he put himself in position and made our job more difficult as far as who to put out there.
“That takes nothing away from Kyle Hart, which leads to another of my favorite sayings – sometimes it's not what you're not doing, it's just that somebody is doing it a little better.”
IU did a lot of things better than Austin Peay after falling behind 3-0 in the bottom of the first on designated hitter Reed Harper's three-run home run, his seventh of the season.
The Hoosiers responded with a five-run second inning against pitcher Casey Delgado, highlighted by catcher Kyle Schwarber's two-run single and first baseman Sam Travis's two-run homer.
Shortstop Michael Basil's two-run fourth-inning single made it 7-4. The Hoosiers lost a chance at another run when designated hitter Scott Donley was thrown out trying to go to third base.
IU broke the game open with a four-run fifth inning highlighted by Donley's three-run double. By then, starter Joey DeNato had found his groove. He didn't allow a hit in his final four innings. He struck out nine and allowed three earned runs in his six innings.
“With our offense, as long as I do my job, we'll be fine,” DeNato said. “It's a huge relief having the lineup we do.”
The Hoosiers finished with 15 runs, 14 hits and 12 walks. Basil and Donley each drove in four runs. Schwarber and Travis drove in three runs each.
“We knew we had to be more aggressive and tag fastball strikes,” Travis said. “We didn't want to swing at pitchers' pitches. We didn't get ourselves out.”
Added Donley: “We were going to attack one pitch. We were a lot more selective with our at bats. When you're more patient, it pays off.”
That was far too much for an Austin Peay team that hadn't lost since April 26.
“We got off to a good start,” coach Gary McClure said. “I thought that would propel us. I felt Delgado was the right guy to pitch against these guys. He wasn't himself. He wasn't commanding his stuff. We didn't get the job done.”
Earlier Saturday, Valparaiso rallied to eliminate Florida 5-4. The Gators (29-30) led 4-1 until the bottom of the seventh, when the Crusaders scored four runs to bounce back from their 5-4 loss to Indiana Friday night.
Vaparaiso will play Austin Peay this afternoon. The loser is eliminated. The winner advances to face IU tonight.
“Our backs are against the wall,” McClure said. “All of our backs are against the wall except for Indiana. It's going to take something special to win this.”