BLOOMINGTON -- Indiana baseball coach Tracy Smith says he hears things. They do not put Hoosier Super Regional prospects in a favorable light.
“Nobody is giving us a chance,” he says about the word coming from Tallahassee, the home base of the Florida State team set to host IU this weekend.
“That's OK. We'll go there, put our best foot forward and see what happens.”
What would you expect? We live in an instant-message age where comments fly around the world at the speed of light, and if they smack of controversy or disrespect, you're looking at Warp Factor 6.
A cynic would say Smith sought out the negative to use as motivation. That he might have found darker meaning in simple comments for bulletin board material.
Or, Florida State or its fans (can you say message boards?) are talking smack.
Would either scenario shock you?
Standout catcher Kyle Schwarber doesn't care.
“It's going to be fun,” he says. “A lot of people aren't going to expect what we have. If we do what we need to do, we can raise some eyebrows.”
The odds favor Florida State, the NCAA tourney's No. 7 seed. The Seminoles are 47-15 and outscored their regional opponents 32-4 in three games. They are 35-3 at home. They are making their sixth straight Super Regional appearance and 13th overall. They reached the College World Series last season, the 15th time they've done that.
Hall of Fame coach Mike Martin has done everything except win a national championship, and the hope is that this time, with parity as strong as it's ever been, Florida State might finally win it all.
IU (46-14) is in its first ever Super Regional. It has won just four NCAA tourney games, only one before this season.
“The whole world is expecting (Florida State) to win,” third baseman Dustin DeMuth says. “We're going to try to do the little things as best we can and hope for the best.”
The underdog role is not necessarily a negative. It eases the pressure and boosts Smith's motivation opportunities.
“We finally get to be an underdog,” he says. “That doesn't bother me. We've had the target on our back the entire season, from the spring trip on. That's a tough position to be in because the pressure is on you.”
The Hoosiers thrived with that pressure. They won their first outright Big Ten title since 1932, won the Big Ten tourney title, then won their first ever regional championship. At one point they won 18 in a row and 23 of 24.
“Our guys know they're capable,” Smith says. “They know the opponent we're up against is a traditional powerhouse. I grew up watching them on TV. You take advantage of your opportunities and we see this as a great opportunity.”
Opportunity comes with a crowd disadvantage. Florida State's Dick Howser Stadium seats 6,700. The Seminoles averaged 4,611 during the season, and will likely push 6,000 for the Super Regional, unless the remnants of Tropical Storm Andrea discourages attendance.
IU is set to play at noon on Saturday and at 1 on Sunday in the best-of-three format. If necessary, a third and final game will be played on Monday. The winner advances to the College World Series in Omaha.
A potential distraction is the Major League Baseball draft, which began Thursday night and continues through Saturday. The Hoosiers have as many as six players who could be drafted this weekend -- pitchers Aaron Slegers, Joey DeNato and Ryan Halstead, and DeMuth, shortstop Michael Basil and center fielder Justin Cureton.
Smith doesn't see that as a problem.
“In years past, definitely a distraction, but this group of draft-eligible guys has handled the scenario better than any group I've ever coached. Their whole focus is Indiana baseball and trying to advance past this weekend.”
It's that approach that leaves Smith confident the Hoosiers won't get overwhelmed by this opportunity.
“We haven't had to worry about that. We had five guys play in Cape Cod championship game (last summer). That helps prepare you for this moment. I don't worry about them getting too riled up about it.”