BLOOMINGTON -- What do you do if you're Will Coursen-Carr, you've just won three of the biggest games in Indiana baseball history and now face a College World Series opportunity that once seemed as likely as a date with Kate Upton?
You practice again determined to get it right this time.
“Practice wasn't very good,” the freshman pitcher said. “We have to pick that up.”
Darn right, Hoosier coach Tracy Smith said. He isn't about to accept anything less than his team's best effort.
“These guys are getting a lot of attention, so maybe their minds strayed, but I promise you this, we'll get locked back in and focus.”
IU (48-14) will need extreme focus when it opens Saturday night against Louisville (52-12) in an opening round game in Omaha. It's part of an eight-team, nearly two-week long event that starts as a double-elimination tourney and ends with a best-out-of-three championship series.
For Coursen-Carr, a former South Side standout, this is first-trip-to-Disney World cool.
“It's unbelievable. I can't describe it. I haven't stepped back yet and realized what's actually happened. I'll probably do that when this whole trip is over. It's awesome.”
Coursen-Carr's contributions include a 5-0 record with a 1.80 earned run average. Opponents are hitting .236 against him.
He started and won championship games in the Big Ten tourney title and NCAA regional. He came on in relief in last weekend's Super Regional clincher at Florida State and got the victory.
The relief effort was a change of pace for a guy who had started in 10 of his 16 appearances this season. And despite the stakes, it was no big deal, he said.
“For me, it's the same mindset. I have to throw strikes. That's all I have to think about. It doesn't matter if you come in for relief or starting. It's still pitching.”
Perhaps, but pitching in front of a hostile crowd with so much at stake takes a toughness and poise few freshmen possess. Coach Tracy Smith has praised Coursen-Carr's ability to handle the pressure.
The secret, Coursen-Carr said, is to not worry about it.
“I try not to think about anything when I get on the mound. Especially last weekend at Florida State. It was crazy. The crowd was so loud. I pretended they were cheering for me.”
IU has spent the week preparing as it has all season. The weight lifting has been toned down to ensure players are fresh, but other than that, it's business as usual. For Coursen-Carr, that means running on his off days. He mixes sprinting with distance work.
“I like to run to keep my stamina up. After I pitch, I'll do sprints. During the middle of the week, I'll do distance.”
As far as how much he throws in between pitching assignments, Coursen-Carr said, “Some people like to throw a lot. They'll throw the day after they pitch to get their arm going again. I like to take a little bit of a break, take a day off from throwing and then lightly step back into it.”
That means bullpen work where he'll throw from a mound for about 30 pitches.
“I only do one of those a week. Other than that, I'll do long toss.”
Coursen-Carr is looking for supporters in Omaha. His mother (Amy Coursen) just started a new job and is uncertain if she can make it. His father (Steve Carr) is on business in Poland.
“A ton of guys from IU are coming. I want to see if any of my friends are coming because I have extra tickets.”
The College World Series wasn't a big deal for Coursen-Carr growing up, “because I didn't have a TV until I was 13 to 14 years old. So I didn't know anything about it. Once we got a TV, I watched it and thought, this is amazing.”
Coursen-Carr did get an NCAA baseball video game.
“That really got me into college baseball.”
IU won two of three meetings with Louisville this season. Smith said the Cardinals, who have won 21 of their last 23 games, including a sweep of No. 2 overall seed Vanderbilt in the Super Regional, are "Probably playing the best of any team in the country right now."
As a result, Smith isn't easing up on the demands, and it starts with practicing right.
“We've done a good job all year of putting our focus on the next game and preparing. Not for one minute are we going to be satisfied with just being in Omaha. We're going to play the best remaining teams in the country. We can't give the effort we gave (Tuesday).
“After practice I asked them how it went. They said, not good, coach. Terrible.
“So I think they get it.”