Indiana went 1-2 in the CWS in Omaha to finish 49-16. The Hoosiers will return seven key players, nine if pitcher Aaron Slegers and relief pitcher Ryan Halstead pass on their Major League opportunity. Both were drafted by the Minnesota Twins.
Slegers, the Big Ten pitcher of the year, was drafted in the fifth round. Halstead, IU's career saves leader with 22, including 11 this season, was drafted in the 26th round.
IU coach Tracy Smith built a powerhouse with solid recruiting that focused on the Midwest, but also included exploiting the talent depth from the West and South. Halstead and fellow pitcher Joey DeNato are from California. Slegers is from Arizona. Reserve infielder Nick Ramos is from Florida.
Will the CWS run, along with a top-10 ranking and Big Ten regular season and tourney championships, make the Hoosiers more of national threat in recruiting?
“We've been national,” Smith said. “I don't think we'll know the overall impact until we have a chance to cycle through a couple of these classes.
“I think where the difference will be is in the depth. We were getting quality guys before as witnessed by the draft picks. We might have more of an ability to get kids to come here. They're going to come and might not take as much of a scholarship or maybe not take a scholarship to come and be a part of what they witnessed.”
Smith said the 3,000-plus crowds that filled Bart Kaufman Field during NCAA regional action might also draw players.
“If a kid who aspires to be a ballplayer and saw that (regional) atmosphere … now I get a little bit like Indiana basketball when a kid catches a game in Assembly Hall. You get caught up in that. I think we'll see the residual of that more on the depth end of it.”
As far as returning players, catcher Kyle Schwarber earned All-America honors after hitting .366 with 18 home runs and 54 runs batted in. Designated hitter Scott Donley hit .358 with 61 RBIs. First baseman Sam Travis hit .316 with 10 homers and 57 RBIs. Left fielder Casey Smith hit .309 with 34 RBIs. Right fielder Will Nolden hit .303 while recording six assists.
Relief pitcher Scott Effross made freshman All-America. He was 6-1 with a 2.44 ERA and five saves. Freshman Will Coursen-Carr, the former South Side standout, was 5-0 with a 1.93 ERA. DeNato was 10-2 with a 2.52 ERA. Kyle Hart went 8-2 with a 3.01 ERA.
Smith will have to replace pitching coach and recruiting coordinator Ty Neal, who was recently named the head coach at Cincinnati.
The Hoosiers' performance also helped earn national recognition for the Big Ten, which hadn't had a team reach the College World Series since Michigan in the mid-1980s
“I hope we get some respect,” Smith said. “It was so important to get there. This thing seemed so far off. Now we've seen the blueprint. Now we know what it takes to get here. You've got to be darned good.
“I hope this plays out that in the future people realize we (northern schools) play some pretty good baseball. I hope our guys realize, whether it takes two hours or two days or two months, that they were part of the greatest baseball team in Indiana history.”