Widgets Magazine

Behind enemy lines: Indiana State Sycamores

In advance of Stanford baseball’s upcoming NCAA Regional in Bloomington, Indiana, The Daily’s Jordan Wallach chatted with Kevin Jenison, Indiana State baseball’s Sports Information Director, to get perspective on the Indiana State Sycamores, the Cardinal’s first opponent in the tourney.

Indiana State will square off with the Cardinal in both teams' opening game as part of the Bloomington Regional. ISU enjoyed a successful 2014 campaign, reaching the postseason for only the second time in 19 years.

Indiana State will square off with the Cardinal in both teams’ opening game as part of the Bloomington Regional. ISU enjoyed a successful 2014 campaign, earning them a postseason berth for only the second time in 19 years.

Jordan Wallach (JW): Given that this is just the second time in the past 19 seasons that Indiana State has made the NCAA tournament, what has been the fan reaction to the team’s new-found success back in Terre Haute, and what were the expectations coming into this season?

Kevin Jenison (KJ): Baseball fans in Terre Haute have a long history of support for Sycamore baseball and, for the most part, so have the students at Indiana State. Unfortunately with school over for the spring, most students have gone home. Still, we have a very loyal following and our allotment of tickets went fairly quickly.

Few had such lofty expectations for the Sycamores at the start of the season. Indiana State was surrounded by questions about their pitching staff and a preseason poll of league coaches picked the Sycamores to finish seventh out of eight teams. Little did they know that this team would come together and have such a successful season.

JW: Despite going into the Missouri Valley Conference tournament as the second seed, ISU had a poor showing in the tourney and was eliminated in two games. What went wrong for the team there, and how can it shake that poor performance entering the regional?

KJ: What went wrong is a question that a lot of people have asked and few can answer. Basically, team members started to play outside of their capabilities. In other words, they tried to do more than they were capable of. When the team played within their capabilities this season, they won. The quick exit in the conference tournament brought that realization to the team and they have worked hard to shake that overconfidence from their swagger.

JW: After starting pitchers Sean Manaea and Devin Moore, who combined to start 24 of 51 games for ISU in the 2013 season, graduated last year, how has this year’s Sycamore pitching staff developed and filled the holes? Will there be enough arms to make it through a marathon regional tournament if the team makes it far?

KJ: The Sycamore pitching staff developed into a three-game rotation with one or two top relievers earning starts in midweek games. The Indiana State coaches took great care to cultivate the relievers throughout the season, grooming some for possible starting roles in the postseason and others into long and short relievers that could be called upon in certain situations. This meant that some of the pitchers would work certain days and not others, which has worked well so far.

JW: What are Indiana State’s strengths and weaknesses heading into the postseason?

KJ: The main strength of the Sycamores all season has been the defense and skill of the position players. These players have speed and quickness to cover ground and make the plays. The weakness, other than the questions about the pitching staff at the start of the season, is that the skill of these position players on defense did not always correlate with their offense. That was no more evident than in the conference tournament.

JW: Which Sycamores should the Cardinal be most wary of during Friday’s game in Bloomington?

KJ: Junior center fielder Landon Curry and senior shortstop Tyler Wampler are two players to keep an eye on during the regional tournament. They have had strong seasons defensively and Curry leads the team with 18 stolen bases.

JW: How do you think the Sycamores will fare in the regional playing such unfamiliar teams, save for Indiana who they beat on March 26 by a 12-8 score? Care for a prediction?

KJ: This regional is so wide open that it would not be wise to go beyond the opening game. That being said, I believe that the Sycamores are in the proper frame of mind and if they can play within their abilities, they have just as good a chance to win as everybody else. Of course I think the Sycamores can win the regional title, but it will take their very best effort.

Contact Jordan Wallach at jwallach@stanford.edu.

About Jordan Wallach

Jordan Wallach is a Senior Staff Writer at The Stanford Daily. He was previously the Managing Editor of Sports, a sports desk editor for two volumes and he continues to work as a beat writer for Stanford's baseball, football and women's volleyball teams. Jordan is a junior from New York City majoring in Mathematical and Computational Science. To contact him, please send him an email at jwallach 'at' stanford.edu.