Friday, March 5, 2010 • 1 p.m. ET - Illinois State
Hawkins Field - Nashville, TN
IU - RHP Walker Stadler (1-1, 4.63) | ISU - RHP Corey Maines (1-0, 2.53)
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The Hoosiers open the 2010 Music City Challenge with a tilt against the Redbirds of Illinois State, who enter the contest with a 4-2 overall record. While the teams they've defeated on the young season are certainly not college baseball powerhouses, the thing that jumps right out at you is the number of runs they put on the board. Under the tutelage of Mark Kingston, who is in his first year as the Redbirds' head coach, Illinois State has scored 77 runs in 6 games, which equates to nearly 13 a game. As a team, ISU is hitting .371 with Kevin Tokarski (.600, 6 2B, 1 3B, 8 SB, 8 BB, 2 SO in 25 at-bats) and Chad Hinshaw (.440, 12 RBI, 10 BB, 6 SB in 25 at-bats) leading the way.
On the mound, IU will face right-hander Corey Maines, who was 6-5 with a 4.26 ERA in 14 starts a season ago. The 6'0", 200-lb junior sports a 1-0 record with an ERA of 2.53 in 2 starts and 10.2 innings of work this season. Maines has struck out an impressive 14 batters on the young season, and opponents are hitting just .184 against him.
The Redbirds do score runs at an incredible rate, but working in IU's favor is that their pitching doesn't appear to be anything to write home about. ISU's staff ERA sits at 7.85, and their hurlers allow opponents to hit at a .306 clip. While Maines seems to be more than capable of putting forth a strong effort against the Hoosiers, the bullpen has definitely been a big weakness for the Redbirds in 2010.
Hopefully Stadler can hold down ISU's high-octane offense, the defense can make plays behind him and IU's hitters can be patient at the plate. I know it's not near that easy, but if they do, that sounds like a winning combination to me.