BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The 2015 college baseball season is gearing up, and like with any sport, talk of the upcoming seasons expectations are always at the forefront of conversation this close to opening day. College Baseball Central got in touch with Indiana University head coach Chris Lemonis on Tuesday and got his run-down on the shape of Hoosier baseball heading in to 2015 – Lemonis’s first year at the helm.
“I am more excited about the pitching than any other department on this year’s team,” Lemonis points out. “We are still debating who our starters and relievers are, but we have a very experienced staff with most of our guys being juniors and seniors.”
IU loses the big arm of Joey DeNato (San Diego, Calif./Torrey Pines) to pro ball with the talented lefty being selected in the 19th round of the 2014 MLB Draft (562nd overall) by the Philadelphia Phillies. However, Indiana does return an experienced veteran pitching staff that highlights number 34 Ryan Halstead (Rancho Cucamonga, CA /Los Osos), a 6 feet 5 inch 220 pound MLB projection.
The right-handed senior performed in only four games in 2014 before sustaining a knee injury in IU’s home opener vs. Xavier while trying to field a groundball, and was then redshirted after surgery brought about an end to his season. Halstead broke the all-time school record with 11 saves in 2013 – a record held previously by himself (nine in 2011) — and steps in to the 2015 season at present holding the IU career saves first spot.
“We get Kyle Hart back the second week in March and I think that has us looking pretty strong,” Lemonis added.
Kyle Hart (Cincinnati, OH /Sycamore), a junior LHP will bring a sizzle to the mound for the Hoosiers. Hart was redshirted after enduring Tommy John surgery, he dispatched a 3-1 record with 2.2 ERA and one save in six starts in nine overall appearances, while earning back-to-back Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors (March 17, 24) only giving up three earned runs in 28.1 innings pitched the complete month of March.
“It’s a different offense than last year with us losing three All-Americans,” Lemonis stated. “But our outfield has a nice mix, and our talent is in the young kids we have. We are still working on our corners, but our middle infield is our rock.”
Lemonis speaks highly of his young infielder Isaiah Pasteur (Westminster, MD /Winters Mills), a freshman Phenom that stands 6 feet 2 inches tall weighing 170 pounds, who bats and throws right-handed. Alongside senior INF Casey Rodrigue (Desterham, LA /LSU-Eunice JC) — a player that led Indiana with 12 stolen bases last year, as well as captured player of the week honors (March 24) while lighting up every statistical hitting category in the Big Ten — this middle infield is as good or better than any in the Big Ten.
“We are bringing in Brad Hartong to catch,” Lemonis said. “This guy is a force behind the plate and we are excited about the possibilities he presents.”
Brad Hartong (Los Alimitos, CA /Cypress JC) is a beast of a kid, standing 6 feet 5 inches weighing in at 215 pounds. Last year Hartong made a name for himself capturing First Team All-Big Ten honors.
Indiana comes in unranked to start the 2015 season, nevertheless, look for this program to slide in to the rankings before the first month of baseball is concluded. Lemonis knows what it takes to compete and the former University of Louisville assistant coach under Dan McDonnell will have this ball club in the spotlight make no mistake.
Lemonis brings former Louisville assistant coach Kyle Cheesebrough over to the IU staff, as well as the recent hiring of Shawn Roof who played four years at Illinois (2004-07), and will coach and mentor IU’s infielders, base runners and hitters. Alongside veteran pitching coach Kyle Bunn (The Citadel), and Roger Rodeheaver – Director of Baseball Operations, Indiana Baseball is certain to please.
“If you’re in the Big Ten, then you’re doing something,” Lemonis states. “We are going to make some noise outside our conference, and up and down our league.”
Indiana starts the 2015 season 02/13/15 at Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif. 6:00 p.m. ET.