"I expected from us earlier." said USI Baseball head coach Tracy Archuleta. "What I didn't expect was how we played early in the season."
In his tenth season as bench boss, Southern Indiana head baseball coach Tracy Archueta has seen College World Series and national titles. What he hadn't seen was a 4-and-11 start, which appeared to bury the Screaming Eagles before they even started.
"We were really just lacking confidence," USI junior outfielder Bryce Krizan. "That's no fun when you're playing baseball tight. When were losing, we were just trying harder and harder to win, and that's not the correct way to go about it."
"We were pressing for sure, because we knew what we had on the team." said USI sophomore outfielder Austin Moody. "But once we started figuring some things out. It started taking care of itself."
Adding to the pressure was the history of USI baseball. 13 NCAA tournament appearances, five College World Series appearances and a pair on national titles.
"Guys know the expectations," said Archuleta. "They understand what the alumni and the community expects year in and year out. And I'm sure they're getting some messages on their IPhones. "Get it in gear", "Let's go"."
"I came here knowing this was a winning program, and I hope every single out there, as well, knows that." said USI freshman infielder Michael Conner. "So, I just don't want to have a losing season, of course, but I came here to win."
"When we were struggling, we actually had a talk about the tradition of USI baseball," said Moody. "And then we started picking it up. It drives you. You don't want to be the first team to let down this tradition. So that's a driving force for sure."
With strong starting pitching, led by Garrett Welch and Jacob Bowles, as well as a bullpen that has carried the team through the early part of the season, the problem was at the plate. A question mark that has become an exclamation point.
"The offense is definitely on it's way up from the beginning of the year," said Archuleta. "I think we're doing a better job early in the count. We're getting more guys being productive in their roles and understanding their roles. And I think that's been the biggest change for us late in the season."
"Our line-up has started clicking," said Krizan. "1-through-9. Guys at the top of the order are getting on base and driving in runs. Guys at the bottom of the order are doing the same thing. And the guys in the middle, Manny, Michael and Adam Wildeman are just starting to hit really well."
And who can argue with the results? The Screaming Eagles have won 11-of-their-last-13 games and have the third highest conference win total in the GLVC. So is this team peaking at just the right time?
"Oh no, not peaking at all," said Conner. "Still we have a lot more to do. And a lot more work to do. I feel like we can honestly get double the hits in every single game if we put our minds to it."
"It's scary," said Moody. "When everything is working, it can be really scary. We've got a line-up where we've got four burners and they're spread throughout the line-up. Between each runner, we've got some big boys who can put the ball in some gaps. That's scary. When everybody's clicking, that's a recipe for disaster for pitchers."
"In my four or five years here", said Krizan, "I think our line-up and our pitching staff is as deep as it's ever been the potential of this team is as high as I've ever seen it. I really believe we can go as far as we really set our minds to."