Image credit: Kirk Saarloos (Photo by Ben Ludeman/Texas Rangers/Getty Images)
Friday, 5 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Saturday, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Sunday, TBD (If necessary)
Coach: Kirk Saarloos
Postseason history: Eighth super regional (first since 2017). Seeking sixth trip to Omaha and first since 2017.
Postseason route: No. 2 seed in Fayetteville Regional. Went 3-0, defeating Arkansas in regional final.
Scouting report (anonymous coach breaks down the Horned Frogs)
“They’re very complete. It’s an incredibly balanced lineup. Everyone is a threat to hit a double and also move the runner with less than two outs. I think the transition (of hitting coach) from Bill Mosiello to TJ Bruce has been smooth; they have very similar styles with tough at-bats. They go first to third on everything hit to right field, they’re above 80% success rate on stolen bases (139-for-158, 87.9% success rate).
“If your hitters get into a guessing game with Kirk, that’s a tough way to play. He’s one of the elite pitch callers in college baseball. They’ve got matchup things at the back-end, especially with Ben Abeldt—his crossfire is tough. Their starting pitchers are all capable of going through the lineup a couple times.
“Anthony Silva has turned into a nice player. When we played Brayden Taylor he was in a funk and there’s no sign of that now. He’s as dangerous as you can get. They got better when Karson Bowen came off the shelf. Tre Richardson is a really, really good player. Elijah Nunez is a dangerous guy. Every guy can hit a double and they just don’t give away anything. They’re really tough.
“You look at every national champion and there is an element of they got hot at the right time. Almost every Omaha team gets hot at the right time. I think getting hot at the end of the year, every coach in college baseball has told their team at some point, ‘we’re not trying to be the best team in February, we’re trying to peak at the end.’ Look at West Virginia. They won the Big 12 but they’re done. Look at Oklahoma State. They won the Big 12 and then go 0-2 in their regional. It’s all about getting hot at the right time.
“When they’re winning, when they have the advantage, it’s really tough to stop them running. They do a good job of picking their spots. They’re tough because they pick their spots really well. They’ve got a plan and their guys are completely and totally bought into it. They do some aggressive stuff. But they’re so practiced, they’re so well versed, you can’t catch them off guard with a pickoff.
“(Getting to play at home is a) huge advantage. When it’s hot, the wind blows in. If it cools off, it blows out. Those guys know how to host a super regional. They don’t lose supers at home. But Indiana State is really tough and well coached, they couldn’t give a crap they’re going on the road.”
Coach: Mitch Hannahs
Postseason history: First super regional appearance. Seeking second trip to the College World Series and first since 1986.
Postseason route: No. 1 seed in Terre Haute. Went 3-0, defeating Iowa in regional final.
Scouting report (anonymous coach breaks down the Sycamores)
“The thing that makes them good is their balance. The three major phases—pitching, hitting, defense—they’re solid in all three. Their starting pitching is very consistent, fills up the strike zone. They have a few guys with the ability to strike you out if they get in the right count. But for the most part, they use the defense. They fielded at a .983 clip and they don’t make mistakes. You pair that defense with strike-throwers with good stuff and it’s tough to score.
“It’s not a dynamite offense but they’re very consistent one through nine. They can score, they can hit a home run every now and then, but it’s more like consistent pressure and they don’t swing outside the strike zone. They’re not going to wow you with pro prospects or athleticism. They’re just solid.
“It’s a solid college lineup. One guy that’s taken off is (Adam) Pottinger. He caught fire over the second half of the season, he scares you with (the) long ball. He’s a gritty college baseball player. That’s how I would describe the whole team. They’re a gritty team. I’m assuming TCU’s going to have a lot more pro potential on the field. But as far as good college players, Indiana State’s got those kind of guys.
“The pitching staff is so good because the defense is so good. If you put it on the ground they’re out. The outfield’s got some range and center fielder (Seth Gergely) can run and go get the ball. (Catcher Grant Magill) changes the game defensively. He’s as good of a receiver and thrower as you’ll find. Offensively, there’s not a whole lot there, but when it comes to defense, it really changes it. Their pitchers are decently quick to the plate, but his arm makes up for anything. If you get on first, the only way to get to second is if they hit you there or a walk.
“Any time you go to a super and you’re playing a team that’s talented it is different on the road. Every single team would prefer to play in their own ballpark. Do they have the ability to go on the road and win? Yes, because their pitching defense and offense have been steady for going on two months now and it hasn’t mattered where they’ve played. If you ask them, I think they would prefer to be at home. Home-field advantage in supers is a big deal. But I don’t think it’ll make or break if they win two out of three.
“When you look at (Hannahs’) teams, there’s a lot of consistency over the years. He’s not a real emotional coach. That’s kind of how he handles the game, even keel. One thing he does a good job with is he plays the matchups really well. He knows his players, he knows which guys can handle righthanders, lefthanders, which pitchers can get the guys out.”