Sam Travis felt all along this would be a good Indiana baseball team.
That became even clearer early in the season, when the Hoosiers took two of three games at Florida, the second starting an 18-game winning streak. They would go on to win the school’s first Big Ten regular-season title since 1949 and add their third conference tournament crown in that event’s 34-year history.
Yet the landmark season seemed to be heading toward disappointment when Indiana trailed Valparaiso 4-1 with one out and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth in the opener of the double-elimination NCAA regional.
“That was an unbelievable experience,” Travis said.
No other word better describes the Hoosiers’ four-run rally that ended with Chad Clark’s two-run, walk-off home run – his only homer in 189 at-bats this season.
And Travis justifiably used the word again to describe what has followed, with the Hoosiers becoming the school’s first College World Series qualifier and the Big Ten’s first since Michigan in 1984.
Indiana (48-14), No. 12 in the final regular-season rankings, opens CWS play on Saturday against No. 16 Louisville (51-12), a team the Hoosiers have beaten twice in three games this season.
No. 5 Oregon State and No. 10 Mississippi State also are on Indiana’s side of the eight-team, double-elimination bracket. The winners of each side meet in a best-of-three for the title.
“It is every college baseball player’s dream to make it to Omaha,” Travis said, “but now that we are here, we don’t want to stop winning.”
Travis, a sophomore first baseman from Providence, is among seven Chicago-area players on the Hoosiers. The Chicago Tribune’s high school player of the year in 2011, he accumulated impressive accolades and put up big numbers in his first two college seasons:
Big Ten freshman of the year and freshman All-America in 2012, when he started all but one of the team’s 60 games and batted .319 with nine home runs and 50 RBIs.
He was the Most Outstanding Player this year at both the Big Ten and NCAA regional tournaments, with four home runs and 16 RBIs in nine games.