Indiana is striving to become a rare species in college baseball: A cold-weather program that has some staying power on the national stage.
Its most recent 10-game winning streak — including a three-game sweep against Cal State Fullerton over the weekend — is more evidence that might be close to happening.
It looked like it might be a rebuilding year for the Hoosiers, who went to the College World Series in 2013 and won the Big Ten last season. New coach Chris Lemonis, who replaced Tracy Smith after he took the Arizona State job, inherited a team that was trying to replace several key pieces from the past two seasons.
So far, so good.
"We lost some guys who were stars," Lemonis said. "But we've still got 12 guys who have been to Omaha. Not many programs can say that. Coming out of the fall, we knew we had some good pieces. Now we're developing leadership."
Lemonis knows a little about sustaining an elite college baseball program in an unlikely environment. The 45-year-old came to Indiana after spending eight years as an assistant at Louisville, which advanced to the CWS three times during that span.
Lemonis said the reason for Indiana's continued success is no secret: Good players and vastly improved facilities.
"The fact that Cal State Fullerton was willing to come here in the middle of March and play a three-game series is proof how much our facilities have improved," Lemonis said. "Ten years ago that probably wouldn't have happened."
Indiana (13-4), which debuted at No. 21 in d1baseball.com's national rankings on Monday, begins Big Ten play on Friday on the road against Penn State. The Hoosiers have been especially good on the mound, with a 2.50 ERA.
A look around the nation:
VIRGINIA TECH'S BIG SERIES: In arguably the most surprising result of the weekend, Virginia Tech completed a three-game sweep of No. 3 Virginia. Alex Perez hit a 2-run homer in the 8th inning of the finale to push the Hokies (10-9, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) to a 6-5 victory. It was the program's first sweep of a nationally-ranked opponent in more than 20 years. "The weather hasn't been conducive to hitting, but I really like our lineup and we swung it well this weekend," second-year coach Patrick Mason said. "We've got a high level of talent. Now hopefully we gained some confidence."
TEXAS A&M KEEPS WINNING: The good times continued for No. 5 Texas A&M this weekend, which won three games over Auburn to improve to 21-0 this season. The Aggies have been dominant in every facet of the game so far this spring, with a .309 batting average, 21 homers and a 1.65 ERA. An interesting test looms this weekend: Texas A&M will go on the road to face Alabama (11-7, 2-1 Southeastern Conference), which recently won two of three against Mississippi State.
TWO HOMERS IN ONE INNING: Georgia State outfielder Ryan Blanton might have a tough time topping this week: In three games, he was 11 of 16 at the plate with three homers as the Panthers won all three games. Blanton hit two of his homers in the same inning against Kennesaw State. He led the fifth inning off with a solo homer and then capped a nine-run rally with his first career grand slam.
MISSOURI RISING: Missouri's had a tough time in baseball since joining the conference three years ago. But the Tigers (15-4, 3-0 SEC) look much improved team and swept Georgia last weekend. Missouri will have a closely-watched series this weekend when No. 6 South Carolina — which was won 10 straight — comes to town.
ARIZONA STATE BUILDING RESUME: No. 7 Arizona State is coming off another good weekend, taking two of three games against Oregon State. The Sun Devils (12-6, 2-1 Pac 12) have had a tough early-season schedule, with series wins over Oklahoma State and Long Beach State. They also lost two of three to No. 2 Texas Christian.
AP Sports Writer Eric Olson contributed to this story.
Follow David Brandt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP
All content copyright ©2015 Daily Journal, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.