BLOOMINGTON — They said they’re not shattered. They said they’ll be back, as surely as Monday follows Sunday. They said this was one loss, and that happens in baseball.
It won’t take long to find out if the Indiana Hoosiers are right or just whistling past the Stanford Cardinal.
Just what does a team do after having a regional-clinching game blow up in its face like an exploding cigar?
“We’re going to take a shower, go eat, sleep, get up and come ready to play baseball,” coach Tracy Smith said after Stanford blew past Indiana 10-7. “It’s pretty simple.”
Simple? Well, we’ll see. For Sunday was the kind of here-one-minute, gone-the-next moment that could linger, if a team lets it.
This is what College World Series Fever looks like. A packed house Sunday night, too entranced to be bothered much by the rain, using pizza boxes for cover. And a sign held up beyond the Bart Kaufman Field centerfield wall: “If you build it ...”
And this is what being close enough to an NCAA regional championship to pull a Lance Stephenson and blow in its ear looks like. The Hoosiers ahead 6-4 in the eighth inning, needing only four more outs to dispose of Stanford and move on another week, toward the College World Series.
And this is what killing the mood looks like. Wayne Taylor, a civil and environmental engineering major from Stanford — which certainly sounds challenging — coming off the bench and promptly sending a slider over the wall in left-center for a three-run homer. When last seen, the ball was headed for Martinsville. You could have heard a peanut shell drop in the ballpark.
And now, this is what anxiety looks like for the Hoosiers. A game that fell apart at the end and was lost 10-7. Another game to play today against a Stanford team that had every reason to fade away Sunday evening, but didn’t. This time, there is no second chance for Indiana. This time, defeat means The End.