Scott Carter’s Blog Carter’s Corner
The short left-field wall at Bart Kaufman Field can be a trip for outfielders chasing deep fly balls.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Gators got their first look at Bart Kaufman Field on Thursday afternoon.
The Hoosiers moved into their new ballpark after playing their first 17 games on the road. The 2,500-seat stadium features FieldTurf, including on the base paths and pitching mound.
The most unique feature is the left-field wall, which is only about 4-foot tall.
"You've got to take more into account the bounces off the turf and be more conscious of the wall and a ground-rule double,'' Gators left fielder Harrison Bader said. "If you are lucky enough to get to the wall and rob a home run, it plays a little bit differently."
Indiana officials said more than one player has tumbled over the wall since the ballpark opened this spring trying to rob a batter of a home run.
"A short wall definitely changes it up a little bit,'' Bader said of the approach chasing deep fly balls.
This is the first time in school history Indiana has hosted a regional. The Gators left impressed at what they saw Thursday. It will be only the second time they have played on artificial turf this season, the other time a three-game series at Vanderbilt.
"There’s really no bad hops, all hops are true,'' shortstop Cody Dent said. "So it’s nice."
HOOSIERS TARGETED GATORS
At the start of the season the Hoosiers listed 10 goals on a board inside their clubhouse.
They wanted to win the Big Ten, crack the Top 25 for the first time and make it to Omaha.
No 6 on the list: Win Florida Series.
The Hoosiers accomplished that goal in early March when they won two of three over the Gators in Gainesville.
It's been that kind of season for Indiana, which is trying to become the first Big Ten team to advance to a Super Regional in a decade and first to make the College World Series since Michigan in 1984.
Junior left-hander Joey DeNato said Thursday the Hoosiers want to continue checking items off the board.
"Going back to our 'Goals Board,' our final goal is to make it to the College World Series,'' DeNato said. "This weekend, we are playing to move on."
So are the Gators, who could erase some of the sting from that series' loss earlier this season by advancing out of the Bloomington Regional on the Hoosiers' home field.
Gators starter Jonathon Crawford will face a former teammate on Friday when Austin Peay's Jordan Hankins steps to the plate. Crawford and Hankins were teammates on the USA National Collegiate Team last summer that traveled to Cuba.
Hankins is hitting .351 with 11 home runs and 52 RBIs.
"He's a good hitter,'' Crawford said. "And a cool guy."
As Crawford watched his UF teammates take batting practice Thursday, Hankins stopped by for a quick hello as the Governors left the stadium.
A year after leading the country with 75 home runs, led by Mike Zunino's 19 and Preston Tucker's 16 round-trippers, the Gators hit only 27 homers this season. Austin Peay first baseman Craig Massoni (16), the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year, and Hankins (11) matched that total by themselves.
The No. 2-seed Governors hit 51 overall, a stat that certainly caught Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan's attention heading into Friday's first-round game.
"They are very offensive minded,'' O'Sullivan said. "They’ve got a left fielder that can run, their shortstop’s got some stolen bases. They’re two corner infielders have  home runs combined -- we have 27 as a team. The catcher has been in their program for three years, he looks like a leader on the field."
The home clubhouse at Kaufman Field is named after former big league third baseman Scott Rolen, who starred for the Phillies and Cardinals while making the National League All-Star Team seven times.
Rolen, an Indiana native and Bloomington resident, donated the money for the project.
Florida has won 12 consecutive regional games going back to the 2009 season and is 15-2 in its last 17 regional contests ... Austin Peay enters the tournament with a 15-game win streak, the longest in the country ... Austin Peay's No. 2 seed is the best for an Ohio Valley Conference program since the current tournament format was adopted in 1999 ... Austin Peay starter Zach Hall (8-2, 4.68 ERA) walks 4.03 hitters per nine innings and opponents are hitting .271 against him ... Mike Gaski is one of two NCAA officials on site here for the Bloomington Regional. If the name Gaski sounds familiar, Mike is the father of former Gators infielder Matt Gaski, a member of the 2005 Gators team that made it to Omaha. Matt Gaski is now a scout for the Miami Marlins ... Indiana, which won its first outright Big Ten title since 1932, is trying to become the first Big Ten school to win a national championship since Ohio State 47 years ago.