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Monday, June 24
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

Baseball slips before finale at Illinois

Dylan Swift brought life into what had been a lifeless final home game Tuesday.

Two shutout innings of work on the mound? Striking out a Second Team All-American? Swift?

“It’s not my fault I haven’t been pitching,” Swift said. “I’ve got the best returning relief ERA three years in a row now.”

The senior’s pitching, catching and field work at second base preceded a late offensive surge to avoid being shut out in an 8-4 midweek loss to Louisville at Sembower Field.

Trailing 8-0 after having walked eight batters and allowing two unearned runs, IU sent Swift, who had previously pitched 11 1/3 innings in his career, to the bump in the top of the seventh inning.

The Princeton, Ind. native was all smiles in striking out the frame’s final two batters, including Louisville’s Ryan Wright, who earned Second Team All-America honors in 2010.

“He didn’t look that good to me,” Swift joked.

Swift followed up his first inning on the mound with a three-up, three-down eighth stanza, and after he moved to second base in the ninth, he made a diving grab for a crucial out.

Though stopping short of penciling Swift in the rotation, IU coach Tracy Smith said there was more to his player’s jack-of-all-trades performance than a sideshow in a meaningless game.

“It may look like a joke, but we’re honestly looking at what are we going to use down the stretch,” Smith said. “Some of these guys have continued to struggle in just they’ve lost their confidence. They’ve lost something.

“We need guys that are going to compete and be confident and have some fun out there and get after somebody. I thought Dylan did a very good job of that.”

That effort proved infectious. The Hoosiers scored two runs on four hits and a passed ball in the bottom of the eighth, and freshman Ty Downing and junior Brian Ritz each hit a solo home run in the ninth before the Cardinals closed out the contest.

“It didn’t look good at all, especially in about the fourth,” junior Alex Dickerson, whose single in the eighth set up the Hoosiers’ second run, said. “You’ve just got to kind of stick with it. You loosen up a little bit and actually put up four runs. We actually kind of had a shot there.”  

The game was essentially inconsequential in terms of the Hoosiers’ postseason chances; the team would have remained in a three-way tie for fourth place in the Big Ten and its provisional spot in the conference tournament with a win or a loss.

“I knew it was going to be a challenge today,” Smith said. “I didn’t think we would come out and walk a bunch of people, but I wasn’t too concerned whether we would go out here and win 15-0 or lose 15-0. It has absolutely nothing to do with Thursday’s first game.”

That first game Thursday opens IU’s final Big Ten series of the season against Illinois in Champaign, Ill. The Fighting Illini (22-25, 12-9) are tied with Minnesota for second in the conference.

At 11-10, the Hoosiers still have a chance at the Big Ten regular-season crown; they have a tiebreak over conference leader Michigan State by virtue of a sweep last weekend, and the Spartans are hanging onto that perch with a 13-8 mark.

Smith said he wasn’t too concerned about the loss to Louisville because his players’ minds were in the right place. Perhaps he had Swift in mind.

“We’ve just got to have fun, and we’re going to go out and sweep Illinois this weekend,” Swift said. “We’re confident, we’re cocky and we know we’re going to do it.”

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