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Saturday, March 2
The Indiana Daily Student

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Senior catchers push each other throughout time at IU

Baseball Seniors

Dylan Swift and Wes Wilson both know what it’s like to start behind home plate on a Big Ten contender.

They both know what it’s like to sit behind someone else in a reserve role.

Now they know what it’s like to do both with each other.

As the senior catchers look back on their time in Bloomington and their growth together as members of the IU baseball team, they believe the Hoosiers will receive solid production from the catcher position no matter who dons the gear in a given game.

“We say it all the time, we’re the best catching staff in the Big Ten,” Swift said. “We’ve made each other better, and there’s no hatred, there’s no ill will or ill feelings because we honestly just want to win.”

In fact, Wilson — who has been the regular starter at catcher this season — said the exact opposite of ill will has been true of the two players.

“I think it’s been important for Dylan and I to maintain our sanity and our friendship,” Wilson said. “We’ve learned to work together, not against one another, not sabotaging the other person, but really doing what we can control. I think that’s been big, and he’s one of my better friends on the team now four years into it.”

Baseball coach Tracy Smith, the final authority who decides which player catches, saw it no differently.

“I genuinely think these guys like each other, they root for each other,” Smith said. “It’s not a situation where one is hoping the other guy fails so he gets his chance. I think they genuinely pull for each other; so from a coaching perspective, that is very, very good to see.”

Of course, both players came to IU having been used to playing extensively.

Swift was a four-year team captain and a four-year all-conference honoree at Princeton Community High School in Princeton, Ind. Wilson was named an all-city player both his junior and senior seasons at Bryan Station High School in Lexington, Ky.

Though Swift’s and Wilson’s routes to Bloomington were different — Swift came straight to IU in the fall of 2007 while Wilson spent the fall at Mississippi State before transferring in the spring — they both found themselves in the unfamiliar position of sitting behind an incumbent catcher.

That incumbent was Josh Phegley, who earned All-America honors in 2008 and was selected 38th overall by the Chicago White Sox in the 2009 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft after helping the Hoosiers win a Big Ten championship that year.

Swift and Wilson appeared in just 59 games and made only 14 starts as freshmen and sophomores.

Swift said that initial season of competing with Wilson for the No. 2 spot behind Phegley drove both freshmen to gain the coaching staff’s attention.

“We just decided, ‘You know what? We’re going to make each other better,’” Swift said.

After sporadic appearances during their first two seasons, competition opened up again before the 2010 season, this time for the starting job.

After a preseason battle and season-opening shuffle that year between Swift, Wilson and then-sophomore Josh Lyon, Swift emerged as the No. 1 catcher and proceeded to start the entire Big Ten schedule and finish with a .270 batting average and 23 RBI.

“I think I deserved it and earned it last year,” Swift said.

Wilson started just seven times that season.

Entering their final year with the Hoosiers, however, neither Swift nor Wilson had a guarantee one of them would be starting in 2011. Freshman Ty Downing entered the mix coming off a senior campaign at Greenwood High School in Bowling Green, Ky., in which he hit a .437 average, seven home runs and 51 RBI.

In fact, Downing started much of the early season, opening 11 contests before being slowed by injury.

That opened the door for Swift and Wilson once more. This time though, Wilson came out on top and proceeded to have a breakout collegiate season, batting .311 and ranking second on the team in both home runs and RBIs in 40 starts to date.

Swift has maintained a positive outlook on this final season despite playing in just 15 games.

“We just want to be on a winning team,” Swift said. “When I leave here, I want to be on a championship team again, and if I’m not playing, I don’t want to say that’s fine, but I can live with that because I just want to be a winner. I think Wes feels the exact same way.”

No matter who has started, Swift and Wilson each have felt as much a part of the game as the other.

“Dylan and I, of course, have been battling for four years, whether it was for the No. 2 spot behind Josh Phegley a couple of years ago, or whether the last two years it was for the starting spot,” Wilson said. “We’re always there. I was supporting him last year. He was supporting me this year.”

Swift concurred.

“Me and Wes, we’re a very close catching staff,” Swift said. “We’re like one guy. Whoever’s playing, we’re living through that.”

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