There was no doubt the ball was gone the moment it left junior outfielder Matt Gorski’s bat and headed toward the IU bullpen in left field.
His third home run of the season gave IU a 3-2 lead Wednesday in the third inning against Butler University en route to a 9-3 victory.
But what highlighted a solid two-day stretch for Gorski was that the home run came on a 3-0 pitch. IU Coach Jeff Mercer has preached an aggressive mindset all season, and Gorski has taken full advantage.
“In that situation, you want to give him a chance to get a good pitch to hit,” Mercer said. “He’s shown good swings in those situations before, doesn’t overswing. He just goes up and takes a good hack but under control.”
Last season it was senior outfielder Logan Kaletha at the top of the lineup card for IU, but Mercer has embraced the idea of giving Gorski as many at-bats as possible and has moved Kaletha down to the No. 3 slot.
But Kaletha doesn't seem to mind.
“The dude is unreal,” Kaletha said. “I love him in the leadoff spot too, because the dude just sets the tone.”
IU has thrived with Gorski in the leadoff spot. Now 4-4 on the season, IU went 0-3 in the games Gorski missed last weekend due to a hamstring injury.
“Matt has a career at Indiana and hopefully beyond, and we’re never gonna push guys through injuries,” Mercer said. “I’ll lose the battle to win the war in the long run and make sure we take care of our guys.”
Gorski quickly made his presence felt when he returned to the lineup Tuesday in IU’s home opener against the University of Cincinnati. Leading off again, Gorski took big hacks on the first two offerings he saw, falling in an 0-2 hole.
But he made no mistake on the third pitch, drilling it past the flagpole in left-center field and putting IU on top before some fans even made it to their seats.
“It was awesome to get back in the lineup,” Gorski said. “It felt great because I hadn’t been in there for a week, so to get my team out to a good start and gave our pitcher a little bit of time to sit down and relax.”
Gorski’s aggressiveness stretches outside the batter’s box.
In his third at-bat of the game against Cincinnati, Gorski hustled down the first base line for an infield single. A throwing error by Cincinnati shortstop Dondrae Bremner allowed Gorski to advance to second, but he wasn’t done there. Even after Cincinnati first baseman Cole Murphy corralled the overthrow, Gorski decided to risk an out and take off for third base.
He was thrown out with ease, but still got praise from Mercer post game.
“Maybe he pushed it a little bit too far, but I was really happy to see him be athletic, be aggressive and go play the game,” Mercer said. “We want to make somebody make a play. Guy made a play, and it didn’t work out for us there.”
A day after his risky play did not pay off, Gorski was still not hesitant on the base paths. His next at-bat after the three-run shot against Butler, Gorski was walked.
On the next pitch and before Butler’s Benji Downs had even completed his pitching motion, Gorski took off again. This time it worked, and he slid into second base with ease for his second stolen base of the season.
The risks won’t always be rewarding for Gorski, but with the athleticism he brings to the field, Mercer will continue to grant him freedom.
As IU looks ahead to a tough remaining nonconference schedule and a tight Big Ten race, it could be the difference between a win and a loss.