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Friday, Dec. 1
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

‘Answering the call’: Matthew Ellis and Indiana baseball’s offense catch fire in midweek win


Junior catcher Matthew Ellis trotted around the bases and stepped on home plate, picking up an imaginary phone and slamming it to the ground as he was encircled by his teammates near the dugout. 

Ellis had just answered the call. Not once, but twice as the designated hitter in Indiana baseball’s 12-2 win over Purdue University at Fort Wayne on Wednesday evening. 

The Hoosiers’ new “answering the call” home run celebration first broke out on March 1 in the team’s home opener against Miami University. Ellis didn’t think it would catch on. 

“We walked it through in the locker room, did a couple of trot runs,” Ellis said. “No one really expected to come out and do it as early as we did. Next thing you know we got five or six people doing it, and then we’re rolling from there.” 

The Hoosiers won that home opener 15-2 and launched the ball over the outfield fence four times. 

"It started with Bobby (Whalen), (he) came up with the answer the phone, answer the call idea, and we ran from there," Ellis said after Wednesday’s game. "We came out and had good success. It was easy after that — seeing this is what we're gonna do and ride with it."  

Since creating the new tradition, Indiana has gone 5-1 and is riding a four-game winning streak.  Indiana has outscored its opponents 63-20 during that span and hit 14 home runs, with six coming from Ellis' scorching bat. 

"He's a really special person,” Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer said of Ellis. “He's a competitive kid and an incredibly hard worker. He's very talented. You put that together, and you have a chance to have a really special player, and that's what he is."

Wednesday’s performance marked Ellis' second multi-home run game this season. Ellis, a transfer, recorded four multi-home run games last season playing for Walters State Community College. Through 12 games in 2022, he is halfway to surpassing his personal single-season record. 

Ellis smashed two home runs in Indiana's series-evening win Saturday against Missouri State University, and Mercer said it was the farthest he thought a player could hit a baseball. 

With four home runs and four phone calls in just as many games, Ellis may need to upgrade his cellular service plan soon. 

Junior Matthew Ellis celebrates with his Indiana teammates after hitting a two-run home run in the seventh inning to extend the Hoosiers’ lead to 9-1 against Purdue University Fort Wayne on Wednesday. IU won 12-2. CORRECTION: A previous version of this caption misstated the name of Purdue University Fort Wayne. Matthew Byrne

"When he's locked in, there's nobody more dangerous I've ever coached," Mercer said. "He's a good one, I'm glad he's on our side." 

Ellis shined, but the entire offense burned bright for the Hoosiers as the sun dipped below the horizon overlooking Bart Kaufman Stadium. 

The Hoosiers batted 14-for-35 (.400) at the plate with five extra-base hits, including Ellis' two home runs and freshman Josh Pyne's two-run home run to extend the lead to 3-0 in the fourth inning. 

Pyne hit his first career home run into Indiana’s bullpen during Tuesday's win against the University of Cincinnati. Wednesday's deep drive to left field bounced off the scoreboard, helping Pyne digitally punch the new number into Indiana’s score column himself.

"Defensively, he's impacted the game tremendously, and now offensively he's catching his footing," Mercer said. "He's a very gifted player and somebody that has a bright future ahead of him." 

Ellis and Pyne are two players who have recently caught fire during Indiana’s offensive surge. It's only a matter of time before the phone starts ringing again. 

“Hopefully as we move on (this season) and as (the program) moves on in the future, it’s something that keeps up,” Ellis said. “It’s going to be an important part of what we build here.”

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