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Sunday, April 14
The Indiana Daily Student

sports baseball

Josh Pyne storms out of slump, knocks go-ahead homer in Indiana’s win over Indiana State

spiubasepyne040224.jpeg

Jeff Mercer’s son Grady, a kindergarten student, could have invited any person he wanted to speak to his class for his special guest day. 

Grady could have chosen any of his family members, including his mom Stephanie, an educational curriculum specialist, or his dad, Indiana baseball’s head coach. Instead, he chose the Hoosiers’ junior third baseman Josh Pyne.  

Pyne, a stalwart in the lineup with a surehanded glove in the hot corner, may seem like an odd choice. But there’s a simple reason why. 

“I asked Grady, why did you pick Josh?” Mercer said after Indiana’s 16-7 win over Indiana State University on Tuesday night at Bart Kaufman Field. “He said because Josh is my friend, and he took me fishing.” 

Thanks ⁦@_joshpyne_⁩ for taking us fishing last week! pic.twitter.com/OOeFbVDoMs

To Mercer, that’s the Pyne he came to love and establish a tight bond with. On the field, the Bloomfield, Indiana, native has starred since his arrival in Bloomington, just under an hour away from Linton-Stockton, his high school. 

Pyne blossomed in 2022 as part of a brilliant freshman trio including now-juniors Carter Mathison and Brock Tibbitts. The three each drove in at least 40 RBIs that season, marking Indiana’s first ever freshman trio to do so the same year. 

After garnering Freshman All-America honors and an All-Big Ten Freshman team nod, Pyne followed up a brilliant debut campaign with a third-team All-Big Ten caliber season last year. Pyne batted .295 and drove in 56 runs while only missing a single game. 

The start of his 2024 season has been relatively tumultuous. Prior to Tuesday night’s victory, Pyne was batting .262 with one homer and 18 RBIs. His average started to plummet a little over two weeks ago, and he was hardly getting on base. 

Mercer slotted Pyne in at ninth in the order against the Sycamores. 

“When you go make a lineup, you have to make a lineup based on some of the numbers,” Mercer said. “But Josh will be okay.” 

Tuesday night, on a chilly night in Bloomington featuring biting winds and a thin mist, Pyne was more than okay. Indiana fell into a 6-0 hole by the top of the fourth inning but evened the score in the bottom of the frame. 

Down 7-6 in the bottom of the sixth, Pyne stepped to the plate with a runner aboard first base. He quickly fell into the count 0-2. Then, he took a couple pitches outside the zone to draw the count even. 

The next offering from Indiana State junior Jacob Spencer hung right over the middle of the plate. Pyne crushed it into the night sky, deep over the wall in centerfield for a two-run go-ahead homer. 

“He’s been working his butt off trying to get better,” sophomore shortstop Tyler Cerny said. “It was good to see him get that hit.” 

Pyne’s relief was palpable. He trotted around the bases pumping his fists and pounding his chest, and he was swarmed by a sea of teammates in the dugout upon his return. 

While he only went 1-for-5 on the night, Pyne added his third hit in as many games, as well as his first home run since February 20 against Miami University. His pulverized shot off Spencer spurred a flurry of offensive production for the Hoosiers. 

Indiana tacked on four more runs in the inning, three in the seventh and another in the eighth for good measure. And Pyne’s fire was evident. He came up to bat for the second time in the bottom of the sixth with the bases loaded. 

Pyne struck out looking to end the inning on a pitch that appeared well outside the zone, and he took offense to the perceived fault from the home plate umpire. Still, it didn’t overshadow the rest of his night. 

“I couldn’t love a kid more than I love Josh,” Mercer said. “And I couldn’t be more confident in a guy than I am in him. He’s come through for us so many times — such a great teammate, such a representative of the program.” 

As the rest of the season unfolds, Indiana will likely need more of these nights from Pyne. This weekend, for instance, the Hoosiers travel to College Park, Maryland, to take on the 20-8 Terrapins in a three-game set. 

Mercer couldn’t overstate the confidence he has in Pyne to return to the form that made him one of Indiana’s most indispensable players in the last two seasons. Pyne’s love for Indiana, his leadership and his competitive nature add to a player who can change games with a single swing. 

“Josh is one of my all-time favorite human beings I’ve ever coached, ever been around,” Mercer said. 

But before Pyne and Indiana return to action on Friday, the Hoosiers’ third baseman has an important task to fulfill: speak to Grady Mercer’s class and set a positive example for a group of kindergarteners. 

“The whole class is buzzing, the teacher’s excited,” Mercer said. “And my Grady is just beside himself excited.” 

Follow reporters Matt Press (@MattPress23) and Nick Rodecap (@nickrodecap) for updates throughout the Indiana baseball season.

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