The University of Indianapolis baseball team is in the midst of a schedule consisting of 10 games in eight days that began Sunday, March 29, and will conclude April 5. Early this week, the ball club competed against the University of Illinois Springfield, and the week before, faced Tiffin University and Missouri S&T. According to Head Baseball Coach Gary Vaught, the week will come down to how good the team is and how well the players stay focused.
“We’re going to play one game at a time,” he said. “Our goal is to sweep everybody or win the series, and we’ve done that right now.”
Before competing against Illinois Springfield, the Greyhounds were ranked first in the Great Lakes Valley Conference East standings, with a conference record of 5-3, and they hope to hold that position, according to senior first baseman Daniel Lee.
“Now that it is all conference play, these games are all pretty important. So especially being top in the conference, it means a lot to stay there,” Lee said. “These upcoming series are really important.”
During Sunday’s doubleheader against Illinois Springfield, UIndy began the series 2-0, with a 6-5 and 11-0 win. In the first game Lee hit a two-run walkoff homer with senior infielder Luke Andrade in scoring position. Sophomore Jordan Tackett excelled on the mound during the second game with 11 strikeouts.
While facing the Tiffin University Dragons and the Missouri S&T Miners, UIndy used small ball tactics with a total of 12 sacrifice bunts in the six games against those opponents. In regard to how the team played in both matchups, Vaught said that the team’s style of play has changed a bit.
“We thought we were going to be more of a power team, and we went back to small ball again. We’re getting people on, bunting them over and hopefully getting them in,” Vaught said.
The small ball approach was active in their two games against Tiffin, with five sacrifice bunts. UIndy beat Tiffin, 7-2, in seven innings during the first game, but the second game was a different story. In a 10-inning game, UIndy earned a 6-5 decision over the Dragons. The win was earned by senior pitcher Brett Collins, after he threw four innings allowing only three hits. Even with the two wins over the Dragons, Vaught saw some unusual actions committed by his ball club.
“We did some things that were uncharacteristic for our ball club,” he said. “But then [again], the way they [the Greyhounds] grinded and came back, getting a couple of key bunts down and [creating] great defensive plays, we found a way to win the game.”
According to Lee, these past wins brought some confidence to the team, and with the conference games coming up, that confidence is essential.
“I think winning those games yesterday [Wednesday against Tiffin], especially [with those wins coming in] midweek games, we can take a lot of confidence into a weekend series,” Lee said.
Before they faced Tiffin, UIndy faced Missouri S&T in its season home opener on March 21-22 and took the series 3-1.
On the first day, the Hounds were led by senior outfielder Sean McCracken, as he created two homeruns, five RBIs and went 3-for-7 during that day’s two games. On the second day against the Miners, UIndy took its first and only loss of the series, despite the performance by senior outfielder Zach Jacobs throughout both games, who statistically excelled as he went 4-for-7 in the box.
Looking at the rest of the Greyhounds’ season, Vaught said that his emphasis is on executing plays in an effort to win a championship and to do so by taking the season one game at a time. He also said that he hopes to do so with fellow athletes and students in the stands supporting them.
“It’s always nice to see your fellow athletes from other sports out there. It’s nice to see the support that we’re getting, and not just in baseball, but in all the sports,” Vaught said. “Against [the] Saint Joseph’s [College Pumas], they pack it when we go there and play, and I would love to see our stands packed this Wednesday [tonight].”
Prior to going into this week’s matchups, Vaught said that he believes if the Greyhounds execute well, they will have a good chance to make it into the playoffs.
“The next 10 games are tough,” he said. “If we do what we’re suppose to do, we could set ourselves up pretty good in conference with a good chance to know that we’re going to make the playoffs.”
The Greyhounds will be back in action tonight at home in a doubleheader against Saint Joseph’s. The first game is set to begin at noon,with the second to follow.