Craig Dedelow was never guaranteed a Senior Day salute.
When he first stepped onto Indiana’s campus in the fall of 2013, he wasn’t even guaranteed a roster spot for the following spring.
Yet during his four years in Bloomington, Dedelow has blossomed into one of IU’s top overall players, wielding one of the program’s most potent bats. He put that bat to good use Sunday at Bart Kaufman Field, collecting three extra-base hits to help Indiana beat Penn State 10-2 and claim the weekend series.
Dedelow doubled twice and homered, finishing with two RBIs and two runs scored.
“It’s always nice to produce in a game,” Dedelow said. “Today was a little more special for me, personally, and six other (seniors). It’s been a long road and I hate to see it end.”
There are still additional opportunities for Dedelow to don the Indiana uniform, continuing with Tuesday’s regular season home finale against No. 2 Louisville. But the days leading into this weekend and Sunday’s Senior Day ceremony caught Dedelow in a reflective mood.
As a high school prospect at Munster, Dedelow received only a modest bit of small-school recruiting interest. So he took matters into his own hands.
Dedelow sent emails to college coaches, trying to generate further interest, while asking them to check out his high school games. Indiana and Purdue both expressed interest, and after IU’s run to the 2013 College World Series, Dedelow felt compelled to pursue a roster spot in Bloomington during Indiana’s 2013 fall ball session.
He followed through with that mission, earning a place on the team for the 2014 season — and four seasons later, he’s supplied the Hoosiers with a list of big swings and bigger moments.
“I was at a loss for words (coming into the weekend) like I am right now just because it was a long road for me and a lot of other guys in our graduating glass,” Dedelow said. “We’re just happy to see where we came from and where we are now.”
Although he only joined IU’s program as a junior college transfer prior to last season, Tony Butler also made the most of his time with the Hoosiers.
In addition to playing Gold Glove-caliber defense the past two seasons, Butler has continued to grow as a hitter since moving to the No. 2 spot in the lineup last month.
Like Dedelow, Butler also commemorated Sunday’s occasion with a big performance at the plate, finishing 3-for-4 with a double and four RBIs.
In addition to Dedelow and Butler, Indiana also recognized Austin Cangelosi, Alex Krupa, Colby Stratten, Austin Foote and Luke Stephenson in the pregame Senior Day ceremony.
“It makes you want to start missing them at this point,” IU coach Chris Lemonis said of Dedelow and Butler, in particular. “It was good to see them have good days. They’re both playing really well right now and we’re gonna need them for the stretch run.”
Indiana’s situational hitting on Saturday carried into Sunday’s game, when the Hoosiers scored six of their runs with two outs. That included a quirky double by Dedelow to start the scoring in the bottom of the first.
Dedelow popped a pitch into a high sky in front of the pitcher’s mound, where Penn State’s infield struggled to locate the ball. It dropped in for a double, scoring Butler.
“I was kind of upset and I just put my head down to start running and luckily I ended up on second base,” Dedelow said.
It was the beginning of a three-run inning for the Hoosiers, who also saw Matt Lloyd score on a wild pitch and Logan Sowers smack an RBI double to the right field gap.
Lloyd later added a run-scoring single in the bottom of the fifth before Butler smoked a two-run double to the left field gap in the seventh.
By that point, it was a 6-1 Indiana lead — more than enough cushion for IU starter Cal Krueger, who allowed only an unearned run across his six innings of work.
It was a solid start for the freshman, who battled through some minor jams during the middle innings to earn the win.
“He’s just a freshman, but he pitched well,” Lemonis said of Krueger, who threw 54 of his 86 pitches for strikes. “He gave us some really good innings. I’d like to see him go a little longer. He kind of got himself into some trouble with two outs and nobody on at times, but that’s part of being a young pitcher, too.”
The only run scored on Krueger’s watch came on an uncharacteristic sequence from freshman shortstop Jeremy Houston, who was charged with a pair of errors resulting from a fifth-inning miscue.
Houston bobbled a grounder up the middle, then rushed through a wild toss that missed the mark at first base. Houston’s poor throw put Penn State’s Mason Nadeau on second base, and the Nittany Lions’ leadoff man came around to score when the next batter, Conlin Hughes, doubled down the left field line.
It was only minor damage on an afternoon when IU’s bats still had more to offer in the latter innings.
Dedelow led off the eighth with his team-best 13th homer of the year, and Sowers followed with a solo shot to right, his eighth of the season.
Butler capped the scoring by driving in a pair of runs with two outs in the inning, closing Senior Day in appropriate fashion.