Dedelow brings spark to top of Hoosier lineup #iubase

It was something different, something new, but Craig Dedelow didn’t mind the change of plans.

It was a promotion of sorts, moving from the bottom of Indiana’s lineup all the way up to the No. 2 slot for Saturday’s game at Furman.

It’s also a change that the Hoosiers are likely to stick with during this weekend’s series at Charleston.

That’s because IU coach Chris Lemonis has sought to bring a spark to the upper third of his batting order, where Dedelow replaced Will Nolden and found success with his ability to bring variety to the batters’ box over Indiana’s final two games of last weekend’s First Pitch Invitational in South Carolina. Dedelow has reached base 12 times in six games, including six walks. But beyond setting the table for Brad Hartong and Scott Donley behind him, Dedelow is also quite capable of driving in Hoosier leadoff man Casey Rodrigue.

It’s that kind of versatility that Lemonis wants to use atop his order, and something the first-year coach believes can make a difference as the Hoosiers return to the road with today’s 3 p.m. first pitch.

“I don’t want to call him a five-tool guy, but he has a nice blend of tools,” Lemonis said. “He can kind of do a little bit of everything. I like to have that big, physical left-hander. If Rodrigue gets on, it’s a little easier to steal. If Rodrigue doesn’t get on, you have a guy there who has a chance to hit an extra-base hit.”

That’s what happend last weekend when Dedelow hit his first career home run in Saturday’s extra-inning loss to Furman. He added a double on Sunday against Xavier before scoring the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth after he advanced from first base on a sacrifice bunt throwing error to beat the Musketeers.

“We’re just trying to get a little bit more on-base percentage in that spot,” Lemonis said. “I just think Will has been struggling a little bit. The reality is that the two-hole is a tough spot because sometimes you have to take some pitches and do some things for the leadoff. So I think putting Will back in his natural spot (at Nos. 7 or 8 will help). Deeds has been pretty hot, too, so it’s nice to have him in that spot in the lineup.”

It has carried over into the field, too. Dedelow has started all six games for the Hoosiers, including five at first base before starting Sunday’s weekend finale in left field. He made a defensive switch to centerfield on Saturday, making a diving catch in the left-centerfield gap to end the bottom of the ninth inning and preserve a 5-5 tie heading into extras.

“Right now, I feel just a little more comfortable in the outfield because that’s where I’ve been playing my whole life, through high school and everything,” Dedelow said. “Slowly, I’m getting more comfortable at first and hopefully I can get comfortable at both places, and they can just put me wherever they need to.”

Improved defense is something Indiana needs after committing eight errors over the course of three games last weekend. There was a mix of problems around the field, between the cold temperatures, a lack of focus and simply not making the plays that should have been made.

Friday’s opener was especially trying with five errors in the nine innings — an ominous beginning to the weekend that the Hoosiers can’t afford today at Charleston.

“We just didn’t play well,” Lemonis said. “We probably made more errors than what was in the scorebook.”

That matters, considering four of Indiana’s first six games have been decided by only a single run. But at the plate, the Hoosiers are getting things done to Lemonis’ liking. They’re first among Big Ten teams with nine sacrifice bunts, third in stolen bases (nine) and fourth in walks (25), all while using four home runs — a figure that ties them for first in the league.

Indiana will stick with its usual pitching rotation this weekend, starting Scott Effross (1-1, 1.50 ERA) today, Christian Morris (0-0, 5.06 ERA) on Saturday and former Bloomington South standout Jake Kelzer (0-0, 4.32 ERA) on Sunday.

A better showing at Charleston, where IU has never gone before, would have a sentimental value on it, too. It’s a homecoming trip for Lemonis, a native of Myrtle Beach, S.C. and a former player at The Citadel, which is only a couple miles away from Charleston’s campus.

“It should be an exciting weekend,” Lemonis said. “I think if we can get out there and play well, it’s gonna be some fun games.”