BY JUSTIN ALBERS
The Indiana University baseball team had never been to the College World Series before and had won just a single postseason game in its 146-year history.
But that didn’t make this year’s elimination in June’s College World Series any less disappointing for catcher Kyle Schwarber.
“It still bothers me,” says the 20-year-old recreational sports management major. “There’s still a hole in my stomach from thinking about what we could have done.”
The baseball Hoosiers had their best season ever in 2013, including sweeping a two-game set from perennial power Florida State University in the NCAA super regional finals.
Schwarber, a sophomore, was at the forefront of it all, leading the nation’s most surprising team. He batted .366, with 18 home runs, 54 RBIs, and an on-base percentage of .456 in 61 games.
As a sophomore this past year, the Middletown, Ohio native was ineligible to enter the Major League Baseball draft because a player must commit to the draft immediately after high school or wait at least three years. Many experts are projecting Schwarber to be a top ten pick next year.
So why did such a remarkably talented athlete end up at a school with such an unremarkable baseball heritage?
Like the supremely gifted Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey in basketball, Schwarber was overlooked coming out of high school by the sport’s big-name colleges. He ended up here because Ohio friends of IU manager Tracy Smith urged him to take a look at the big kid (6 feet, 235 pounds) from Middletown.
“I was kind of under-recruited,” Schwarber acknowledges. “But it worked out for the best.”
With a 49-16 record, a Big Ten championship, and a trip to the College World Series, Schwarber and his teammates made Indiana baseball relevant for the first time in decades. And next season, he believes, the team could do even better.
“I feel like we’re starting to get a little more respect. I hope we are,” Schwarber says. “Maybe it gives people a reason to look at the Big Ten Conference and say, ‘Hey, those northern schools really don’t mess around.’”