Indiana's Morris, Dearden return to familiar territory

Published: Monday, March 11, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 11, 2013 at 5:55 p.m.

This weekend's baseball series with Indiana brought a pair of former local standouts back to a place they know well.

Former Gainesville High's Matt Dearden, a junior, and Williston's Christian Morris, a freshman, both play for the Hoosiers, and each had a large group of family and friends in the McKethan Stadium stands.

“It was a lot of fun to come back here and play,” said Morris, a three-time Sun All-Area selection who had made a trio of relief appearances this season but made his only appearance of the weekend as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of Sunday's 7-4 IU win.

“I grew up watching the Gators, and it was a lot of fun to come back.It was kind of weird playing against them, but it was nice to get the win today. Maybe on a national level, we opened some eyes.”

Dearden was a 2010 Sun first-team all-area pick. Although he did not see any action against UF, Dearden came into the season having appeared in 42 games (82 2/3 innings) in his IU career without allowing a home run.

“I always watched Florida growing up, and it was just a great opportunity to play them in a three-game series and win two of them,” he said. “It's a statement. I think if we stay focused, we can go pretty far.”

Hoosiers' head coach Tracy Smith praised both players.

“Matt Dearden is a guy who has pitched a lot of innings for us, and as we get rolling, he'll be out there,” Smith said. “He didn't get in this weekend because the opportunity just didn't present itself, but he's a guy we've got confidence in and is going to have a very valuable role for us.

“Christian Morris was a national level recruit out of high school before being injured. We took a chance on him that he would come back from the injury, and I'm most proud of him because he's got that body in shape now and is really buying into the program. We had him pinch-hit today because he's still a dual guy, but he's looked pretty good on the mound for us up to this point.

“Both of them are outstanding kids.”

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