Kyle Hart's first three starts of the 2014 baseball season had come with more questions than answers.
At the root of the problems for the Indiana baseball pitcher was control. Hart had walked 11 batters in his first 16 innings of work. Getting command of his pitches and staying ahead of hitters was an early concern.
No one from Kentucky, however, had any idea that Hart was struggling based on his performance Tuesday afternoon.
The junior lefthander from Cincinnati, Ohio struck out eight and didn't walk a batter in eight innings of work to help lead No. 16 Indiana to a 7-2 victory over No. 18 Kentucky before a standing room only crowd of 2,746 at Bart Kaufman Field on the IU campus.
Hart threw 111 pitches, scattering five hits and one unearned run over his eight innings of work. He improved to 2-1 on the season.
"He's a three pitch guy and he had all three of them working today, and we needed that,'' said IU baseball coach Tracy Smith. "It was a big win and not just for the team but for him personally to get him back on track. He struggled a little bit early but if you noticed our last game on Sunday in Jacksonville we closed with him. But he had a great performance today.''
Smith said the thing that stood out about Hart's performance Tuesday was the zero walks.
"That was his problem early in the season,'' Smith said, "because you can't defend a walk. He really commanded the zone today.''
Smith admitted that Hart looked confident Tuesday. It probably didn't hurt that the Hoosiers staked him to a two-run lead right off the bat in the bottom of the first.
After Kyle Schwarber led off the game with a fly ball double to center field where the outfielder lost the ball in the sun, Casey Rodrigue ripped a double down the right field line to put the Hoosiers up 1-0. Rodrigue advanced to third on a fly ball out and scored on a ground ball by Scott Donley.
Indiana made it 4-1 in the fourth when Dustin DeMuth hit his first home run of the season, a shot to right field. Schwarber also had a solo shot to center, his third of the year, with two outs in the fifth. Sam Travis had the other two RBI with a sharp single to left that plated a pair in the bottom of the eighth.''
But the talk Tuesday among the IU players was Hart. Hart was unable to meet with the media because he had to go straight to a Chemistry mid-term but his catcher, Schwarber, said it was good to see him pitching like that again.
"It's great to have him back,'' Schwarber said. "It was a rough two starts for him. Today it was like old him again. He was back there hitting spots, throwing strikes and it was good.''
Indiana (8-6) has now won six of its last seven games and will play a three-game series this weekend at Long Beach State. The Hoosiers have a home game with Louisville next Wednesday before opening Big Ten play at home the following weekend against Michigan.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch