Brian Wilhite was in need of some confidence at the plate.
He had been up just 13 times and had managed just a single hit. His batting average was .077.
If anyone needed confidence it was Wilhite. Unfortunately, you wouldn't have expected it to come from a Ball State pitching staff that boasted a 27-13 record prior to Wednesday.
And yet when IU skipper Tracy Smith called upon Wilhite as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth Wednesday, the sophomore looked poised and ready for the moment. First he slapped a soft single to center for an RBI in his first plate appearance and then lined a single to right-center his second time up and helped lead Indiana to a 10-1 victory at Bart Kaufman Field.
The Hoosiers (26-11) have now won 14 of their last 15 games overall heading into a big weekend Big Ten series at Illinois beginning Friday. IU is in first place in Big Ten play with an 11-1 conference record and has won nine Big Ten games in a row. Illinois is alone in second place in the Big Ten at 9-3.
"It was definitely a confidence booster for me being more of a defensive guy,'' Wilhite said. "To come in and have a couple of good at bats today definitely showed a lot of confidence from the coaching staff in me.''
Smith said as much enjoyment that Wilhite had Wednesday, as the coach he had even a little bit more.
"I just love that kid because if you watch him in practice every single day he does exactly what he's supposed to do,'' Smith said. "He doesn't say much, he works his tail off, and so you want to reward a guy.
"So the reward for me to him was getting him in the game but he doesn't know but he rewards me because I love to see him be successful. But I'm happy because that kid is such a good kid, and a hard worker that I love to see him have that success.''
Wilhite admitted it's not easy being a role player but at the same time he said it's all about keeping the proper attitude.
"It's definitely tough being a role guy and not being in the lineup every day,'' Wilhite said. "At the same time, I love the guys, I love the team, I love everything we've got going on here. When my number is called I want to be as ready as possible. The fact I was able to come through (Wednesday) really meant a lot to me.''
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch