Indiana Baseball: For Catcher Collin Hopkins, It's Attitude That Makes a Difference

Indiana catcher Collin Hopkins had quite a weekend, hitting a walk-off homer Friday night and then catching a no-hitter on Saturday. That's never happened before in Indiana baseball history.
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana catcher Collin Hopkins turned 23 years old last week, so he's not a kid anymore. He's seen a lot, done a lot, and has experienced all the typical highs and lows that come along with any baseball season.

He's from an athletic family, too, and that's had a lot to do with his personality and makeup. The position he plays dictates being a leader, too, and he's exactly that on this relatively young Indiana team.

"His teammates love him, and he's truly one of the best kids I've ever coached, ever been around,'' Indiana coach Jeff Mercer said. "People rave about his makeup, and that means a lot for us in this program. You trust a kid who keeps working, and he can change a game in a lot of ways.

"I'm very proud to wear the same jersey as him.'' 

Hopkins had a weekend for the ages against Illinois, hitting a walk-off home run in the ninth inning on Friday night, giving the Hoosiers a 6-4 win and snapping a five-game losing streak. 

And then the next night he was behind the plate, guiding pitchers McCade Brown and Braydon Tucker through a no-hitter in the 8-0 win, Indiana's first no-no since 1984.

That's the great thing about Hopkins, a selfless player and great team leader. What happened Saturday meant as much – if not more – than Friday night's individual heroics did.

"He's very supportive of his teammates,'' Mercer said. "He's like a chamelion, he can go into every group and he can relate to everybody. That's an incredible trait to have. He cares tremendously about those around him because he's been in all those positions. He cares more about group success than individual success. There are only a couple guys you'll ever coach who cares more about the group, and that's what Collin is.''

He's really a coach on the field, too. He's got a great relationship with pitching coach Justin Parker, and he's the conduit between pitchers and coaches. 

"If he goes out and is able to emotionally support and physically support our pitching staff to allow us to be as good as we can, that's a positive for us,'' Mercer said. " You'll see him put his arm around guys, tell them about certain pitches, or what they might be doing wrong. All those things he's able to communicate. During the game Justin will ask him what pitches he like. He's a great communicator with coach Parker.''

"He's made himself into an elite receiver, a great blocker, and he has an above average arm. Plus, he's just a great kid.''

Hopkins came to Indiana two years ago after starting his career at Western Kentucky. He's the son of Brad and Kellie Hopkins, and his father was a long-time NFL player. His brother Brycen was an all-Big Ten tight end at Purdue and his sister Gentry is on the dance team at Tennessee.

Hopkins started 12 of 15 games a year at catcher for Indiana before the season was shut down, and he's shared duties with Jacob Southern this year. Hopkins has been great behind the plate all year, but had struggled to hit. He was just 2-for-30 on the year when he hit the walk-off homer.''

But that his was huge, if only for the fact that the Hoosiers were scuffling through that five-game losing streak and needed a win badly.

"It's really indescribable, to be honest with you, especially after my struggles in the beginning of the year,'' Hopkins said of the homer. "It just really means that my swing is getting to where I want it to be.

"I'm happy that it was a walkoff home run, but I'm really more happy with the outcome. We're blessed to be with a great group of guys.''

Mercer could have easily pinch-hit for Hopkins in the ninth, but he stuck with his veteran catcher. He's seen the work he's put in, and how close he was coming to start having success again.

"Collin had a really good work week offensively, and I did have confidence in him, especially with a slider guy on the mound,'' Mercer said. "He's good in that situation. We just felt like with a runner on first, and we were confident that he could have a competitive at-bat, and of course he did that.''

Mercer has been a big fan of Hopkins since the day he started recruiting him

"I think it goes back to the background on Collin during his recruitment,'' Mercer said. "He has great parents, a great family. When we recruited Collin, it was sort of a late thing. We were looking for another defensive catcher. I got a call from his high school coach, Jason Maxwell, and he said he's the best kid I've ever coached and we had a couple of other people just really rave about his makeup, and that's always a big deal for us.

"He's a really good defender, and he's improved across the board. When he struggles, yes, he has struggled some offensively, but you trust a kid who keeps showing up, keeps working. He's just so incredibly good with our pitchers, and when he does give us offensive output, obviously we're grateful, and when you look at a couple of games where he had a big hit, like the homer against Purdue and the big hit Friday night, it just means a lot. You saw how happy his teammates were for him.''

Collin Hopkins' teammates prepare tomob him after his walk-off home run last Friday night against Illinois. (Photo courtesy of IU Athletics.)

Collin Hopkins' teammates prepare tomob him after his walk-off home run last Friday night against Illinois. (Photo courtesy of IU Athletics.)

After the two big wins against Illinois, the Hoosiers are 13-7 and in third place in the Big Ten, barely behind Nebraska and Michigan. They have a huge three-game series this weekend at Northwestern, which is big, even at the halfway point of the season.

Games are Friday at 3 p.m. ET on Friday, 1 p.m. on Saturday and Noon ET on Sunday. 

Big Ten Standings

TEAMWONLOSTPCT.GBSTREAK

Nebraska

15

6

.714

---

W-1

Michigan

14

6

.700

0.5

W-2

Indiana

13

7

.650

1.5

W-2

Ohio State

13

9

.591

2.5

L-2

Iowa

12

9

.571

3

W-4

Rutgers

11

9

.550

3.5

W-2

Northwestern

11

10

.527

4

L-2

Michigan State

10

10

.500

4,5

L-1

Maryland

10

12

.455

5.5

L-1

Illinois

8

12

.400

6.5

L-4

Penn State

8

12

.400

6.5

W-2

Purdue 

5

15

.250

9.5

W-1

Minnesota

4

17

.190

11

L-4

Big Ten weekend schedule

Friday's schedule (April 16)

  • Iowa at Rutgers, 2 p.m, ET
  • Indiana at Northwestern, 3 p.m. ET
  • Michigan at Minnesota, 5 p.m. ET
  • Nebraska at Penn State, 6 p.m. ET
  • Ohio State at Maryland, 6:30 p.m. ET
  • Michigan State at Illinois, 7 p.m. ET

Saturday's schedule (April 17)

  • Iowa at Rutgers (doubleheader), 11 a.m, ET
  • Indiana at Northwestern, 1 p.m. ET
  • Nebraska at Penn State, 1 p.m. ET
  • Purdue vs. Michigan State, 6 p.m. ET (at Champaign, Ill.)
  • Michigan at Minnesota, 2 p.m. ET
  • Ohio State at Maryland, 2 p.m. ET
  • Michigan State at Illinois, 7 p.m. ET

Sunday's schedule (April 18)

  • Iowa at Rutgers, Noon ET
  • Indiana at Northwestern, Noon ET
  • Nebraska at Penn State, 11 a.m. ET
  • Purdue vs. Michigan State, 1 p.m. ET (at Champaign, Ill.)
  • Ohio State at Maryland, 1 p.m. ET
  • Michigan at Minnesota, 2 p.m. ET
  • Purdue at Illinois, 5 p.m. ET

Monday's schedule (April 19)

  • Purdue at Illinois, 4 p.m. ET 

Friday's results (April 9)

  • Michigan State 7, Penn State 4
  • Northwestern 6, Rutgers 5, 12 innings
  • Ohio State 7, Michigan 4
  • Indiana 6, Illinois 4
  • Iowa 7, Minnesota 1
  • Nebraska 6, Maryland 2

Saturday's results (April 10)

  • Penn State 11, Purdue 0 (at East Lansing, Mich.)
  • Michigan 7, Ohio State 0
  • Rutgers 8, Northwestern 4
  • Minnesota at Iowa, ppd.
  • Maryland 10, Nebraska 7
  • Indiana 8, Illinois 0

Sunday's results (April 11)

  • Purdue 8, Penn State 5
  • Illinois at Indiana, ppd. rain
  • Rutgers 6, Northwestern 5
  • Nebraska 14, Maryland 3
  • Iowa 6, Minnesota 1 (first game)
  • Iowa 18, Minnesota 0 (second game)
  • Michigan 16, Ohio State 7
  • Michigan State 5, Purdue 2

Monday's game (April 12)

  • Purdue 8, Michigan State 2

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