Baseball Heads to Inaugural Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge

    Go Hoosiers! Eric Arnett and the Hoosiers take on West Virginia, Georgetown and USF at the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge.
    Go Hoosiers!
    Eric Arnett and the Hoosiers take on West Virginia, Georgetown and USF at the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge.
    Go Hoosiers!

    Feb. 18, 2009

    Complete Release in PDF Format

    BIG EAST/BIG TEN CHALLENGE (Clearwater/St. Petersburg, Fla.)

    Friday, Feb. 20, 2009 • 4 p.m.
    Indiana vs. West Virginia - Bradenton
    IU - LHP
    Matt Bashore
    WVU - RHP Billy Gross
    Gametracker | Live Audio

    Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009 • 1 p.m.
    Indiana vs. Georgetown - Tampa
    IU - RHP Eric Arnett
    GU - RHP Tim Adleman
    Gametracker | Live Audio

    Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009 • 1 p.m.
    Indiana vs. USF - St. Petersburg
    IU - LHP Blake Monar
    USF - RHP Shawn Sanford
    Gametracker | Live Audio

    The Hoosiers open 2009 at the inaugural BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge in Clearwater/St. Petersburg, Fla., from Feb. 20-22. IU will face BIG EAST foes West Virginia, Georgetown and South Florida in the three-day event, which is being put on by API Management and Marketing in partnership with the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission. The Hoosiers will play at McKechnie Field (Bradenton), Red McEwen Field (Tampa) and the Frederick A. Naimoli Complex (St. Petersburg) in the three-day event. All of the Big Ten's baseball programs are participating in the event, while eight teams from the BIG EAST will be taking part.


    Indiana will be facing all three BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge opponents for the first time in school history. The Hoosiers have a long history against teams in the BIG EAST, particularly with regional rivals Notre Dame, Louisville and Cincinnati. IU is 71-84-1 against all teams currently in the BIG EAST. Interestingly enough, IU has played every current BIG EAST member aside from St. John's and the three opponents that the Hoosiers face this weekend.

    Indiana is in its fourth year under the direction of Tracy Smith. In his three years at the helm of the Hoosiers, IU is 72-99. In 11 years as a head coach, Smith has a career record of 389-319-1 (.549). The 2008 season was a significant upward turn for the Hoosiers, as Indiana made its first Big Ten Tournament appearance since 2004 by rallying for a sixth-place finish in the regular season. IU then eliminated Ohio State, Illinois and Penn State at the conference tournament before falling in the semifinals to Purdue. With a 31-30 record on the season, IU had its finest season in Smith's tenure.

    West Virginia is led by Greg Van Zant, who is in his 15th season leading the Mountaineers. Van Zant enters the season with 413 wins, the second highest of any coach in school history. Pete Wilk is in his 10th season as the coach of the Hoyas, where he has rebuilt the baseball program. Wilk has 166 wins for GU, the most of any coach in school history. Lelo Prado is in his third year as the skipper for USF after a strong career at Louisville and the University of Tampa. Prado enters the 2009 campaign with 632 wins in his career and 67 victories for the Bulls.

    After posting one of the top offensive years in school history in 2008, junior catcher Josh Phegley has been raking in the honors heading into the 2009 season. Phegley was named a second-team All-American following last season, behind only Florida State's Buster Posey, who led the nation in batting average and was selected fifth overall by the San Francisco Giants.

    Phegley has been recognized across the board as a preseason All-American, with the National College Baseball Writers Association, Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball News, Ping!Baseball, Recruiting Closer, and Baseball America all tabbing the Terre Haute native as the top catcher in the nation.

    His future beyond the college game is strong in the experts' eyes as well, as Lincoln Hamilton of Project Prospect tabbed him as the top available hitter in the 2009 MLB Draft.

    Josh Phegley isn't the only Hoosier getting attention for his professional potential. Fellow junior Matt Bashore has been picking up accolades as of late, and the freshman-year roommates comprise what could be the top battery in the nation in 2009.

    Phegley and Bashore were predicted to sweep the conference awards by Baseball America. The prestigious publication predicted Phegley as the Big Ten Player of the Year and Bashore as the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year for 2009.

    The two were also both ranked among the top 50 college prospects for the 2009 MLB Draft by the publication. Phegley was ranked 32nd in the nation among college prospects eligible for the 2009 draft, while Bashore was 45th. Phegley was the top ranked catcher on the list, while Bashore was ninth among left-handed pitchers. The lone other Big Ten player was Minnesota's Eric Decker, who was ranked 91st.

    Both Phegley and Bashore were named to the Brooks Wallace Award Preseason Watch List by the College Baseball Foundation. The duo was one of just five batteries in the nation to be named to the list, joined by pitcher/catcher combos from LSU (Micah Gibbs and Louis Coleman), Rice (Diego Seastrunk/Ryan Berry/Rick Hague), TCU (Tyler Lockwood/Bryan Holaday) and Texas (Cameron Rupp/Brandon Workman/Chance Ruffin).

    Phegley and Bashore aren't the only two draft-eligible players on the Hoosiers who are grabbing attention from the next level. In fact, according to Perfect Game, the Hoosiers have four players among the top 300 prospects for the 2009 draft.

    Phegley leads all IU players at No. 20, while Bashore is just outside the top 100 at 116. Centerfielder Evan Crawford is ranked 181st, while Kipp Schutz is on the list at No. 265. The foursome are the only Big Ten players ranked in the top 300, and only four other conference players (Minnesota's Eric Decker and Derek McCallum, Northwestern's Jake Goebbert and Ohio State's Zach Hurley) are in the top 500.

    The answer to that question for the Hoosiers in 2009 is, pretty much everybody. Seven of IU's nine principle offensive starters return in addition to the top two starting pitchers and top two options out of the bullpen.

    Looking at the numbers even closer, the Hoosiers' returning offensive numbers are staggering. Returning players hit an aggregate .352, slugged .506 and had a .430 on-base percentage. Indiana returns 1501 hits (72.3 percent), 38 home runs (88.4), 325 RBI (81.7), 309 runs (70.4) and 144 extra-base hits (79.6) from the 2008 squad.

    With a strong group of players returning and what Baseball America termed perhaps the best recruiting class in the Big Ten, expectations are the highest they have been in years for Indiana Baseball. And with that, several pundits have predicted big things for the Hoosiers this year.

    Baseball America predicted the 2009 NCAA Tournament field prior to the season, and placed the Hoosiers in the College Station, Texas, regional as the No. 3 seed. College writer Aaron Fitt pegged IU to garner an automatic bid to the postseason via the conference tournament championship, as the Hoosiers look to return to the NCAAs for the first time since 1996. Fitt also saw conference foe Michigan making the Tournament as an at-large selection.

    Additionally, Perfect Game came out with their top 100 team rankings, and the site ranked Indiana 40th in the nation, ahead of every other Big Ten team. Only Michigan and Ohio State cracked the top 100 among the other conference squads. saw the Hoosiers as the third-place team in the Big Ten, behind Michigan and Purdue. The publication called Indiana a "team on the rise" and predicted Josh Phegley to be honored as Player of the Year. Rivals also bestowed first team all-conference honors on southpaw Matt Bashore.

    College Baseball Insider polled Big Ten coaches for their preview as well, and the conference's bench bosses lauded Hoosiers Josh Phegley and Matt Bashore. Bashore was named one of the conference's top three pitchers and tied with Michigan's Chris Fetter as the "one pitcher you don't want to face." Phegley was considered the top defensive catcher and the catcher with the best arm. He was pegged as the top pure hitter, top power hitter and the "one hitter you don't want to face" by the conference coaches as well.


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