Hoosiers Head to Music City Classic

    Go Hoosiers! Sterling Mack and the Hoosiers are bound for Nashville and the Music City Classic this weekend.
    Go Hoosiers!
    Sterling Mack and the Hoosiers are bound for Nashville and the Music City Classic this weekend.
    Go Hoosiers!

    March 4, 2010

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    Hawkins Field, Nashville, Tenn.

    Friday, March 5, 2010 - Noon CT | Indiana vs. Illinois State
    IU - RHP Walker Stadler (1-1, 4.63) | ISU - RHP Corey Maines (1-0, 2.53)
    GameTracker | Live Audio

    Saturday, March 6, 2010 - Noon CT | Indiana vs. Kent State
    IU - LHP Drew Leininger (0-0, 2.38) | KSU - LHP Kyle Hallock (0-0, 8.68)
    GameTracker | Live Audio

    Sunday, March 7, 2010 - 4 p.m. CT | Indiana at Vanderbilt
    IU - RHP Ethan Wilson (0-0, 0.00) |VANDY - RHP Jack Armstrong (1-0, 4.50)
    GameTracker | Live Audio

    Indiana heads to the Music City Classic to take on a trio of opponents who come into the weekend with winning records under their belts. The Hoosiers are 2-5 on the season after taking one out of three games at the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge. Indiana defeated West Virginia 10-8 with a wild comeback in the first game of the weekend, but fell at the hands of Villanova (8-1) and Connecticut (9-5). Jerrud Sabourin was named to the All-Challenge team after going 6-for-13 at the event. The BIG EAST bested the Big Ten 17-13 overall at the second annual event.

    Illinois State sits at 4-2 after winning three games at Chain Of Lakes Park in Winter Haven, Fla., where the Hoosiers will play three games on their Spring Trip. The Redbirds knocked off Duquesne (16-15), St. Bonaventure (21-3) and Western Michigan (7-3) in their three games in Florida. Kent State sits at 4-3 on the season after taking three of four from Wake Forest in Winston-Salem last weekend. The Golden Flashes opened the season with one win out of three at Western Kentucky. Vanderbilt is ranked 25th in the latest National College Baseball Writers of America poll with a 7-1 record. The Commodores won two of their three games at the Dodgertown Classic, defeating USC and Oklahoma State but falling to UCLA.

    The Hoosiers last met Illinois State early in the 2008 season. The Redbirds defeated Indiana 12-5 in a game that saw 27 combined hits. Michael Earley led the way for the Hoosiers going 2-for-4 with 2 RBI. IU has only met Kent State twice in the program's history. In the teams' most recent meeting in 2005, the Hoosiers handed the Golden Flashes an 11-6 loss. Zach Boswell led the IU offense with five hits and four runs driven in, including three doubles. The Hoosiers also face a familiar foe in Vanderbilt. The Commodores knocked IU out of the 2009 NCAA Tournament with a 10-0 victory last May. Vanderbilt pitchers Sonny Gray and Taylor Hill struck out 11 while Kipp Schutz had three hits in a losing effort for IU.

    Tracy Smith is in his fifth season as Indiana baseball's head coach. In 2009, he led the Hoosiers to their first Big Ten Tournament title since 1996 and the second NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. In his four years at the helm of the Hoosiers, IU is 106-131. In 13 years as a head coach, Smith has a career record of 423-351-1 (.546).

    He may be one of the most mild-mannered athletes you will ever meet, but first baseman Jerrud Sabourin is one of the most consistent players in IU Baseball history. He had a strong weekend at the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge, and picked up All-Challenge honors from for his efforts.

    Sabourin finished the challenge 6-for-13 over three games and also made several brilliant defensive plays at first base - where he was identified by Baseball America as the Big Ten's top defensive player at the position heading into the 2010 season. Sabourin's performance against West Virginia was a microcosm of his importance to the team in his career - going 4-for-5 with three RBI. In the first, he started things with an RBI double to plate IU's first run; in the third, he singled and scored the third of four runs in the frame; in the sixth, his two-run double broke a 6-6 tie; and in the eighth, he singled and scored what turned out to be the winning run over the Mountaineers.

    The lefty who head coach Tracy Smith describes as a "bigger-bodied Mark Grace" was in the midst of a quiet weekend headed into the series finale with San Diego when he came up big for Indiana. With the Hoosiers clinging to a 5-3 lead in the seventh, Sabourin hit a towering flyball that cleared the fence in right field to give Indiana a three-run edge. Then, with IU up 6-4 in the ninth, Sabourin delivered an insurance run with a two-out RBI single.

    Sabourin had a stellar freshman year in 2008, picking up Freshman All-America honors after hitting .383 and leading all conference frosh with 53 RBI. His five home runs trailed only teammate Kipp Schutz among conference newbies. He followed up on that in 2009, as he earned second team All-Big Ten honors for his performance. He finished among the league leaders with a .343 average and 85 hits.

    Sabourin's path to the Hoosiers was a bit unconventional, as the San Diego native originally committed to Arizona as a pitcher, but was cut on the first day of fall practice. Smith saw the lefty in a workout and offered him a roster spot as a walk-on at the winter break before the 2008 season.

    Sabourin did not start in his first game as a Hoosier, but came off the bench to go 2-for-2 against LSU in Baton Rouge. He started the next day and has started every game since then at first base, a total of 125 starts, the longest active streak of any Big Ten player. His .364 career average is currently 10th in IU's all-time records.

    With the Hoosiers looking for someone to step up on the pitching staff, sophomore Drew Leininger has certainly answered the call for Indiana. In two appearances, Leininger has gone 5 2/3 innings each time and has allowed just nine hits and posted a 2.38 ERA.

    Leininger's first start in nearly nine months did not begin the way that the Poway, Calif., native would have liked, as West Virginia scored four runs before the southpaw had even registered an out. But from then on, he was stellar, surrendering only two hits and two unearned runs to keep the Hoosiers in the game en route to a 10-8 IU comeback win.

    Leininger came on with one out in the bottom of the second at USD and proceeded to put zeroes on the board in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings. By the time he was done, he had tossed 5 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, surrendering five hits and striking out four without allowing a walk. The Hoosiers were able to bring the tying run to the plate in a game that they trailed 7-2 early on.

    Leininger struggled in his debut season, going 0-2 with a 9.91 ERA in 15 appearances, but he has impressed in the early season, as his fastball has been about 4-5 MPH faster than it was last year. Leininger was Poway High School's Pitcher of the Year as a senior.

    Leininger's presence has been crucial to the Hoosiers, as has that of freshman walk-on Walker Stadler. With an injury sidelining number one starter Blake Monar for an indefinite period, IU is now without its entire projected weekend rotation after the 2009 season, as Joey O'Gara and Jake Dunning both signed pro contracts along with Monar's injury. Add to that the injuries to Matt Carr and Kyle Leiendecker and the struggles of Matt Igel and the Hoosiers are without the players who likely would have been IU's top six starting options following the 2009 season. Thankfully, Leininger and Stadler have emerged along with converted infielder Ethan Wilson to give IU solid weekend innings.




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