Baseball Set to Open Big Ten Play Against Gophers
March 27, 2008
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Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (63,669) Minneapolis, Minn.
IU: LHP Matt Bashore (2-2, 1.69)
IU: RHP Tyler Tufts (2-2, 5.59)
IU: LHP Kyle Leiendecker (3-0, 5.27)
IU: RHP Eric Arnett (2-0, 4.60)
THE FIRST PITCH
The Hoosiers head to the north country to open Big Ten play with a four-game set against Minnesota in Minneapolis this weekend. The Hoosiers are now 10-7 on the year after a 10-4 win over Xavier that extended Indiana's winning streak to five games. This is the second straight year that IU has brought a winning streak into Big Ten play, as the Hoosiers had won six in a row before commencing the conference season last year.
IU and Minnesota split last year's season-ending series, with Indiana taking the final two games by scoring 10 runs in each. In the season finale for the Hoosiers, IU entered the ninth tied at 9-9 and loaded the bases for Josh Phegley. The catcher came a foot short of registering a grand slam, but it went in the books as a walk-off single to give the Hoosiers a series split with the NCAA Tournament-bound Gophers.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
IU's last trip to the Metrodome was one that the visitors would like to forget as the Gophers swept a four-game set in 2006, shutting down the Hoosier bats and eliminating IU from a shot at the Big Ten Tournament. Indiana has lost seven of its last eight to the Gophers in Minneapolis.
SCOUTING THE GOPHERS
Minnesota is led offensively by the duo of Matt Nohelty and Nate Hanson, as Nohelty is among the league leaders with a .419 average and 20 runs. Hanson is tied for tops in the Big Ten with nine doubles this season and is hitting .360.
The big lefty had a career day at the plate against Xavier, hitting three singles and adding a double for a career-best four hits in his first four at-bats. He came to the plate in the eighth with a chance to match the school record of five hits, but popped out in his final attempt. Schutz drove in three runs and scored one to help the Hoosiers to victory.
In the second game against IPFW, Schutz came to the plate in the bottom of the fifth with Josh Phegley on first and two down with Indiana up 2-0. He swung at the first pitch he saw and launched it deep over the wall in right center for his second homer to increase the Indiana lead to 4-0.
Schutz began the 2007 season as one of the top freshmen in the Big Ten, and was named to the AutoZone Classic All-Tournament Team after hitting .545 and slugging .727 for the weekend in Memphis. But his season came to a screeching halt in the seventh game of the season, when he collided with the outfield wall of Indiana State's Sycamore Field, breaking his collarbone and ending his season.
But the Hoosiers warmed up in the California sun, smashing five home runs (all by different players) in the eight games in Fresno. IU got hotter as the trip wore on as well, hitting a pair of home runs in each of the final two games at the PJQ Classic - each one the first career longball for the player.
It marked the first back-to-back multi-homer games for the Hoosiers since April 25 and 30, 2004, against Illinois and Ohio State, respectively. That year, the Hoosiers rocked 57 dingers on the season.
With Kipp Schutz' two-run homer against IPFW, Indiana has already equaled last season's total as it has launched eight balls out of the ballpark through 17 games, led by Schutz' two. Additionally, the Hoosiers have one each of the bats of Ethan Wilson, Josh Phegley, Earley, Tyler Rogers, Jerrud Sabourin and Tyler Cox. The Hoosiers have an aggregate .446 slugging percentage on the season, up over 100 points from last year's .335. Through just 17 games, Indiana is nearly halfway (120) to last year's total of 244 runs as well.
BEHIND THE DISH
Phegley has also been a standout behind the plate, as the backstop has displayed one of the best arms in the Midwest, if not the nation. Opponents have attempted just 19 steals against Phegley, and he has retired nine of them. His 52.6 stolen base percentage against is tops in the conference for everyday catchers. Last year runners ran at a 64.6 clip against him.
Against Valparaiso, the Terre Haute native went 5-for-5 with five RBI and four runs scored and hit for the cycle - the first for an Indiana player since Joe Kemp did so against Michigan State on May 7, 2005. Phegley also matched IU's school record with his five hits.
THE FOUR TOPS
In IU's 10 wins, the foursome has gone a collective 79-for-182 (.434 average) with 58 runs scored, 48 RBI and a .599 slugging percentage. Conversely, in losses, the top four hitters have gone 32-for-110 (.291 average) and have scored just 11 runs.
Crawford has been the extreme example, as his .535 average in Hoosier victories is best on the team, but he is just 4-for-26 (.154) in losses this year.
A MEANS STREAK
Means saw his hitting streak snapped at 14 games after going 0-for-4 with a walk against Xavier, but he has registered a hit in 15 of IU's 17 games this season. Dating back to the start of a 15-game streak last year, Means has hits in 33 of his last 38 games. Over those 38 games Means has a .390 average with 32 runs, six doubles and six triples.
On the basepaths, Means has been just as important to the Hoosier offense this season, as he is 9-for-9 in stolen bases. He was 27-for-30 in 2007 and 16-for-18 in 2006, giving him a career total of 52-for-57 (91.2 percent).
The two-sport athlete was also a star on the gridiron in 2007. As a sophomore wide receiver, Means finished second on the team with 559 receiving yards and third among Hoosiers with 48 receptions, helping IU Football to its first bowl appearance in 14 years.
NOT CRAW-LING ALONG
Crawford showed some lack of focus leading up to the Pepsi/Johnny Quik Classic, and as a result the coaching staff elected to put him in the stands for the second of a two-game series against Fresno State. Since that time, Crawford has been locked in, as he leads the team with a .447 average. He also has been on the ball defensively, as he has 37 assists and has turned five double plays.
Crawford was named the PJQ Classic All-Tournament Offensive Player, as chosen by the media. Crawford hit .464 for the tournament, tied for tops on the team, drove in eight runs and stole five bases to help the team to a third-place finish. Crawford was joined on the honors list by Gonzaga catcher Grant Kveder (Most Valuable Player), Fresno State pitcher Tanner Scheppers (All-Tournament Pitcher) and Fresno State second baseman Erik Wetzel (All-Tournament Defensive Player).
ON THE LEADERBOARD
Bashore has been arguably the top pitcher in the conference so far, as he leads the Big Ten in ERA (1.62), innings (33.1) and strikeouts (41) and is fourth in batting average against (.190). He is dominating the conference in Ks as he is now 15 ahead of second place. Leiendecker has three wins on the year, tied for tops in the league.
On the offensive side, Josh Phegley is among the leaders in average (fifth, .446), slugging (fourth, .615), on-base percentage (third, .519) and runs (second, 20). Additionally, Andrew Means leads the league in runs (24) and triples (4) and is second with his 30 hits and nine stolen bases. Evan Crawford is among the leaders in steals (fifth, 7), triples (third, 2) and batting average (ninth, .391). Crawford is also second in the Big Ten in assists (52).
Nationally, both Means and Bashore have shown up on the leaderboard, as Bashore is currently 13th in the NCAA with his 41 strikeouts, and is just 10 Ks out of second, though San Diego's Brian Matusz has a dominating lead with his 71 punchouts. Bashore is also 38th in the country with his 1.62 ERA. Means is tied for seventh in the country with his four triples on the year and is 18th with 1.44 runs scored per game.
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