Hoosiers Welcome Illini to Sembower Field This Weekend
April 4, 2008
ILLINOIS (14-7, 3-1) AT INDIANA (13-9, 2-2)
IU: LHP Matt Bashore (2-2, 1.62)
Sunday, April 6 - 1 p.m. EDT
IU: RHP Tyler Tufts (2-3, 5.82)
IU: RHP Eric Arnett (2-0, 4.37)
THE FIRST PITCH
IU is coming off a 5-2 midweek victory over Miami, where it allowed just two hits to the visiting RedHawks, including six innings of one-hit ball by Doug Fleenor. The Illini won both of their midweek contests, taking a 5-2 victory over Southern Illinois on Tuesday and following that with a 9-2 win over Saint Louis on Wednesday.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
The last time IU squared off with Illinois at Sembower Field, the Hoosiers took three of four in 2006, representing the last Big Ten series win for Indiana. In the series, Doug Fleenor and Tyler Tufts each registered complete-game victories, including a five-hit shutout by Fleenor in the series finale. Reggie Watson went 7-for-13 in that series while Tyler Cox hit .500 and scored three runs.
SCOUTING THE ILLINI
Kyle Hudson leads the offense with his .400 average and 15 steals, while Dominic Altobelli has provided the bulk of the power with his three homers, six doubles and 17 RBI. The staff as a whole has an aggregate 5.15 ERA, led by Aaron Martin at 2.57. Kevin Manson and Mike Stankiewicz have been solid in the rotation as well.
THE FOUR TOPS
All four are hitting at .376 or higher this season and have a combined average of .390 on their 138 hits in 354 at-bats. No other Big Ten squad has more than two starters swinging the bats at better than a .375 clip. All four are currently in the top 13 in the league in batting average.
The foursome has been even more impressive in Hoosier victories this season. All four are hitting over .390 in games that IU has won, and the quartet has gone a collective 93-for-215 (.433 average) with 86 runs scored, 59 RBI and a .609 slugging percentage. Conversely, in losses, the top four hitters have gone 45-for-139 and have scored just 15 runs.
Crawford has been the extreme example, as his .491 average in Hoosier victories is best on the team, but he is just 7-for-34 (.206) in losses this year.
In his first career Big Ten series, Schutz went 7-for-15 with three doubles, four RBI and three runs. His biggest hit came in the series finale, when he stroked a ninth-inning double high off the bags in right field of the Metrodome to bring home a pair of runs and give IU the lead over Minnesota. The weekend followed a career day at the plate against Xavier for the redshirt freshman, as he hit three singles and added a double for a career-best four hits. Schutz also drove in three runs and scored one to help the Hoosiers to victory.
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.
HOME SWEET HOME
The Hoosier bats have yet to heat up in Bloomington, as IU is hitting .277 at home as compared to .322 overall this season. Chris Hervey is the only regular with a significantly higher batting average at Sembower Field, as he is hitting .375 at home this year. Andrew Means, on the other hand, is just 2-for-15 on the year in Bloomington.
But the Hoosiers have already eclipsed last year's total, as Josh Phegley's bomb against Minnesota gave them nine for the season. Indiana has had seven different players hit home runs and the surge has gotten larger as of late, as IU has hit six of the nine home runs in its last nine games.
Phegley and Kipp Schutz lead the way with two homers apiece. Additionally, the Hoosiers have one each off the bats of Ethan Wilson, Earley, Tyler Rogers, Jerrud Sabourin and Tyler Cox. The Hoosiers have an aggregate .436 slugging percentage on the season, up over 100 points from last year's .335. Through just 22 games, Indiana is already more than halfway (147) to last year's total of 244 runs.
BEHIND THE DISH
He furthered his quest for an All-Big Ten selection in his opening conference weekend by hitting .385 with four RBI, a double and a monstrous home run to deep left center in the third game of the season. Players and staff with the Gophers called it the longest Metrodome home run they had ever seen by a college player in the facility.
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 23 steals against Phegley, and he has retired 11 of them. His 52.2 stolen base percentage against is tops in the conference for everyday catchers. Last year runners stole 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 a Hoosier since May 7, 2005. He also matched IU's school record with his five hits.
A MEANS STREAK
Means saw his hitting streak snapped at 14 games after going 0-for-4 with a walk against Xavier, but he tallied a hit in each of the four games at Minnesota and has registered a hit in 19 of IU's 22 games this season. Dating back to the start of a 15-game streak last year, Means has hits in 37 of his last 43 games.
On the basepaths, Means has been just as important to the Hoosier offense this season, as he is 13-for-15 in stolen bases. He was 27-for-30 in 2007 and 16-for-18 in 2006, giving him a career total of 56-for-63 (88.9 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 .411 average.
He also has been on the ball defensively, as he has 54 assists and has turned nine double plays. He has a .955 fielding percentage (.867 prior) since being benched as well. The Hoosiers have gone 10-4 over that time period as well.
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).
He followed that with two key performances in wins at Minnesota. In IU's 8-3 victory, he threw the final 2 1/3 innings, scattering three hits and allowing just a ninth-inning unearned run. In the series finale, he came in with two outs in the ninth and the tying run at the plate and got Kyle Knudson to bounce to shortstop to end the game. He is now 1-0 with two saves, a 1.69 ERA and a .171 batting average against in seven relief appearances on the season.
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