Hoosiers Welcome Illini to Sembower Field This Weekend

    Go Hoosiers! Josh Phegley and the Hoosiers open their home Big Ten slate with a four-game series against Illinois from Saturday to Monday at Sembower Field.
    Go Hoosiers!
    Josh Phegley and the Hoosiers open their home Big Ten slate with a four-game series against Illinois from Saturday to Monday at Sembower Field.
    Go Hoosiers!

    April 4, 2008

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    ILLINOIS (14-7, 3-1) AT INDIANA (13-9, 2-2)
    Sembower Field (1,500) • Bloomington, Ind,

    Saturday, April 5 - 1 p.m. EDT
    GameTracker | Live Audio

    IU: LHP Matt Bashore (2-2, 1.62)
    ILL: RHP Kevin Manson (3-0, 3.96)

    Sunday, April 6 - 1 p.m. EDT

    GameTracker | Live Audio

    IU: RHP Tyler Tufts (2-3, 5.82)
    ILL: RHP Mike Stankiewicz (2-2, 4.78)

    Sunday, April 6 - 3 p.m. EDT
    GameTracker | Live Audio

    IU: TBA
    ILL: RHP Scott Shaw (2-1, 7.01)

    Monday, April 7 - 3 p.m. EDT
    GameTracker | Live Audio

    IU: RHP Eric Arnett (2-0, 4.37)
    ILL: RHP Aaron Martin (3-2, 2.57)

    Indiana's opening Big Ten series is a clash between two of the hottest teams in the conference right now, as the Hoosiers play host to the Fighting Illini of Illinois. U of I comes to Bloomington having won 11 of 13 games and 12 of 15, while IU has won 10 of its last 12 and is 4-0 at Sembower Field. The Illini are playing on the road for the second straight weekend, as they traveled to East Lansing last weekend and took three out of four from Michigan State. Indiana split with Minnesota to open its conference play.

    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.

    Tracy Smith is in his third season as Indiana baseball's head coach. In his three years at the helm of the Hoosiers, IU is 52-78. In 2007, Smith led one of the youngest teams in the country, with 19 freshmen and six sophomores, to a 19-win season. He has also been instrumental in the development of junior centerfielder Andrew Means, who earned second team All-Big Ten honors for the Hoosiers after hitting .369 with 30 RBIs, 32 runs and 27 stolen bases. In 11 years as a head coach, Smith has a career record of 369-298-1 (.553).

    Indiana and Illinois have faced off over 150 times with the Illini leading the all-time series 97-65-1. Recently, the Illini have held a slight edge due to a four-game sweep last year at Illinois Field, but prior to that series, the Hoosiers and U of I split four game series in each season from 2003-05 and Indiana took three of four from Illinois in 2006.

    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.

    Illinois enters the weekend as one of the hottest teams in the conference, as U of I has won 11 of its last 13 games. Illinois opened Big Ten play with a series against Michigan State in East Lansing and emerged with three out of the four games. The pitching staff for the Illini held MSU to just 11 runs over the four-game series. Since then, U of I has taken midweek contests from Southern Illinois (5-2) and Saint Louis (9-2) to move to 14-7 on the year.

    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.

    Indiana has had the same top four hitters in all but one game this season, and those top four hitters have been vital to Indiana's success. Andrew Means, Evan Crawford, Josh Phegley and Kipp Schutz have been IU's top four hitters this year, and so far they have been the best top four in the conference.

    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.

    Redshirt freshman Kipp Schutz, back after taking a medical redshirt last season, has barely missed a step since returning to the field. The Evansville, Ind., native, who has started every game as the right fielder and cleanup hitter for the Hoosiers, is second on the team behind Josh Phegley in RBI (20), slugging (.541) and is third in on-base percentage (.450). He and Phegley are tied for the team lead with two longballs each.

    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.

    So far the confines of Sembower Field have been friendly to the Hoosiers, especially for the Indiana pitching staff. IU is 4-0 at home in the early going this season due in large part to excellent pitching. Hoosier hurlers have posted a 1.75 ERA and have allowed opponents to score just 10 runs at Sembower Field. IU opponents are hitting just .222 in the four games at Sembower with just four extra-base hits.

    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.

    Indiana entered this year as a statistical non-threat to knock a ball out of the park, as the Hoosiers hit just eight home runs a year ago and returned just three longballs from last season. In fact, the Hoosiers entered the season with just eight collegiate home runs - the three returning from 2007 plus Michael Earley's five at Cincinnati last year.

    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.

    Sophomore catcher Josh Phegley has been one of the top performers in the Big Ten this year, as he is among the conference leaders in batting average (third, .420), slugging percentage (fourth, .605), on-base percentage (fourth, .480), runs (fifth, 22) and RBI (fourth, 22). Additionally, he is one of just five conference players with an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of over 1.000, as he currently clocks in at 1.085. As of Monday, he was ranked among the leaders in batting average in the nation, clocking in 26th in the country.

    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.

    Junior centerfielder Andrew Means has posted a hot start to the 2008 season, as he has scored a Big Ten-leading 30 runs in 22 Hoosier games this season. He is six runs ahead of second place - held by Minnesota's Matt Nohelty and Iowa's Kevin Hoef. He also leads the conference with his four triples on the year. As of March 30, he was tied for ninth in the nation in that category. His 1.43 runs per game ranked him 11th in the nation and his 13 steals placed him 27th in the country.

    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.

    More than any other inning, the score at the end of the sixth has been crucial to victory for Indiana in Tracy Smith's tenure in Bloomington. When the Hoosiers have led at the end of the six innings, IU is 44-3 over the last three years, including an 11-0 mark this season. When Indiana trails heading into the seventh, the team is just 5-66. Even more interesting is the fact that this season the Hoosiers have done the bulk of their scoring in the sixth. IU has scored 37 of its 147 runs in the sixth and has allowed just 12 in the frame.

    Sophomore second baseman Evan Crawford has continued to shine in his second season with the Hoosiers. The Reynoldsburg, Ohio, native has put together a .379 average with 15 runs, 15 RBI and nine stolen bases on the season. His hits have come in bunches this year, as he is tied for the team lead with six games this season of three hits or more.

    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).

    Crawford's honor was his second on the season, as he was named to the Austin Peay Invitational All-Tournament Team along with fellow Hoosiers Matt Bashore, Andrew Means and Josh Phegley.

    Senior reliever Chris McCombs is one of just nine upperclassmen on the roster, and has done a good job of leading by example on the mound for the Hoosiers. He had an impressive outing against Xavier, coming in with runners at second and third and one out in the top of the fifth. He got Robbie Kelley to strike out and then Jordan Conley grounded out to end the threat. He finished the game with three Ks in 1 2/3 innings and collected the win for IU.

    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.

    For the second straight year, IU earned a series split with Minnesota after dropping the first two games. But doing so on the road was far more important, as prior to Saturday's Game 2 win, the Hoosiers had lost 15 consecutive road Big Ten contests dating back to an 11-3 victory over Purdue last season. It marked the first series split for the Hoosiers in Minneapolis since 1963 (when the conference only played two games per series) and the first time IU had won two games in one trip to face the Gophers since 1942. It was also the first Big Ten road series split since IU took two from Penn State in 2006.




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