Hoosiers and Valpo Set for Midweek Clash

    Go Hoosiers! Micah Johnson brings a 16-game hitting streak into Tuesday night's game.
    Go Hoosiers!
    Micah Johnson brings a 16-game hitting streak into Tuesday night's game.
    Go Hoosiers!

    April 13, 2010

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    Indiana (15-15) at Valparaiso (11-18)
    U.S. Steel Yard • Gary, Ind.
    Tuesday, April 13 | 7 p.m. CT/8 p.m. ET
    IU - TBA | VALPO - RHP Austen Siwiec (0-1, 9.53)
    GameTracker | Live Audio

    All-time series: Indiana leads 31-12-1
    Last meeting: Indiana 9, Valparaiso 5, 4/8/09
    Last Valpo win: Valparaiso 12, Indiana 6, 3/29/05

    The Indiana baseball team travels to U.S. Steel Yard for a midweek matchup with Horizon League foe Valparaiso on Tuesday. The Hoosiers are coming into the game with a 15-15 overall record after losing two of three on the road to Ohio State, while Valpo is 11-18 with a pair of wins over Youngstown State last weekend. Micah Johnson was red hot over against the Buckeyes, going 7-for-13 with three doubles and two walks to stretch his hitting streak to 16 games.

    Indiana and Valparaiso squared off last year in Bloomington with the Hoosiers taking a 9-5 victory. Alex Dickerson and Tyler Rogers each had three hits, with Dickerson driving in three runs and Rogers scoring twice. Matt Carr picked up the win in relief by allowing two hits and one run over his three innings of work, while Chris Squires earned the save with 2 2/3 scoreless innings. Indiana holds a 31-12-1 edge in the all-time series and has won three straight matchups. The Hoosiers have not lost to Valpo in head coach Tracy Smith's tenure, and he is 3-0 against the Crusaders in his career.

    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 119-141. In 13 years as a head coach, Smith has a career record of 436-361-1 (.547). Tracy Woodson has an 82-111 career record and is in his fourth season at the helm of the Crusaders. He played five seasons in the major leagues for the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals.

    When Indiana University signed the top pitcher and hitter for one of the best high school teams in the nation in 2008, the Hoosiers knew that they were getting a pair of quality players who could help them toward the top of the Big Ten. But the return that IU has gotten out of Poway (Calif.) High School's Drew Leininger and Alex Dickerson this season has been extreme, as the two are among the top pitchers and hitters, respectively, in the Big Ten this year.

    Both also picked up honors over the last couple weeks, as Leininger earned a spot on the College Baseball Foundation's National Pitcher of the Year Watch List and Dickerson is among the favorites for Big Ten Player of the Year, as he leads the conference in home runs and RBI and is second in batting average. Leininger is one of three conference pitchers on the Watch List, joining Ohio State's Alex Wimmers and Northwestern's Francis Brooke.

    There may be no better turnaround in college baseball this year than the one put up by lefthander Drew Leininger. Just one year removed from posting a 9.91 ERA, Leininger has improved his numbers more than sevenfold, posting a 1.38 ERA in 52.1 innings of work.

    The southpaw leads the conference in ERA and is also best in the Big Ten with a .195 batting average against. He ranks among the national leaders in both categories. His five wins and 52.1 innings rank third in the conference.

    Leininger may have turned in his finest outing of the year against Ohio State on Saturday. The Poway native was victimized by some defensive miscues in his nine-inning victory, as he surrendered just four hits and two walks, striking out eight in the contest. All four runs he allowed were unearned, as two IU errors in the fourth turned a 1-2-3 inning into a four-run frame for the Buckeyes. Leininger posted five innings where he set down OSU in order, and it would have been seven if his defense had not committed errors. He did not allow a hit out of the infield after Brian DeLucia's grand slam with one out in the fourth.

    Leininger also put together one of the most remarkable streaks in Indiana baseball history earlier this year. On March 30, he saw his scoreless innings streak snapped at 28 2/3 with a two-run homer off the bat of Louisville's Andrew Clark. The scoreless streak is the best on record in Hoosier history. He did not allow a run - earned or unearned - between the second inning against West Virginia on Feb. 26 and the ninth inning on March 30, a span of 32 days.

    Q HIM UP
    After a midweek start at Xavier in March 2009, senior Chris "Q" Squires moved into the bullpen full-time for the Hoosiers, and since that time he has emerged as one of the top closers in the Big Ten, if not in the Midwest. On Saturday, he came on for a scoreless bottom of the 10th inning to post his 16th career save, setting a new IU record.

    On Sunday against the Buckeyes, he tried a new trick. In the eighth inning, the flashy righty struck out the side on 11 pitches, all of them changeups. He got eight swings and misses and one called strike with just two pitches out of the strike zone. He is currently striking out batters at a rate of 11.4 Ks per nine innings.

    The Ft. Wayne native is 2-1 on the season, and is second in the conference with 16 appearances and five saves. In save situations last year, Squires flourished even more, posting a 1.38 ERA and a .191 batting average against. This year, he has improved on those numbers, allowing just a .160 average with 12 strikeouts in converting all five save opportunities.

    Indiana knew it had recruited one of the most athletic players in the state when it signed Indianapolis Park Tudor prospect Micah Johnson, but the Hoosiers have gotten more than athleticism and talent out of the freshman. Johnson is one of the toughest players in the league, bringing a swagger and intensity to the game. He has also shown a propensity to play better when he is angry, earning him the nickname "The Bull" from broadcaster Jeremy Gray.

    Johnson had played exclusively in the middle infield and outfield before this spring, but knowing they needed to get his bat and his attitude in the lineup, the IU coaching staff put him at third base for the season opener against San Diego, a position he has played all but six innings at this season. It took him some time to get used to the throwing angle from third, but he has now gone 11 straight games without an error at the position.

    At the plate, he has been second to none, posting a .333 average with seven home runs, 27 RBI, 28 runs and five stolen bases. He is in the team's top five in all of those categories. Against Ohio State last weekend, he tallied two of IU's six hits off of Alex Wimmers and went 7-for-13 on the weekend with three doubles. He has also become a hero at home, winning a lucky fan the "Yogi's First Hit of the Game" prize on four occasions.




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