April 17, 2007
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SETTING THE SCENE
The Indiana baseball team will host Indiana State on Tuesday, April 17, for its final mid-week home game of the 2007 season. The Hoosiers and Sycamores met earlier this season, with ISU taking a 5-3 decision in Terre Haute on Tuesday, March 6. The Hoosiers are coming off a weekend in West Lafayette, where Purdue took three of four from IU. Indiana State lost two of three to Illinois State in Normal, Ill., last weekend.
LAST TIME OUT
The Indiana baseball team was bested in two of three contests by Purdue on Sunday, as the Boilers took the four-game series from the Hoosiers, 3-1. Hoosiers Andrew Means, Jon Fixler and Michael Nilles posted their first home runs of the year on the day, as IU fell to 14-17 (4-8 Big Ten). Purdue is now 16-13 (6-5).
The Hoosiers started the day with a 3-0 lead after Saturday's contest was suspended due to rain, but reliever Josh Groves got Purdue out of trouble with no further damage. The Boilers responded with a run in the bottom of the first off Matt Bashore on a walk, a wild pitch and a single to right field to make it 3-1.
After Purdue scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth to tie the score, the Hoosier bats exploded for four runs in each of the final two innings to walk away with the 11-3 win. Reid Briglia reached on an error to lead off the sixth and he moved to third on a sacrifice by Tyler Cox. Nilles followed with a line-drive triple to deep left-center field to give IU a 4-3 lead. Chris Hervey followed with a two-out double to right to plate Nilles. After Keith Haas walked, Evan Crawford ripped a double to right center to score a pair, but was thrown out at third to end the inning.
In game two, the Boilers notched eight hits and 10 runs in the first inning to walk away with a 13-0 victory. Purdue sent 16 men to the plate in the first off starter Jason Ferrell and reliever Eric Arnett. In the third and final game of the day, Purdue scored a come-from-behind, 11-7 victory to take the series, 3-1.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
Indiana holds a 42-33-2 all-time record against the Sycamores, including wins in four of the last five contests between the two teams. When they met on Tuesday, March 6, of this season, IU was bested by its in-state rival at Sycamore Field, 5-3. A first-inning grand slam by Nick Ciolli proved the difference in the game. Sterling Mack reached base three times and scored all three IU runs in the loss. Starter Chris Squires went just one inning, allowing five hits and four earned runs. The Hoosier bullpen of Billy Kitchen, Joe Vicini and J.T. Larson pitched the next seven innings, giving up just three hits and one unearned run and striking out six in the contest. Evan Crawford extended his hitting streak to seven games on a 1-for-3 effort from the plate, while Andrew Means went 3-for-4 at the dish.
SCOUTING THE SYCAMORES
Indiana State comes in to Tuesday's contest with a 17-16 overall record and a 2-7 mark in Missouri Valley Conference play. The Sycamores have won four straight non-conference games, with three of those four wins coming against Valparaiso. ISU most recently faced Illinois State in Normal, Ill., where the Redbirds took the first two games. The Sycamores rebounded to take game three with a 10-8 victory in the 13th inning.
Chris Schmidt leads the ISU bats with his .403 batting average, as he and Dave Brumagin (.330) are the only Sycamore regulars hitting over .300 on the season. Nick Ciolli, who hit a first-inning grand slam against Indiana, heads the power contingent with four home runs, while Brumagin has three long balls and 21 RBIs. The squad is hitting .278 as a unit with 189 runs in its 33 games.
On the mound, ISU has posted a 4.43 ERA, led by Matt Shelton's 2.36 average. Shelton has started each of ISU's last two mid-week contests, earning wins in each outing, and picked up a win in relief in ISU's extra-inning win over Illinois State. Shelton has been dominant this season, allowing opponents to hit just .171 while striking out 35 batters in 34 1/3 innings of work.
Indiana entered last weekend's action having hit just one home run, off the bat of senior Keith Haas, in 908 at-bats. Then, in the four-game set against Purdue, the IU bats exploded for four home runs in 117 at-bats on the weekend. Chris Hervey hit his first career home run on Friday, and Andrew Means, Michael Nilles and Jon Fixler followed with their first career blasts on Sunday.
The four home runs in the series were the most since the Hoosiers blasted seven against Michigan State from May 8-10, 2004. The wrapped up a string of four straight weekends in which the Hoosiers bashed four or more home runs. When Means and Nilles both bashed home runs in the top of the seventh, it marked the first time two Hoosiers had hit homers in the same inning since Haas and Reggie Watson went back-to-back in the third against Eastern Illinois on March 12.
Nilles pulled an even rarer feat in the second game of the series, as he hit a triple in the sixth before hitting his bomb to left field. He became the first Hoosier to hit a triple and a homer in the same game since Joe Kemp hit for the cycle against Michigan State on May 7, 2005.
HERV HEATING UP
Sophomore Chris Hervey posted a strong weekend for the Hoosiers in West Lafayette, going 4-for-13 with two doubles and a home run. His .692 slugging percentage led the team on the weekend, and he scored three runs and drove in two in the four-game series. Hervey raised his season average to .246 on the season with the surge and tripled his season doubles total with his efforts.
IT'S A FIX
Junior Jon Fixler, who has seen significant time both at first base and behind the plate this season, has buffed up his numbers over the last 13 games. Since conference play started on March 30, Fixler sits atop the team with a .326 average and a .488 slugging percentage. In the series finale against Purdue, Fixler hit a two-run homer over the right-field fence in the top of the sixth inning, and followed that up with a two-run double in the top of the seventh. His four-RBI game was his second such contest of the season, as he also turned the trick against Florida A&M on March 17.
THE END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS
Sophomore Andrew Means has put together a breakthrough season in his second year for the Hoosiers. Means is hitting .343 with a team-leading 16 steals and 21 runs this season and has been one of the most dangerous players on the basepaths in the conference this season. In game two at Purdue, Means added some power to his resume, as he ripped his first career home run on an 0-1 pitch, sending a line drive high into the screen above the left-center field wall at Lambert Field.
On Tuesday, March 20, Means was named the Big Ten Player of the Week after a week in which he hit .500 with seven RBIs, eight runs, two doubles and eight steals in five games. It was his first weekly honor from the conference and the first honor for a Hoosier since Reggie Watson was named Player of the Week on May 16, 2006. Means was also named to the College Baseball Foundation's National Honor Roll for his performance.
The sophomore is also a wide receiver on the Indiana football team. In 2006, he made 20 catches for 263 yards and a touchdown for the Hoosiers. Last season, the two-sport athlete hit .301 with 16 stolen bases for the Hoosier baseball squad.
PAIR OF ACES
Freshman Matt Bashore and sophomore Tyler Tufts have shined on the mound for the Hoosiers this season, as both are hovering near the top 10 in league ERA this season. Bashore is currently 10th with a 2.93 ERA and Tufts is just behind him with a 3.13 average.
Despite posting strong outings against Purdue, neither Bashore nor Tufts was able to pick up a victory over the Boilermakers. Tufts was credited with a complete-game loss after allowing four runs in his eight innings of work to fall to 3-4 on the season. Bashore picked up a no-decision against PU in game two, allowing four hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings.
BIG TEN LEADERBOARD
Several Hoosiers have found their way onto the Big Ten leaderboard this season. Andrew Means entered the week four behind Illinois' Shawn Roof (20) for the league lead in steals. As a team, Indiana's 61 steals are most in the league with three more than Illinois. Defensively, Keith Haas leads the league with 108 assists on the year and is third with his 25 double plays. Third baseman Tyler Cox leads his position and is fifth in the conference with 84 assists.
Along with his ranking in league ERA, Bashore is currently fourth in the league in batting average against and leads all freshmen in both categories. Tufts leads the league in innings pitched with 60 2/3. Reliever Joe Vicini is second in the conference with 14 appearances on the season. Additionally, Haas leads the conference in both total plate appearances and at-bats on the season.
While sophomore Tyler Tufts has been one of the top pitchers on the team, his contributions have come from other places than on the hill. The Sagamore Hills, Ohio, native has earned two starts in left field over the last two weeks, and each has seen him produce at the plate. In his debut, against Michigan State on April 1, Tufts went 2-for-3 with a walk and scored the Hoosiers' only run. In his second contest in left, Tufts scored a hit in two at-bats. The sophomore has struck out once and has made three putouts in left.
In Indiana's 10-9 victory over North Florida on Wednesday, March 14, the Hoosiers swiped a season-high nine bases, the most since IU stole 12 bases against Indiana State on April 18, 2006. Against UNF, Andrew Means and Evan Crawford each stole three bags to lead the visitors.
In his two years with the Hoosiers, head coach Tracy Smith has shown an affinity to be aggressive on the basepaths, and the 2007 Hoosiers have followed suit. IU has attempted 76 steals on the year to its opponents' 37. Indiana has been successful on 54 of its attempts this year.
Means and Crawford sit 1-2 on the team in steals with 16 and 13, respectively, while Keith Haas is 8-for-9 on the season. Seven other players for the Hoosiers have more than one steal on the season.
MILESTONE FOR SMITH
On Friday, March 30, Indiana not only earned a 2-1 victory over Michigan State, but the Hoosier victory also marked career win number 350 for head coach Tracy Smith. Smith won 317 games in his nine years at Miami of Ohio and the 2-1 win was his 33rd as IU's skipper. Smith now holds a career record of 353-271-1 (.566) and a 36-51 mark in his two seasons at Indiana.
Senior Keith Haas is at a new position - shortstop - but his performance over the first 27 games have been reminiscent of the 2006 all-region selection's previous campaign. So far this season, Haas has hit .317 and has one home run. His 18 RBIs tie him with Jon Fixler for second on the squad, while he is one behind Andrew Means for the team lead in runs with 20.
Haas led the team with a .353 average last season, spending most of his time in the leadoff spot. His 108 assists are tops in the league and he has helped the IU defense turn 30 groundball double plays - tops in the conference - already this season. He has stolen eight bases in nine attempts this season.
When junior David Trager entered the Friday, March 16, game against Florida A&M in the bottom of the first inning, he was the last person expecting to make history. But Trager did just that, entering the game to replace Evan Crawford at second, then posting hits in each of his five at-bats to become the eighth player in school history to record five hits in a single game. Trager, who entered the contest 0-for-4 on the season in limited action, hit doubles in the third and fourth and singles in the sixth, seventh and ninth to match the school record. On the same note, outfielder Chris Hervey broke out of his early-season swoon in the game, going 4-for-4 at the plate with a ninth-inning walk.
When the Hoosiers exploded for 16 runs and 20 hits against Eastern Illinois on March 2, it marked the highest total in each category in the Tracy Smith era for the Hoosiers. Indiana posted two innings - the third and the ninth - of six runs or more and batted around in each inning.
ARE YOU NEW HERE?
The 2007 Hoosiers will look quite different from their 2006 counterparts, largely due to the fact that 19 of the 34 players on the roster are new to the program. Eighteen of the 19 players are freshmen for IU. So far, freshman Evan Crawford has started 30 games for IU, while Josh Phegley has 24 starts and Sterling Mack has 16. Junior newcomer Reid Briglia has played in 20 games with 16 starts on the year.