Penn State Comes to Sembower For Weekend Series

    Go Hoosiers! Kipp Schutz and his teammates return to Sembower Field for a three-game set against Penn State.
    Go Hoosiers!
    Kipp Schutz and his teammates return to Sembower Field for a three-game set against Penn State.
    Go Hoosiers!

    April 17, 2009

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    Penn State at Indiana
    Sembower Field • Bloomington, Ind.

    April 17 • 3 p.m. ET
    IU - LHP Blake Monar (4-2, 4.18) | PSU - RHP T.J. Macy (2-2, 3.20)
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    April 18 • 1 p.m. ET
    IU - RHP Eric Arnett (7-1, 2.00) | PSU - LHP Calvin Grumley (2-1, 7.38)
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    April 19 • 1 p.m. ET
    IU - LHP Matt Bashore (2-3, 5.32) | PSU - LHP Mike Lorentson (1-4, 6.30)
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    The first-place Hoosiers will take on their first home series in three weeks by hosting Penn State for three games at Sembower Field. The Hoosiers have won four in a row and nine of their last 11 to improve to 6-2 in conference play, tied with Minnesota for the best record in the Big Ten. IU took three games at Iowa on the strength of impressive starting pitching over the weekend, topping the Hawkeyes 6-2, 5-1 and 8-4. Blake Monar and Eric Arnett each threw complete games and Matt Bashore went 8 1/3 innings in the victories. Chris Squires, the only man used out of the bullpen, came in to induce a game-ending double play in the Sunday finale, and threw just four pitches. IU enters the weekend at 16-17 with a chance to be at .500 for the first time since the Hoosiers were 3-3 on March 3. This weekend kicks off a string of five straight home contests for IU and a stretch where 10 of Indiana's last 17 games will be at home. Penn State is 20-14 overall and 4-5 in the Big Ten after losing two of three to Purdue in University Park last weekend.

    The Hoosiers last met up with Penn State in last season's Big Ten Tournament. After falling to the third seeded Nittany Lions in the tournament opener 6-1, Indiana rebounded and capped off three straight victories with an 11-8 win over PSU. The 7-8-9 hitters powered the Hoosier offense against Penn State as Evan Crawford, Ethan Wilson and Tyler Cox smacked nine of the 15 IU hits and drove in nine of the 11 Indiana RBI. After making a crucial error in the top of the ninth, Cox came up with the bases loaded and one out and crushed a game-ending grand slam - the first extra base hit given up by PSU closer Drew O'Neil all year. The play was No. 2 on ESPN's SportsCenter that night.

    Indiana is in its fourth year under the direction of Tracy Smith. In his time at the helm of the Hoosiers, IU is 85-118. Smith is now 405-336-1 (.546) in his 13th season as a head coach. The 2008 season was a significant upward turn for the Hoosiers, as Indiana made its first Big Ten Tournament appearance since 2004 by rallying for a sixth-place finish in the regular season. IU then eliminated Ohio State, Illinois and Penn State at the conference tournament before falling in the semifinals to Purdue. With a 31-30 record on the season, IU had its finest season in Smith's tenure.

    Penn State is in its fifth year under current head coach Robbie Wine. Before accepting the head coaching post at PSU, Wine was an assistant coach in charge of hitting at national power Oklahoma State, where the Cowboy offense flourished under his guidance. Wine is the first coach in Penn State history to lead the team to consecutive seasons finishing in the top three of the Big Ten.

    Junior Eric Arnett has emerged as one of the top arms in the Big Ten in 2009 as he is among the conference leaders in every category. This week, his efforts finally gained him conference honors, as he was named Big Ten co-Pitcher of the Week on Monday.

    Arnett delivered his third straight complete game over the weekend, hurling a two-hitter with a career-best 11 strikeouts. It is the junior's first weekly honor from the conference. After allowing consecutive doubles in the second inning on Saturday, Arnett did not allow a hit the rest of the game. He walked two in the contest and struck out at least one batter in each of the first eight innings, including three in the second.

    After an impressive Big Ten opener against Minnesota, Arnett somehow outdid himself against Illinois. The junior pitched a brilliant game on Saturday to outduel U of I hurler Ben Reeser. Arnett became the first Hoosier to pitch 10 innings in a game when he picked up his sixth win of the season with a 1-2-3 10th. Amazingly, he was still hitting 94 on the radar guns in his final inning. His final line showed him allowing seven hits and two walks, striking out six and allowing just one run in the contest.

    The junior lowered his overall ERA to 2.00, and he has thrown complete games in each of his three Big Ten starts. His seven wins are also atop the conference and his 63.0 innings are second, while his 63 strikeouts are fourth in the Big Ten. In conference action, Arnett is holding opposing hitters to a .155 average with just 15 hits and six walks in 28 innings (0.75 WHIP). He holds a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.5:1 in Big Ten play with his 27 Ks.

    Arnett did not have a typical offseason, as he tried out for the basketball team and earned a roster spot. He served as a key post player during practice for the first 2 1/2 months of the season. Due to scholarship limitations, he could not play in a game, but practiced with the team until early January.

    THE 400 CLUB
    With last Friday's 14-4 win over Illinois, head coach Tracy Smith picked up his 400th career victory as a collegiate skipper. Smith is now 405-336-1 (.546) in his 13th season at the helm of a college program.The Kentland, Ind., native improved his record with the Hoosiers to 88-118 in his fourth season at the head of the program.

    The 2008 season was a significant upward turn for the Hoosiers, as Indiana made its first Big Ten Tournament appearance since 2004 by rallying for a sixth-place finish in the regular season. IU then eliminated Ohio State, Illinois and Penn State at the conference tournament before falling in the semifinals to Purdue. Last year Indiana went 15-17 in the Big Ten, the best mark in Smith's three seasons at the helm.

    Smith amassed a 317-220-1 (.590) record with Miami and a MAC regular-season mark of 152-95 (.615). He led the RedHawks to eight straight 30-win seasons, marking only the second time the program had accomplished that feat, and he finished his career in Oxford ranked third on MU's all-time wins list.

    While Josh Phegley is the most feared hitter in the Indiana lineup, freshman Alex Dickerson has begun to establish himself as one of the conference's top power hitters.

    Dickerson is a staple among the league's top 10, both overall and just in conference games. He is tied for second in the league with 10 home runs and his 94 total bases lead the conference and are six better than anyone else in the Big Ten. His .388 average (sixth), .701 slugging percentage (second), 39 RBI (T-third) and 52 hits (second) are all among the conference's top 10.

    The Poway, Calif., native has also developed a penchant for hitting key home runs. In the opening weekend against Minnesota, he drilled a go-ahead, two-run homer in Indiana's 3-2 victory. Then in the second game against Illinois, he hit his eighth homer of the year in the top of the 10th to give IU a 2-1 victory. He added a two-run shot in the series finale and was named co-Big Ten Player of the Week for his efforts against the Illini.

    He did not go deep against Iowa, but the fear of his power led to the Hawks issuing him three intentional walks on Sunday. Dickerson, who had a 15-game hitting streak this season, has had two hits or more 18 times and has posted seven three-hit games.

    While Josh Phegley's impressive numbers (.376 average, 9 HR, 40 RBI) have been among the best in the conference, his performance has been remarkably consistent regardless of whether the team wins or loses (.387 in wins, .365 in losses). However, the batters who surround him in the lineup have had remarkably better numbers in victories as compared to defeats.

    Jerrud Sabourin, who has been in the two hole for the last 25 games, has a .426 average with six doubles, three home runs, 19 runs and an .706 slugging percentage in the games that Indiana has won. But in losses, he is hitting at just a .290 clip with two extra-base hits and a .319 slugging average.

    Alex Dickerson's splits are similar in wins versus losses. The freshman is hitting .476 with eight doubles, seven homers, 27 RBI and an astonishing .937 slugging average. But in IU's 17 losses, he is hitting just .310 with a .355 on-base average and a .493 slugging percentage. He and Sabourin have combined for 59 hits in IU's 16 wins on the year.

    Another key to victories has been the longball. Indiana has 24 homers in wins to just five for its opposition, while IU has 10 bombs in losses to 12 for its combatants. Indiana has posted a .964 fielding percentage in wins as well.

    By taking all three games from Iowa, Indiana earned its first series sweep of 2009. It marks the second time in the last four Big Ten series (at Michigan State, 5/15-5/17, 2008) that Indiana has earned a road sweep. That sweep was IU's first since a 1999 sweep of Northwestern, meaning that the Hoosiers have now swept two series out of four after going 71 series without a sweep in the Big Ten.

    Interestingly enough, all three of the aforementioned sweeps came on the road. The Hoosiers have not swept a home weekend series since 1998, when IU took all four games from Northwestern at Sembower Field (4/17-4/19).

    With the sweep at Iowa, the Hoosiers extended their streak of splitting or winning conference series to seven weekends. IU is one of just three teams (Minnesota, Purdue) this year that is yet to lose a conference set. At 6-2, Indiana is off to its best conference start since 2002.

    Indiana's string of seven series without a loss is the longest in the Big Ten. Over the last seven conference series, the Hoosiers have a 17-7 record (.708), the best of any Big Ten team.

    Matt Bashore and Eric Arnett came into the preseason as IU's top two starters, but with the emergence of Friday starter Blake Monar, those two have been dropped down in the rotation.

    Monar, a High School All-American and a 26th-round selection of the New York Yankees, has been incredibly strong. His first start was a solid debut against USF in the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge, and his second - against Le Moyne - was even more impressive, Monar scattered four hits, striking out six, in seven innings against the Dolphins.

    Monar struggled in his conference debut, as his curveball was off and he picked up the loss in six innings of work against Minnesota. He upped his game on Friday against Illinois, though, picking up his third win of the season with seven strong innings. He allowed just four hits over his final four innings of work and struck out a career-high seven.

    He followed that up by increasing his career highs in both innings and strikeouts at Iowa. The freshman punched out nine Hawkeyes in his first career complete game, allowing just two runs on 10 hits and two walks. The southpaw bore down in tight situations, forcing Iowa to strand 10 baserunners in the contest.

    After a stellar 2008 season, Josh Phegley entered 2009 with high expectations. Though it has been an up-and-down season for the Preseason All-American, his numbers are still among the best in the conference.

    Phegley enters the weekend fifth in slugging (.672) and fifth in on-base percentage (.478). His 40 RBI are just three off the conference lead and with nine longballs, he is tied for fourth in the Big Ten. The junior has not seen very many pitches to hit, as he is third in the league with 25 walks. His 35 runs are also tied for second in the conference.

    Phegley posted his fourth career five-hit game against Morehead State, hitting three home runs and adding a double and single for six RBI. The huge game vaulted Phegley to his second career Big Ten Player of the Week mention and he was named to the College Baseball Foundation's National All-Star Lineup for Week Four.

    Phegley, who was a unanimous first team Preseason All-American at catcher this season, has played all over the field this year. The majority of his time has been spent behind the dish, but he has also appeared at third base and in both left and right field for the Hoosiers.

    Following IU's spring trip, Phegley offered his services to Coach Smith as a closer as well. The Terre Haute native was a pitcher in high school and made his debut on the mound against Cincinnati, striking out one in a perfect inning.




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