Hoosiers Face Nittany Lions in Road Series

    Go Hoosiers! Matt Bashore is scheduled to start Friday's game against Penn State.
    Go Hoosiers!
    Matt Bashore is scheduled to start Friday's game against Penn State.
    Go Hoosiers!

    April 18, 2008

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    INDIANA (15-18, 4-8) AT PENN STATE (11-21, 4-8)
    Medlar Field at Lubrano Park (5,406) • University Park, Pa.

    Friday, April 18 - 6:35 p.m. EDT
    GameTracker | Live Audio
    IU: LHP Matt Bashore (3-2, 2.72)
    PSU: RHP Ryan Stobart (1-2, 4.43)

    Saturday, April 19 - 4:35 p.m. EDT
    GameTracker | Live Audio
    IU: TBA
    PSU: RHP Mike Wanamaker (2-4, 3.26)

    Saturday, April 12 - 7:05 p.m. EDT
    GameTracker | Live Audio
    IU: TBA
    PSU: LHP Mike Lorentson (3-4, 6.00)

    Sunday, April 13 - 1:05 p.m. EDT
    GameTracker | Live Audio
    IU: RHP Chris McCombs (2-0, 4.43)
    PSU: TBA

    Indiana heads to University Park, Pa., for what could be a crucial four-game series for the Hoosiers. IU and PSU are tied with Iowa for eighth place in the conference, and looming on the horizon for the Hoosiers are series against first-place Michigan and second-place Purdue in Bloomington. Indiana has lost five games in a row since posting a dramatic, 13-12 win over Iowa in the series opener between the two teams. After struggling against the Hawkeyes, the Hoosier pitching staff has seen significant improvement, holding both Louisville and Ball State to five runs in the team's midweek games.

    Penn State has lost four of its last five after seeing Purdue take three of four in West Lafayette last weekend. PSU also lost a mid-week game to Akron on Wednesday, 5-3.

    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 54-87. 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 371-307-1 (.547).

    Indiana and Penn State have met 55 times in the history of the two programs, and the Nittany Lions hold a 30-25 edge in the all-time series. In each of the last three series between the teams, it has resulted in a 2-2 series split, including last year's result in Bloomington. Tracy Smith is 4-4 against Penn State in his tenure as Hoosier skipper, as is Robbie Wine against Indiana at the helm of PSU.

    Last year, the Hoosiers played four close contests with the Nittany Lions at the end of April, with PSU taking the first two to hold a 2-0 series lead. But the Hoosiers got a sparkling performance out of Matt Bashore in the back half of the doubleheader and followed that with an 8-7 win in Sunday's finale between the teams.

    Penn State is tied with Indiana and Iowa for eighth place in the conference with its 4-8 record. The Nittany Lions, though, have played arguably the hardest schedule in the conference, as they have played the top three teams in the Big Ten so far - Michigan, Purdue and Ohio State - and played on the road against the Boilers and Buckeyes. PSU also is the only conference team to have knocked off Michigan this season.

    The Lions have been plagued by subpar hitting this season, as they have a team average of just .264. Their pitching, bolstered by bullpen ace Drew O'Neil, has a 5.98 ERA as a whole. Mike Wanamaker has been very strong in the rotation with a 3.26 ERA and a .220 batting average against this year.

    Josh Phegley has been named Big Ten Co-Player of the Week, the conference announced on Tuesday. The sophomore went 9-for-15 with two home runs, 10 RBI and seven runs scored. Phegley, who shares the honor with Michigan's Zach Putnam, picked up his first honor from the conference and the first POW selection by a Hoosier since Andrew Means was honored on March 20, 2007.

    Phegley added five walks and a hit by pitch on the weekend to post a .714 on-base percentage, and he also slugged at a 1.067 clip to give him a stellar 1.781 OPS (on-base plus slugging) on the weekend. So impressive was Phegley at the plate that he drew four intentional walks from Hawkeye pitchers in Saturday's doubleheader.

    He started the weekend with his third five-hit game of the season on Friday, matching the school record for the third time this season. He followed with two home runs on doubleheader Saturday, including a seventh-inning grand slam - the first of his career - in the first contest. He also was robbed of one other longball on Saturday as Justin Brauer pulled a Phegley flyball back over the fence in game one. Phegley also stole a base in the series and added 10 assists.

    On the weekend, Phegley was a workhorse behind the plate, catching 582 pitches on the weekend - 273 on Saturday alone - as he was behind the plate for all 172 Iowa batters in the series. He also walked three times against Miami on Wednesday to push his on-base percentage to .720 on the week and a team-leading .521 on the season.

    The Terre Haute, Ind., native is among the conference leaders in batting average (second, .443), slugging percentage (third, .680), on-base percentage (second, .513), runs (fourth, 33) and RBI (first, 39). Additionally, he is one of just five conference players with an OPS of over 1.000, as he currently clocks in at 1.193. On Monday, he was ranked among the leaders in batting average in the nation, clocking in seventh in the country.

    Earlier this year, Phegley posted a 5-for-5 performance in which he hit for the cycle against Valparaiso. He 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 46 steals against Phegley, and he has retired 18 of them.

    The Terre Haute native has a summer in the Cape Cod League partly to thank for his improvements at the plate. Last summer, he was named a Cape League All-Star for the Wareham Gatemen.

    Indiana has had the same top four hitters in all but three games 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 have an average of .341 or better, and Phegley, Schutz and Means are all in the conference's top 15 in that category. The quartet has an aggregate .379 average on its 196 hits in 517 at-bats, making it the strongest top four in the Big Ten so far this season.

    The foursome has been even more impressive in Hoosier victories this season. All four are hitting over .388 in games that IU has won, and the quartet has gone a collective 110-for-248 (.444 average) with 63 runs scored, 67 RBI and a .625 slugging percentage. Conversely, in losses, the top four hitters have scored just 41 runs and have driven in 33.

    Crawford has been the extreme example, as his .508 average in Hoosier victories is best on the team, but he is just 13-for-68 (.191) in losses this year.

    THAT SAID...
    The last few games have been far different for the Hoosier offense. The top four has gone just 8-for-45 over the last three games (.178) and has scored just five runs.

    However, the five and six holes have really picked up the slack for the top four, as Jerrud Sabourin and Chris Hervey have been tremendously strong as of late. Sabourin is 8-for-12 over the last three games and has scored three runs, while Hervey is 3-for-8 and has reached base six times in that span. With the recent upswing, Sabourin's average is up to .341, just barely outside the conference's top 20, while Hervey is now hitting .316 on the year.

    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 zoomed past last year's total, as Josh Phegley's bomb against Minnesota gave them nine for the season. Since that time, the Hoosiers have added seven more, giving the team double the total of the 2008 season.

    With his two longballs against Iowa, Phegley leads the team with five homers on the season, while Kipp Schutz has added three and both Jerrud Sabourin and Michael Earley have two each.

    The Hoosiers have an aggregate .446 slugging percentage (second in the conference) on the season, up over 100 points from last year's .335 (last in the Big Ten). Through just 31 games, Indiana is over 90 percent of the way (223) to last year's total of 244 runs.

    The warm California sun was kind to freshman first baseman Jerrud Sabourin, as the San Diego native tore up the opposition at the Pepsi/Johnny Quik Classic. Sabourin hit .417 - third on the Hoosiers - and had the first five extra-base hits of his career in the Classic to post a team-leading .708 slugging percentage.

    After hitting an RBI double in the Classic opener against Gonzaga that tied the game 4-4 in the seventh, Sabourin scored a run and had a pair of walks against New Mexico State. Over the final four games of the Classic, he was 9-for-18 with five RBI and three runs scored. He capped it off with his first career homer - a shot to right center vs. Portland.

    After cooling off on his return to the Midwest, Sabourin has caught fire once again for the Hoosiers, as he has worked a six-game hitting streak in which he has raised his average from a season-low .297 to the current .345 mark. He is 13-for-25 over the last six games (.520), including his 8-for-12 performance in the last three games. He has driven in six runs and scored five in the last week.

    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 46-5 over the last three years, including an 13-2 mark this season. When Indiana trails heading into the seventh, the team is 0-15 this season and is 5-73 in the last three years. Even more interesting is the fact that this season the Hoosiers have done the bulk of their scoring in the sixth. IU has scored 45 of its 217 runs in the sixth and has allowed just 19 in the frame.

    ]Looking closer, Indiana has hit a strong .328 in the sixth, but that is not as high a mark as the first, third or fifth innings. The underlying reason for the team's sixth-inning success has been the 24 walks and 10 hit batsmen it has accrued in the frame. That has led to a whopping .458 OBP in the inning for the Hoosiers. The performance has been divided among everyone in the inning as well, as 13 different IU players have registered hits, 12 have scored runs in the frame and a remarkable 10 different players have scored runs in the sixth inning three or more times this season.




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