April 19, 2007
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SETTING THE SCENE
The Indiana baseball team hits the road for a Big Ten weekend series against Ohio State in Columbus, April 20-22. The Buckeyes are coming off a tough weekend sweep at the hands of Michigan in Columbus, where U-M outcored OSU 41-13 and tallied 10 runs or more in three of the four games. The Hoosiers lost three of four at Purdue last weekend and were topped in extra innings by Indiana State on Tuesday.
LAST TIME OUT
Andrew Means matched a career high with four hits and Jon Fixler added three, but the Indiana baseball team lost in 10 innings to Indiana State, 9-7, on Tuesday. The Hoosiers rallied from down 5-1 to take the lead in the sixth inning, but were unable to come away with the victory, as they fell to 14-18 on the season.
Joe Vicini picked up the loss for the Hoosiers to fall to 2-1 on the season. With one out in the 10th, Josh Abercrombie got aboard with a bunt single and Chris Schmidt followed with a triple to deep right center to put ISU up a run. Schmidt came home when Nick Ciolli followed with a sacrifice fly to center to give the Sycamores the final margin of victory.
After falling behind 5-1 in the early innings, the Hoosiers rallied for five runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 6-5 lead. Josh Phegley got the inning started with a one-out single through the left side and moved up 90 feet on a Brian Lambert walk. Chris Hervey then loaded the bases with a single to left, and then Keith Haas sent Phegley home when Chad Dawson's throw home on a grounder pulled catcher Adam Kamuda off the plate. A fielder's choice by Evan Crawford plated another run, and Means followed with a roped double to left center to score two more. Fixler finished off the inning with a single through the left side to plate Means and give IU its first lead of the contest.
In the seventh, ISU used a leadoff double by Brett Siegmund and a pair of groundouts to tie the score at 6-6, but IU fought back with another solo run in the bottom of the eighth.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
The Buckeyes hold an all-time lead of 147-99-0 in the all-time series against the Hoosiers, and have been dominant over IU over the last three years. OSU is 10-2 against IU since 2004, and took three of four contests from the Hoosiers last season at Sembower Field. Three of the four games in the series were determined by two runs or fewer. OSU opened the set with a 4-3, Friday victory on April 21, but IU bounced back with a 5-3 victory in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader. Keith Haas went 2-for-4 in that game and Ben Greenspan hit a three-run home run to plate Haas and Jon Fixler as the Hoosiers defeated Cory Luebke and the Buckeyes. OSU rebounded with an 11-4 win in the second game of the doubleheader and added an 8-6 win on Sunday to take the series.
SCOUTING THE BUCKEYES
Ohio State began the season nationally ranked and maintained that position until last week, but the Buckeyes have fallen on hard times as of late, losing five of their last six games and six of their last eight. OSU was swept last weekend by rival Michigan, as the Wolverines outscored the Buckeyes 41-14 and put 10 runs or more on the board in three of the four contests. OSU got off its schneid on Wednesday, though, taking a win in the second game of a doubleheader against Ball State 3-2. The Cardinals won game one, 5-0.
The Buckeyes are one of the top teams in the conference at the dish this season, carrying a team average of .321 into this weekend. 2006 Big Ten Freshman of the Year J.B. Shuck leads the way with his .388 average, but close behind is Eric Fryer, who leads the team in RBIs with 29, at .374. Jason Zoeller provides the pop with his four longballs this season, as he posts a .558 slugging percentage.
Pitching has been more of a question for OSU this season, especially after the loss of star pitcher Dan DeLucia for the season. Cory Luebke has been stellar for the Buckeyes, posting a 4-0 record, a 1.92 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings. Behind him, Shuck has a 4.10 ERA and Josh Barrera a 4.59 mark.
THE END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS
Sophomore Andrew Means has put together a breakthrough season in his second year for the Hoosiers. Means leads the team in average (.360), steals (17) and runs (24) and has been one of the most dangerous players on the basepaths in the conference this season, as his 17 steals are second in the Big Ten.
Against Indiana State on Tuesday, Means posted his second four-hit game of the season with a 4-for-6 effort, three runs and two RBIs. He has recently shown some pop in his bat too, knocking his first career home run in game two against Purdue on April 15, and hitting two doubles against ISU. He now has six doubles on the season and one triple, as his slugging percentage has ballooned to a team-leading .456. His .381 on-base percentage is the second-best on the squad.
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.
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 14 games. Since conference play started on March 30, Fixler is tied with Andrew Means for the team lead with a .362 average and is first on the squad with a .553 slugging percentage.
Against the Sycamores, Fixler hit a pair of doubles, driving in three runs, as he put forth a 3-for-4 outing at the plate. In the series finale against Purdue, he 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. He has seven of Indiana's 12 RBIs over the last two games.
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. That wrapped up a string of four straight weekends in which the Hoosiers smashed four or more home runs. When Means and Nilles both belted 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.
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 just outside the top 10 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 enters the weekend seven behind Illinois' Shawn Roof (24) for the league lead in steals. As a team, Indiana's 63 steals trail league leader Illinois by one. Defensively, Keith Haas leads the league with 112 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 88 assists.
Along with his ranking in league ERA, Bashore is currently fifth in the league in batting average against (.223) 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 15 appearances on the season.
MCCLELLAN MAKES DEBUT
Former Indiana pitcher Zach McClellan made his major league debut on Monday, throwing one inning for the Colorado Rockies in their game against San Francisco. McClellan became the 21st former Hoosier to play in the major leagues and the first this season.
McClellan, who was called up from AAA Colorado Springs on Monday to replace Byung-Hyun Kim, threw the eighth inning for the Rockies, allowing two hits and one run in an 8-0 loss to the Giants. McClellan recorded a pair of groundball outs in his debut, including a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Randy Winn.
The 28-year-old had thrown four innings for Colorado Springs this season, allowing two hits and striking out three. Last season, he posted a 4.18 ERA in 64 2/3 innings for the Sky Sox.
The Toledo, Ohio, native had a 16-5 record with a 4.58 ERA in his Hoosier career from 1998-2000. In 2000, McClellan finished second on the Hoosiers with a 4.10 ERA and 63 strikeouts, starting 13 games and posting five complete games. He was selected in the fifth round of the 2000 MLB Draft, going to Kansas City with the 134th overall pick. He was traded from the Royals to the Rockies in 2004.
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.
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 353-272-1 (.565) and a 36-52 mark in his two seasons at Indiana.
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 31 games for IU, while Josh Phegley has 25 starts and Sterling Mack has 16. Junior newcomer Reid Briglia has played in 21 games with 16 starts on the year.