Baseball Readies for Three with Wolverines

    Go Hoosiers! Blake Monar will duel with Michigan's Chris Fetter on Friday night in Ann Arbor.
    Go Hoosiers!
    Blake Monar will duel with Michigan's Chris Fetter on Friday night in Ann Arbor.
    Go Hoosiers!

    April 24, 2009

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    Indiana at Michigan
    Ray Fisher Stadium • Ann Arbor, Mich.

    April 24 • 6:35 p.m. ET
    Game carried live on WHCC 105.1 FM
    IU - LHP Blake Monar (4-2, 5.02) | UM - RHP Chris Fetter (5-1, 2.20)
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    April 25 • 1:05 p.m. ET
    IU - RHP Eric Arnett (8-1, 1.94) | UM - LHP Eric Katzman (6-3, 3.00)
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    April 26 • 1:05 p.m. ET
    IU - LHP Matt Bashore (3-3, 4.96) | UM - TBA
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    After taking two out of three games from Penn State over the weekend, Indiana lost a pair of close affairs at Sembower Field during the week. Louisville rallied from an 8-3 deficit to win 10-8 on Tuesday and Indiana State took a 7-4 decision, getting Josh Phegley and Alex Dickerson to fly out in the bottom of the ninth with each representing the tying run. IU has won 11 of its last 15 games and has earned a split or better in its last eight conference series, the longest such streak in the Big Ten. Indiana got contributions from everyone in its lineup in the series with the Nittany Lions, particularly Evan Crawford. The outfielder went 5-for-10 with five RBI and three steals in helping the Hoosiers take two of three from the Lions. IU also played stellar defensively, making only one error - in the ninth inning of the series finale - in the field, with Jake Dunning delivering a pair of brilliant plays deep in the hole in IU's 3-2 win. Starters Eric Arnett and Matt Bashore also pitched well in victories, while Chris Squires was strong out of the bullpen during the series.

    When Michigan came to Sembower Field last year, it seemed like a David vs. Goliath contest, as IU entered with a 4-12 Big Ten record and Michigan came in a likely lock for first place. But the Hoosiers took a pitcher's duel between Chris Fetter and Matt Bashore, 2-1, with a walk-off single from Evan Crawford and then won the series finale with an 11-4 victory thanks to four hits from Jerrud Sabourin and a home run from Josh Phegley. The Hoosiers were the only Big Ten team to win more than one game against the Wolverines, and that series split sent IU on its current string of eight straight conference series without a series loss (19-8 over that span).

    Indiana is in its fourth year under the direction of Tracy Smith. In his time at the helm of the Hoosiers, IU is 90-121. Smith is now 407-339-1 (.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.

    Rich Maloney is in his seventh season at the head of the Michigan program, as he has won back-to-back Midwest Coach of the Year honors heading into 2009. He has led the Wolverines to the Big Ten Tournament in each of his six years and he has led them to three straight regular season championships. U-M has advanced to the NCAA Tournament in four straight seasons.

    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. The junior was also recently named the ninth-best junior nationally and the fifth-best junior pitcher by Perfect Game Crosschecker.

    Against Penn State over the weekend, Arnett got by far the best run support of his Big Ten campaign, and used the opportunity to induce more groundballs, as he allowed five hits and three walks over 6 2/3 innings of work. He still struck out seven Nittany Lions in the victory.

    The win improved him to 8-1 on the season and 4-0 in the Big Ten. He is already tied for seventh on IU's single-season list with his eight victories and his four conference wins are just one off the school record. He lowered his Big Ten leading ERA to 1.94 on the season and dropped his conference mark to a microscopic 1.30. Arnett has allowed just 20 hits and nine walks in his 34 2/3 Big Ten innings this season.

    Over his last five starts, Arnett has kept the opposition to two runs or fewer each time, as he has put up a 5-0 record with a 1.30 ERA and a .168 batting average against (24 hits in 41 2/3 innings).

    Arnett delivered his third straight complete game at Iowa, hurling a two-hitter with a career-best 11 strikeouts. He earned Big Ten co-Pitcher of the Week honors for his performance. It is the junior's first weekly honor from the conference.

    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.

    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.

    By taking two of three from Penn State, the Hoosiers extended their streak of splitting or winning conference series to eight weekends. IU is the only Big Ten team this year that has yet to lose a conference set. At 8-3, Indiana is off to its best conference start since 2002.

    Indiana's string of eight series without a loss is more than twice as long as the longest in the Big Ten. Over the last eight conference series, the Hoosiers have a 19-8 record (.704), the best of any Big Ten team.

    It is also the longest stretch that Indiana has gone without a series loss since the 1996-97 seasons. After losing the final series of the 1995 season to Purdue, Indiana earned a split or better in all seven series in 1996 and the first weekend of 1997. The 1996 team, which featured IU skipper Tracy Smith as an assistant coach, finished second in the Big Ten and won the Big Ten Tournament for IU's only NCAA appearance.

    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 third in the league with 11 home runs and his 107 total bases lead the conference. His .387 average (fifth), .690 slugging percentage (third), 41 RBI (seventh) and 60 hits (second) are all among the conference's top 10.

    Dickerson has already dented Indiana's record books in his debut campaign, as his 11 bombs have matched IU's previous record, set by Mike Sabo in 1985. He is only 17 RBI shy of Phil Dauphin's (1988) freshman mark of 58 as well. IU has never had a player named Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

    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.

    We have all heard the old adage that "pitching and defense wins championships." And while that sounds like a line out of the Coach's cliché handbook, it has certainly shown it has some truth when you look at the Hoosiers in 2009.

    Indiana has hit better than any other Big Ten team in non-conference affairs (.343), but Indiana is just 10-17 in those contests. On the contrary, IU is 8-3 in conference play, but the offense has hit just .289, which is the sixth best mark in the Big Ten.

    On the other hand, on the mound and in the field, the Hoosiers have been second to none, as IU is first in the Big Ten in both earned run average and fielding percentage for conference contests. Indiana's 3.73 ERA is nearly half a run better than the closest competition (Michigan State, 4.21) and the .243 batting average against by Hoosier hurlers leads the Big Ten as well.

    The defensive improvement has been even more stark, as IU's .977 fielding percentage in conference games leads the way, but Indiana has just a .953 fielding percentage in non-conference affairs. Infielders Vince Gonzalez and Tyler Rogers are yet to make an error in conference play, as the starting infield has just four errors in the Big Ten. The foursome has made 23 miscues in 27 non-conference games.

    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 sixth in slugging (.657) and second in on-base percentage (.475). His 47 RBI are second in the conference and with 10 longballs, he is tied for fourth in the Big Ten. The junior has not seen very many pitches to hit, as he is fourth in the league with 27 walks. His 40 runs also place him fourth 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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