Baseball

    Hoosiers Host No. 23 Michigan For Four-Game Set

    Go Hoosiers! Josh Phegley and IU face a tough task with first-place Michigan coming to Bloomington on an 11-game winning streak.
    Go Hoosiers!
    Josh Phegley and IU face a tough task with first-place Michigan coming to Bloomington on an 11-game winning streak.
    Go Hoosiers!

    April 25, 2008

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    MICHIGAN (28-8, 15-1) AT INDIANA (16-22, 4-12)
    Sembower Field (1,500) • Bloomington, Ind.

    Friday, April 25 - 3 p.m. EDT
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    IU: RHP Doug Fleenor (1-4, 5.50)
    UM: RHP Zach Putnam (4-0, 2.47)

    Saturday, April 26 - 1 p.m. EDT
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    IU: LHP Matt Bashore (3-3, 2.96)
    UM: RHP Chris Fetter (7-0, 3.06)

    Saturday, April 26 - 3:30 p.m. EDT
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    IU: RHP Chris McCombs (2-1, 5.55)
    UM: RHP Travis Smith (4-1, 3.13)

    Sunday, April 27 - 1 p.m. EDT
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    IU: RHP Tyler Tufts (2-5, 6.99)
    UM: LHP Mike Wilson (2-3, 7.71)


    THE FIRST PITCH
    Indiana plays host to one of the hottest teams in the nation when Michigan comes to town for a four-game series against the Hoosiers. The Wolverines have won 11 games in a row and are 15-1 in the Big Ten so far this year, grasping a stranglehold on the conference's top seed and the right to host the Big Ten Tournament. The Hoosiers are 4-12 in conference play after suffering a sweep on the road at Penn State last weekend, but snapped a nine-game losing streak with a strong, 7-2 victory over Indiana State on Wednesday. In that game, Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Josh Phegley went 4-for-4 with a three-run homer and four RBI to sink his hometown team. IU left fielder Chris Hervey has a 16-game hitting streak entering the series and has reached base in 24 contests in a row for the Hoosiers. The Wolverines are the top power team in the conference with 46 home runs on the year, led by Nate Recknagel's 16.

    THE COACH
    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 55-91. 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 in 2007 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 372-311-1 (.545).

    THE ALL-TIME SERIES
    Indiana and Michigan have been facing off since the 1890s and will meet for the 177th time when they open the weekend series. The Wolverines have dominated the competition, holding a 120-56 advantage heading into this season. The Hoosiers and U-M have not squared off since 2005, as the two teams were in their two-year hiatus in 2006 and 2007.

    The Wolverines have won seven consecutive meetings against IU and 13 of the last 14. In Michigan's last trip to Bloomington, the Hoosiers took game one of the series 4-1 before losing a pair of close games in the Saturday doubleheader. IU is 3-5 against the Wolverines in the last two series between the teams at Sembower Field, as the squads split in 2000.

    SCOUTING THE WOLVERINES
    Michigan enters the weekend as far and away the hottest team in the conference, as the Wolverines have won 11 games in a row and are 15-1 in conference play so far. The 23rd ranked team in the nation has swept series at Illinois and against Iowa and Michigan State. The team's lone loss in the Big Ten came in the series finale at Penn State. U-M has not lost since the finale in Happy Valley.

    The Wolverines have the favorite for both Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year. Nate Recknagel has hit a whopping 16 home runs on the year and is hitting .392, while righthander Zach Putnam has a 2.47 ERA and 52 strikeouts on the season. U-M has 46 home runs on the season, 19 more than any other conference team.

    BEHIND THE DISH
    Sophomore catcher Josh Phegley has posted one of the top seasons by a Hoosier in recent memory, as he has emerged as a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate in his second season in Bloomington. The Terre Haute, Ind., native is among the conference leaders in batting average (first, .447), slugging percentage (third, .688), on-base percentage (first, .512), runs (seventh, 36) and RBI (second, 46). As of Monday, he was ranked among the leaders in the nation in batting average, clocking in 15th in the country.

    Phegley was named Big Ten Co-Player of the Week on April 15. The sophomore went 9-for-15 with two home runs, 10 RBI and seven runs scored. Phegley, who shared 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 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.

    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 52 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.

    GOING STREAKING
    Chris Hervey has quietly put together a stellar season for the Hoosiers in 2008. The junior has a stellar 16-game hitting streak - the longest of the season by an IU player - to move his average to .330 on the season. That puts him 66 points above his average from last year and 87 points higher than his career mark heading into the season.

    Hervey has also emerged as one of the Hoosiers' leaders in his ability to get on base. The St. James, N.Y., native has reached base in every game since IU returned from California - a string of 24 straight contests. With that stretch, he has raised his on-base percentage to .433 on the year - third highest on the team and among the leaders in the conference. One of the reasons for his upswing in OBP is the 13 times he has been hit by a pitch this season - already the second-highest total in school history. He is just three bruises shy of matching Dan Haegele's school record, set in 1999.

    When the Hoosiers departed the West Coast, Hervey was hitting just .231 following an 0-for-4 contest against Portland. Since then, Hervey has gone 28-for-73 with five walks and has been hit by 12 pitches, giving him a remarkable .495 on-base percentage over that time. His .384 average and .521 slugging percentage are among the team leaders over that span. He also has tallied three outfield assists in those 24 games.

    The junior has gotten hotter as he has entered Big Ten play, though he saw one streak snapped in the series finale at Penn State. Hervey had gone 5-for-13 in each of the first three conference series, and was 5-for-12 entering the ninth inning of the fourth and final game. Due up fifth in the inning, his teammates rallied and Hervey came to the plate with one out and Dylan Swift at first. His streak of 5-for-13 weekends came to an end when he laced a double down the left-field line to move to 6-for-13 on the weekend.

    With that performance, he now has a .404 average in conference play. His .515 conference OBP leads the team and ranks him fourth in the conference so far. He also added his first home run of the year with a shot to left field against Illinois in the series' second game. Hervey thrived in conference action last year as well, hitting .301 with a team-leading six doubles. His 15 runs scored in conference play were second on the team behind Keith Haas, while he hit one homer and drove in six runs for IU.

    WELCOME BACK
    Redshirt freshman Kipp Schutz, back after taking a medical redshirt last season, has barely missed a step since returning to the field. The Evansville, Ind., native, who has started every game but one as the right fielder and cleanup hitter for the Hoosiers, is second on the team behind Josh Phegley in average (.363), home runs (3) and RBI (31) and is third in slugging percentage (.507).

    In his first career Big Ten series, against Minnesota, Schutz went 7-for-15 with three doubles, four RBI and three runs. His biggest hit came in the series finale, when he stroked a ninth-inning double high off the bags in right field of the Metrodome to bring home a pair of runs and give IU a lead over Minnesota. He followed that up against Illinois with an 8-for-17 weekend with a homer and two doubles.

    Schutz began the 2007 season as one of the top freshmen in the Big Ten, and was named to the AutoZone Classic All-Tournament Team after hitting .545 and slugging .727 for the weekend in Memphis. But his season came to a screeching halt in the seventh game of the season, when he collided with the outfield wall of Indiana State's Sycamore Field, breaking his collarbone and ending his season.

    TAKE A BREATHER
    With its four-game series at Penn State, Indiana wrapped up a grueling stretch in which it played 15 games in a span of 15 days with just four off days in that time. The string was far from kind to the Hoosiers, as IU went just 2-13 during the 15-in-15 period. Nine of the 15 games took place at Sembower Field, while the remaining six were played on the road. IU traveled approximately 1,600 miles during the busy stretch.

    POWER SURGE
    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 nine more, giving the team more than double the total of the 2007 season.

    With his homer against Indiana State, Phegley leads the team with six homers on the season, while Kipp Schutz and Michael Earley have three each.

    The Hoosiers have an aggregate .445 slugging percentage (fourth in the conference) on the season, up over 100 points from last year's .335 (last in the Big Ten). Through just 38 games, Indiana has already surpassed last year's total of 244 runs.

    SIXTH SENSE
    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 six innings, IU is 47-5 over the last three years, including an 14-2 mark this season. When Indiana trails heading into the seventh, the team is 0-18 this season and is 5-76 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 46 of its 238 runs in the sixth and has allowed just 23 in the frame.

     

     

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