April 27, 2007
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SETTING THE SCENE
Indiana plays host to its final home games for nearly a month as Penn State comes to Bloomington for a four-game series. IU is currently 4-12 in conference play, while Penn State improved to 9-5 with a four-game sweep of Northwestern last weekend. The Nittany Lions are 17-19 overall for the year.
LAST TIME OUT
Miami spoiled head coach Tracy Smith's first return to Oxford with a 10-1 victory over Indiana on Wednesday. The RedHawks limited the Hoosiers to just four hits in the contest to improve to 20-16 on the year.
The RedHawks got on the board first with an unearned run in the bottom of the second. A pair of singles put runners at first and second with one out for Miami. Doug Fleenor induced a grounder to the left side, and Tyler Cox gunned down the runner at second, but Evan Crawford's throw to first sailed wide to allow Eric Darlage to score.
Miami scored three more in the fourth off Fleenor. With Chris Nadeau at second and Jeff Carroll on first, Gary King roped a 3-2 curveball past Jon Fixler at first and into the right field corner to score a pair. Josh Hula followed with an infield single to put the home squad up 4-0.
The Hoosiers threatened in the top of the fifth, but were unable to push a run across. Reid Briglia drew a leadoff walk and Josh Phegley hit a one-out single to left to give the Hoosiers two on with one down. Brian Lambert followed by lacing a sinking liner to right center, but center fielder Brandon Hillier made a brilliant diving snag to keep the Hoosiers at bay in the frame.
Indiana got its lone run in the top of the ninth inning, as two RedHawk errors put runners at first and second with two outs. Billy O'Conner then got an RBI single up the middle to break up the shutout.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
Penn State and Indiana have met 52 times in their relatively brief series history, with the Nittany Lions possessing a 29-23 edge all-time. IU and Penn State have split in each of their last two four-game series, with a Big Ten Tournament game won by the Nittany Lions in between. Last season, each team took two games in the series played in University Park, with the Hoosiers sweeping Saturday's doubleheader and PSU taking Friday's and Sunday's contests. The Hoosiers took game one of the doubleheader in extra innings, with pinch hitter Ben Greenspan knocking home Tyler Cox to put IU ahead and Joe Vicini posting the win in relief. In the second game of the double dip, Tyler Tufts pitched a complete-game shutout, allowing eight hits to secure the doubleheader sweep. It marked IU's first doubleheader sweep in the Big Ten since 2003.
SCOUTING THE NITTANY LIONS
Penn State enters this weekend on a hot streak, with five straight notches in the win column after a 12-19 start to the season. The Nittany Lions have also won six straight conference games to run their conference record to 9-5 on the season. Last weekend, PSU swept visiting Northwestern with two victories coming by one run and two coming with PSU comebacks in its last at-bat.
Offensively, PSU is hitting .278 as a team, with Joe Blackburn's .387 leading the way. Blackburn and leadoff hitter Matt Cavagnaro (.347, eight steals) are the only Lion regulars above .300 for the season. PSU has 10 home runs as a team, with Cory Wine and Robert Yodice chipping in three each. On the mound, Penn State has a 4.53 ERA, with top starter Craig Clark among the conference leaders with his 2.55 ERA. Scott Gaffney is 2-3 with a 3.92 ERA as well.
HERV HEATING UP
Sophomore Chris Hervey has been the Hoosiers' hottest hitter over the last 11 games, putting together a .371 average and a .593 slugging percentage. Hervey is 13-for-35 with three doubles and a home run over his last 11 contests to raise his season average near .300. The sophomore went 8-for-14 at Ohio State last weekend with a .600 on-base percentage to boot.
The St. James, N.Y., native's hot streak began against Purdue from April 13-15, when Hervey went 4-for-13 and had a pair of doubles and his first career home run in the series. Since opening the season on an 0-for-17 skid, Hervey has hit .364 over the last 24 games, including a career-best four-hit outing against Florida A&M on Saturday, March 17.
Hervey has also been a defensive standout for the Hoosiers this season in right field, making just one error with 43 putouts and three outfield assists. In his first season with the Hoosiers, Hervey played in 21 games, making six starts.
THE END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS
Sophomore Andrew Means has put together a breakthrough season in his second year for the Hoosiers. Means is hitting .358 with a team-leading 19 steals and 26 runs this season and has been one of the most dangerous players on the basepaths in the conference this season. In game two at Purdue on April 15, Means added some power to his resume, as he ripped his first career home run on an 0-1 pitch, sending a line drive high into the screen above the left-center field wall at Lambert Field.
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.
ON THE LAM-BERT
Freshman Brian Lambert has stepped up his game in recent weeks, and with his upswing at the plate, head coach Tracy Smith put him in the leadoff slot for the final two games against Ohio State. The left fielder went 5-for-12 over the weekend with three walks to give him a .533 on-base percentage. Since starting the season 1-for-16, Lambert has gone 9-for-31 with seven walks, giving him a .421 OBP over the last 15 games, in which he has made 14 appearances and 10 starts. He has also scored eight runs over the span, which is the second-highest total on the team.
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 18 games. Since conference play started on March 30, Fixler has posted a .343 average, second on the team, and a squad-best .522 slugging percentage.
In the series finale against Purdue on April 15, Fixler 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. His four-RBI game was his second such contest of the season, as he also turned the trick against Florida A&M on March 17. Then, against Indiana State on April 17, the junior went 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs, scoring Andrew Means on each of his three hits.
Indiana entered the Purdue weekend 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 from April 13-15, 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. The wrapped up a string of four straight weekends in which the Hoosiers bashed four or more home runs. When Means and Nilles both bashed 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.
BIG TEN LEADERBOARD
Several Hoosiers have found their way onto the Big Ten leaderboard this season. Andrew Means is currently second in the league with his 19 steals, but trails Illinois' Shawn Roof by a strong margin as Roof picked up his 30th steal over the weekend. As a team, Indiana's 74 steals are second in the league behind Illinois' 80. Defensively, Keith Haas leads the league with 121 assists on the year and is tied for fourth with his 27 double plays. Third baseman Tyler Cox leads his position and is among the conference leaders with 93 assists.
Matt Bashore is currently fourth in the league in batting average against at .233 and leads all freshmen in the category. Tyler Tufts leads the league in innings pitched with 68 1/3, while reliever Joe Vicini is tied for the conference lead with 18 appearances on the season.
While sophomore Tyler Tufts has been one of the top pitchers on the team, his contributions have come from other places than on the hill. The Sagamore Hills, Ohio, native has earned two starts in left field this month, and each has seen him produce at the plate. In his debut, against Michigan State on April 1, Tufts went 2-for-3 with a walk and scored the Hoosiers' only run. In his second contest in left, Tufts scored a hit in two at-bats. The sophomore added his first career appearance at first base against Miami on April 25, coming on in the seventh inning.
MCCLELLAN MAKES DEBUT
Former Indiana pitcher Zach McClellan made his major league debut on Monday, April 16, 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 to replace Byung-Hyun Kim, has appeared in four games since joining the big club, pitching five innings. McClellan has allowed seven hits and three runs in his four appearances, striking out four.
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.
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 353-277-1 (.560) and a 36-57 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, he was the last person expecting to make history. But Trager did, 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. Not to be outdone, outfielder Chris Hervey went 4-for-4 with a ninth-inning walk.
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 36 games for IU, while Josh Phegley has 30 starts and Sterling Mack and Brian Lambert have 16. Junior newcomer Reid Briglia has played in 24 games with 18 starts on the year.