Baseball Plays Host to RedHawks, Leathernecks

    Go Hoosiers! Matt Carr is slated to take the hill Tuesday against Miami University.
    Go Hoosiers!
    Matt Carr is slated to take the hill Tuesday against Miami University.
    Go Hoosiers!

    April 28, 2009

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    Miami University at Indiana
    April 28 • 4 p.m. EDT
    Sembower Field • Bloomington, Ind.

    IU - RHP Matt Carr (1-4, 5.74) | MU - TBA
    GameTracker | Live Audio

    Western Illinois at Indiana
    April 29 • 4 p.m. EDT
    Sembower Field • Bloomington, Ind.

    IU - TBA | WIU - TBA
    GameTracker | Live Audio

    With a series victory over Michigan last weekend, Indiana improved to 20-21 overall and 10-4 in conference play. By taking the series from the Wolverines, Indiana extended its streak to nine straight conference series without a loss. IU is the only team in the conference that has not lost a Big Ten series this year. The Hoosiers are just half a game behind first-place Illinois and Ohio State, who sit at 11-4 in Big Ten play. With midweek games against Miami and Western Illinois, IU is looking to move over .500 for the first time since being 3-2 early in 2009. Non-conference affairs have not been kind to Indiana this season, as the Hoosiers are just 10-17 in those contests. Coach Smith will square off against his alma mater and former team in Miami, as the Hoosier skipper spent nine years in Oxford before taking the helm in Bloomington.

    Indiana faced the Redhawks for a pair of games played last season. The two split the season series, with IU taking the first game 5-2 and Miami capturing the second 11-4. Hoosier pitching was the storyline in the first contest as the trio of Doug Fleenor, Joe Vicini and Chris Squires limited the Redhawks to two hits. IU last faced Western Illinois over a decade ago when the Hoosiers defeated the Leathernecks, 10-8, in 1995. Steve Smella and Mike Crotty led Indiana's offense, amassing six hits and six runs scored in the game. Willy Graeber was also a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate for the Hoosiers.

    Indiana is in its fourth year under the direction of Tracy Smith. In his time at the helm of the Hoosiers, IU is 92-122. Smith is now 409-340-1 (.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.

    Dan Simonds, who served as an assistant to Smith at Miami, is in his fourth year as head coach for the RedHawks. In his first three years, Simonds has led MU to two MAC Tournament berths. Western Illinois is in its eighth season under the leadership of Stan Hyman. Hyman has guided the Leathernecks to six consecutive Summit League tournaments and led Western to two victories over top-10 teams last season.

    By taking two of three from Michigan, the Hoosiers extended their streak of splitting or winning conference series to nine weekends. IU is the only Big Ten team this year that has yet to lose a conference set. At 10-4, Indiana is off to its best conference start since the 1991 team opened 10-3-1.

    Indiana's string of nine series without a loss is more than twice as long as the second longest in the Big Ten. Over the last nine conference series, the Hoosiers have a 21-9 record (.700), the best of any Big Ten team.

    It is also the longest stretch that Indiana has gone without a series loss since the conference went to series play. Indiana earned a split or better in all seven series in 1996, the only team to go a season without losing a Big Ten series. 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.

    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 10-4 in conference play, but the offense has hit just .288, which is the fourth best mark in the Big Ten.

    On the other hand, on the mound and in the field, the Hoosiers have been very solid in conference affairs, as IU is first in the Big Ten in earned run average and fourth in fielding percentage. Indiana's 3.53 ERA is more than half a run better than the closest competition (Michigan State, 4.17) 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 .970 fielding percentage in conference games is fourth in the league, but Indiana has just a .953 fielding percentage in non-conference affairs. Third baseman Vince Gonzalez is yet to make an error in conference play, and second baseman Tyler Rogers made his first Big Ten error against Michigan. Rogers has made 10 errors in non-conference games.

    Q HIM UP
    After a tough first inning of 2009, Chris "Q" Squires has been very strong. The Ft. Wayne native has come on as of late out of the pen (2.21 ERA as a reliever) to emerge as a solid closer for IU.

    Squires allowed two runs against Louisville, breaking a string of eight appearances without allowing a run. But he bounced back in a big way against Michigan. Squires closed out both of Indiana's victories on the weekend, earning a pair of saves to push his season total to five. The Wolverines got the tying run on base in both the eighth and ninth, but Squires slammed the door in both innings, striking out Chris Berset to end the game.

    On Sunday, Squires came on with two runners on and two out in a 3-1 game and got Kevin Cislo on a flyout to left to end the eighth. Michigan got the tying run to the plate in the ninth in the form of leading hitter Ryan LaMarre, but Squires caught him looking at strike three to end the contest. Squires has four saves and a 0.82 ERA in conference action.

    A key to his improvement this year has been a downturn in the free passes he has allowed. After walking 17 in 21 1/3 a year ago, Squires has allowed just 15 bases on balls in 41 2/3 innings. He collected saves against Iowa and Penn State earlier this season, striking out the side in the ninth against PSU.

    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 week among the league's top 10 in average (sixth, .383), slugging (second, .688) on-base percentage (second, .485), home runs (tied for first, 21), RBI (second, 49), runs (tied for fourth, 42) and walks (tied for third, 29).

    Against the Wolverines, Phegley had a big series both at the dish and behind it. The junior went 6-for-11 with a pair of solo home runs on the weekend. The second bomb, in the eighth inning of Sunday's contest, shifted the momentum back in Indiana's favor after the Hoosiers surrendered a run in the bottom of the seventh in a tight ballgame. The catcher also threw out four of seven Wolverines trying to steal off of him.

    Phegley posted his fourth career five-hit game against Morehead State on March 10, 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 ninth.

    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, as he is tied for fourth in the league with 11 home runs and his 109 total bases lead the conference. His .373 average (eighth), .657 slugging percentage (fourth), 42 RBI (sixth) and 62 hits (second) are all among the conference's top 10.

    Dickerson has already dented Indiana's freshman 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 16 RBI shy of Phil Dauphin's (1988)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.

    THE 400 CLUB
    With a 14-4 win over Illinois, head coach Tracy Smith picked up his 400th career victory as a collegiate skipper. Smith is now 409-340-1 (.546) in his 13th season at the helm of a college program.The Kentland, Ind., native has improved his record with the Hoosiers to 92-122 in his fourth season at the head of the program.

    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.

    Smith amassed a 317-220-1 (.590) record with Miami and a MAC regular-season mark of 152-95 (.615). He led the RedHawks to eight straight 30-win seasons, marking only the second time the program had accomplished that feat, and he finished his career in Oxford ranked third on MU's all-time wins list.

    Junior captain Josh Phegley has often stated the importance of a quick start to Indiana's success and the numbers show that Phegley is right on the money. IU has outscored opponents 44-35 in the first inning and 121-76 in the first three, but in wins those numbers jump all the way to 37-9 in the first and 85-24 in the opening third of the game.




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