Northwestern Visits Sembower For Pivotal Series

    Go Hoosiers! Matt Bashore is slated to pitch Saturday's game against Northwestern, which will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
    Go Hoosiers!
    Matt Bashore is slated to pitch Saturday's game against Northwestern, which will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
    Go Hoosiers!

    May 7, 2009

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    Northwestern at Indiana
    Sembower Field • Bloomington, Ind.

    May 8 • 3 p.m. ET
    IU - RHP Eric Arnett (10-1, 2.86) | NU - LHP Joe Muraski (3-5, 5.40)
    GameTracker | Live Audio

    May 9 • 3 p.m. ET
    IU - LHP Matt Bashore (4-4, 4.52) | NU - LHP Eric Jokisch (3-6, 5.57)
    GameTracker | Live Audio

    May 10 • 1 p.m. ET
    IU - LHP Blake Monar (4-4, 4.83) | NU - RHP Zach Morton (1-6, 5.40)
    GameTracker | Live Audio

    Indiana's hopes for a Big Ten title took a big hit over the weekend as Purdue took two of the three games from Indiana in West Lafayette. It marked the first time in 2009 that Indiana had lost a conference series and snapped a string of nine straight Big Ten series without a loss dating back to the middle of 2008. IU will take on Northwestern for a three-game set at Sembower Field over the weekend. Saturday and Sunday's games will be televised live on the Big Ten Network with Tom Werme (p-b-p) and Scott Pose (analyst) providing the call. The Hoosiers enter the weekend at 22-24 overall and 11-6 (fourth place) in conference action, 2 1/2 games behind first-place Illinois. Northwestern is 12-31-1 overall with a 3-13 mark in the Big Ten. The series marks the first of two straight home series to close out the Big Ten season for Indiana. IU will play host to Michigan State next weekend to complete its regular season.

    Indiana split four games with Northwestern in Evanston last year, winning the series finale to keep its postseason hopes alive. The Hoosiers went back-and-forth in the contest with the Wildcats before emerging with a 14-12 victory in extra innings. IU held an 11-6 lead late and carried a 11-8 edge into the ninth, but Tony Vercelli delivered a game-tying two-run shot with two out to tie the game. IU scored three runs on four hits in the top of the 10th, but NU got the tying run to the plate before a diving play by Jerrud Sabourin ended the game. Kipp Schutz and Josh Phegley each went deep during the contest.

    Indiana is in its fourth year under the direction of Tracy Smith. In his time at the helm of the Hoosiers, IU is 94-125. Smith is now 411-343-1 (.545) 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.

    Paul Stevens is in his 22nd season as Northwestern's head baseball coach and 24th overall in a Wildcat uniform. Already tops on Northwestern's all-time coaches wins list, Stevens reached win number 500 during the 2006 Big Ten Tournament. He entered the 2009 season with a career mark of 539-609-5. He spent three seasons as an assistant at Northwestern prior to taking the head job and also served as an assistant coach for USA Baseball in 2001.

    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 one of 50 pitchers - four from the Big Ten - named to the College Baseball Foundation's National Pitcher of the Year Watch List last week.

    Against Purdue over the weekend, Arnett had a tough outing but battled to a complete-game, 7-6 victory over the Boilermakers. The Pataskala, Ohio, native struggled through a five-run seventh inning, but rebounded to strike out the final two hitters in the eighth and set down the side on strikes in the ninth to finish the game with nine Ks.

    The win improved him to 10-1 on the season and 6-0 in the Big Ten. He became the third hurler in school history to post double-digit wins in a season and his six conference victories set a new school record. He now has a 2.86 overall ERA and 85 strikeouts in his 85 innings of work. His 85 Ks on the year place him just one K shy of entering Indiana's top five on the single-season list.

    Over his first four Big Ten starts, Arnett kept the opposition to two runs or fewer each time, as he put up a 4-0 record with a 1.30 ERA and a .165 batting average against (20 hits in 34 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. Arnett became the first Hoosier ever 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.

    With last weekend's two games to one series loss to Purdue, the Boilers snapped their rivals' streak of splitting or winning conference series at nine weekends. IU was the final Big Ten team this year to lose a conference set. At 11-6 in conference play this year, Indiana is off to its best start since the 1996 team finished second in the league.

    Indiana's string of nine series without a loss was more than twice as long as the second longest in the Big Ten. Over the 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, 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 (.346), but Indiana is just 11-18 in those contests. On the contrary, IU is 11-6 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 very solid in conference affairs, as IU is fourth in the Big Ten in earned run average and sixth in fielding percentage. Indiana's 4.32 ERA in conference affairs is more than two runs better than its 6.62 ERA in non-conference games. Non-conference foes are hitting .319 off Indiana, while conference opponents are at a .258 clip.

    The defensive improvement has been even more stark, as IU has a .968 fielding percentage in conference games, but just a .955 fielding percentage in non-conference affairs. Third baseman Vince Gonzalez has yet to make an error in conference play, and second baseman Tyler Rogers made just his second Big Ten error against Purdue. Rogers has made 12 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 (3.63 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 16 bases on balls in 43 2/3 innings. He collected saves against Iowa and Penn State earlier this season, striking out the side in the ninth against PSU.

    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 with Phegley for the third with 13 home runs and his 125 total bases are second in the conference. His .376 average (eighth), .661 slugging percentage (third), 49 RBI (sixth) and 71 hits (tied for second) are all among the conference's top 10.

    Dickerson has already dented Indiana's freshman record books in his debut campaign, as his 13 bombs have surpassed IU's previous record, set by Mike Sabo in 1985. He is only nine 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.




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