Hoosiers Travel to Evanston For Four With Wildcats
May 8, 2008
INDIANA (21-26, 9-15) AT NORTHWESTERN (18-23, 11-13)
IU: RHP Eric Arnett (3-3, 5.28)
IU: LHP Matt Bashore (5-3, 3.02)
IU: RHP Chris McCombs (3-2, 7.36)
IU: RHP Tyler Tufts (4-5, 5.76)
THE FIRST PITCH
With just two weeks remaining in the hunt for the Big Ten Tournament, each series for the Indiana baseball team is becoming bigger and bigger. Fresh off taking three of four from second-place Purdue, the Hoosiers head to Evanston, Ill., for a four-game set against Northwestern this weekend. The Hoosiers are 9-15 in conference play this season and currently sit in eighth place, but are just 2 1/2 games out of fourth (held by Ohio State) with eight games remaining. The Hoosiers face two teams in the hunt for the final playoff spot in their final two weekends, as they head to fifth-place NU (11-13) and sixth-place Michigan State (10-13) in the season's final two series. IU is looking to return to the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2003. The Hoosiers are led by Big Ten Player of the Year and All-America candidate Josh Phegley, who is putting up arguably the best season by a Hoosier since Mike Smith's triple crown in 1992.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
In 2007, the Hoosiers dropped the first two to the Wildcats but rebounded with wins in games three and four to top NU. IU lost tight affairs in the first two contests, with Tyler Tufts (5-3) and Matt Bashore (1-0) taking tough-luck losses against NU. In game three, the Hoosiers used a five-run sixth to pick up a 5-4 win, and Doug Fleenor threw a complete game in a 5-2 win in game four.
SCOUTING THE WILDCATS
Jake Goebbert and Mike Kalina are one of the top 1-2 batting punches in the conference, as Goebbert is one of the top power hitters in the league with his 22 doubles and eight home runs. Kalina has been a surprise, hitting over .400 at .408 on the year. Matt Havey (2.51 ERA) has been outstanding out of the bullpen, while freshman Eric Jokisch (4.60 ERA) has anchored the rotation.
MEANS EARNS PLAYER OF THE WEEK HONOR
Means was outstanding against Purdue in helping the Hoosiers take three of four from the second-place Boilermakers. The junior hit .562 with three doubles, a triple and a home run to post a 1.063 slugging percentage and a .632 on-base percentage for a 1.695 OPS on the weekend. He also scored seven runs for the Hoosiers, drove in five and stole a pair of bases.
He added the biggest hit of the weekend for IU, as his two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh in game two of the series tied the score 4-4 and helped the Hoosiers gain momentum to come from behind for a 5-4 victory. In game three, Means went 3-for-4, including two hits in the 11-run Hoosier first, and set a career high by scoring four runs.
He also had multiple hits in the series' other two games, going 3-for-5 with three RBI in game one and posting a 2-for-4 outing with a walk and a run in game four.
Means has followed up on his 2007 All-Big Ten season by being one of the top leadoff men in the conference. The sophomore's 52 runs and 27 steals are third in the conference, while his five triples are tied for the league lead. He is hitting .349 on the year after a .369 average a year ago.
QUITE A WEEKEND
FINISH WHAT YOU START
IU had just four complete games prior to the weekend and Indiana opponents have tallied complete games just three times this season. The last time that the Hoosiers posted three straight complete games was in 2007 against Illinois. In that series, Jacob Cary, Zach Otte and Nick Vitielliss each went a complete game in three seven-inning contests.
When IU went on to an 18-8 victory, it was the most runs scored by a Hoosier team in a seven-inning affair since a 22-2 win over Detroit Mercy in a contest that was shortened by darkness in 2002. IU followed that up with a 13-1 victory on Monday to score 31 runs over the final two games of the series against the second-place Boilers. The 31 runs over two games are the most since scoring 39 against Shawnee State and Northwestern in consecutive games in 2005. It also marked the most runs scored in back-to-back Big Ten games since a 25-9 win and 12-7 loss against Iowa in 2004.
Bashore became the first Hoosier pitcher since Chad Smith in 1998 to pick up Pitcher of the Week laurels twice in one season. Bob Scafa (three times in 1993) is the only other IU hurler to garner the honor more than once in a single year. Bashore is also the only Big Ten hurler this season that has been named Pitcher of the Week more than once.
Bashore was outstanding in a pitcher's duel with Michigan's Chris Fetter, allowing just five hits over seven innings of work in leading the Hoosiers to a 2-1, walkoff win over the Wolverines. He followed that up with a gritty performance against Purdue last weekend. The Tipp City, Ohio, native saw the Boilers score three in the first and one in the second to fall behind 4-0, but then allowed just three hits and no walks the rest of the way as IU rallied for a 5-4 victory. Bashore finished the game with nine Ks to just two walks.
The sophomore is currently fifth in the conference with a 3.02 ERA and is fourth with a .230 batting average against. He leads the Big Ten with 74 strikeouts this season in 65 2/3 innings of work on the year.
Bashore was also named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week on March 17, the first Pitcher of the Week honor by a Hoosier since Nick Otte in 2001. Bashore had a career-high and then-Big Ten season-high 12 strikeouts in the Hoosiers' 7-0 win over Portland on Friday at the Pepsi/Johnny Quik Classic to propel the Hoosiers into a tie for first in the round-robin portion of the Classic.
Bashore pitched eight innings, allowing just six hits - three infield singles - in the game. His 12 Ks are the most by a Hoosier since current Colorado Rockies hurler Zach McClellan had 14 against Vermont on March 18, 2000.
BEHIND THE DISH
Phegley leads the team in nearly every offensive category, and is in the top five in the conference in nearly every category as well. In addition to leading the Big Ten in batting average and RBI, he is second in both slugging percentage and total bases and is third in on-base percentage, doubles, home runs, hits and sacrifice flies.
As of Monday, he was ranked among the leaders in the nation in batting average, clocking in sixth in the country. Among catchers, only Florida State phenom Buster Posey has a higher average, and no other underclassman is as high as Phegley in average.
The sophomore backstop is looking to become the first Hoosier since Vasili Spanos in 2003 to lead the league in batting. Indiana has not had a Big Ten Player of the Year since 2002, when Kennard Jones picked up the honor.
With his impressive batting average and improved power has come a tremendous upswing in Phegley's RBI total. He has twice had 10-plus RBI in a four-game Big Ten series, including 11 against the Boilermakers. With that, he leads all players with 36 RBI in conference contests, tying the IU record and placing him just six behind the conference record. His 60 overall RBI are just outside of Indiana's all-time top 10.
Looking deeper at Phegley's numbers, he has been incredibly consistent in his ability to hit in any situation. The catcher has hit best with no strikes (.550), but he also has an impressive .392 average and .568 slugging percentage with two strikes. Phegley is 8-for-18 in 1-2 counts and has hit three of his 10 home runs with two strikes. That said, Phegley has had remarkable success early in his at-bats, as he is hitting .500 with three longballs when he puts the first pitch in play and has hit a remarkable .769 with two bombs in a 1-0 count.
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..
Earlier this year, Phegley posted a 5-for-5 performance in which he hit for the cycle against Valparaiso. That was the first of his three five-hit games this season, each one matching the school record. Only seven other conference players have had a five-hit game.
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, where he is planning to return following the 2008 campaign.
But the Hoosiers have already more than tripled last year's total, as the three home runs IU hit against Louisville gave them 30 for the season so far. That total is the most in the Tracy Smith era at Indiana, and matches the total of the 2005 team. After failing to hit three homers in a game since 2004, IU now has hit three home runs in two of its last three games, including a trio in the first inning against Purdue.
With his recent power surge, Josh Phegley has reached double digits, as his 10 bombs are the most since Joe Kemp had 10 in 2004. Kipp Schutz now has five on the season, while Jerrud Sabourin has four. Amazingly, 26 of IU's 30 homers have come from upperclassmen.
The Hoosiers have an aggregate .459 slugging percentage (third in the conference) on the season, up over 100 points from last year's .335 (last in the Big Ten). IU's 30 longballs are third in the conference.
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