May 10, 2007
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SETTING THE SCENE
Indiana heads to Champaign, Ill., for its final Big Ten road series of the season against the Illinois Fighting Illini. The Hoosiers sit at 17-29 overall and 6-17 in the Big Ten, while the Fighting Illini hold a 24-22 overall mark and a 10-12 conference record. Illinois currently holds the sixth spot in the Big Ten, which would qualify for the Big Ten Tournament.
LAST TIME OUT
Facing Louisville in the second half of a home-and-home series, Indiana rallied from a four-run deficit with a five-run seventh to earn a 6-5 victory in Louisville on Wednesday evening.
U of L held a 5-1 advantage and allowed just two baserunners through six innings until IU exploded for five runs on five hits in the seventh. Sophomore center fielder Andrew Means led off with a two-bagger just inside the third-base bag, and junior first baseman Jon Fixler put runners on the corners with a base knock. Junior designated hitter Reid Briglia kept the hit parade going, sending a run-scoring single back through the box.
A Cardinal error loaded the bases for sophomore catcher Billy O'Conner, who served a single to right field to make it 5-3. Freshman left fielder Sterling Mack brought the Hoosiers within one with an RBI hit. Two batters later senior second baseman Keith Haas hit a sacrifice fly to right fielder Daniel Burton, who threw wildly to third base, allowing O'Conner and sophomore right fielder Chris Hervey to cross the plate for a 6-5 Hoosier lead.
Freshman right-hander Eric Arnett pitched the final four scoreless innings to earn his second victory in three decisions this season. The Pataskala, Ohio, native allowed just one hit and two walks, setting down 12 of the 15 batters he faced.
Louisville nearly tied the game in the home half of the eighth on a wild sequence. With two down and center fielder Boomer Whiting on second, freshman Brad Henke, who replaced Fixler at first base to begin the inning, could not find the bag as Haas tried to retire Burton on a grounder.
Whiting never stopped as he rounded third base, but Henke threw a strike to O'Conner, who put down the tag just as Whiting reached for the plate, keeping the Hoosiers ahead by one.
Indiana Athletics Media Relations Staff Assistant Matt Brady is the primary media relations contact for the Indiana baseball team. He can be reached at his office (812-856-0215), via cell phone (413-222-2788) or email (email@example.com).
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
The Hoosiers and Illini have played a four-game series every year since 2000. Illinois leads Indiana 66-93-1 in the all-time series. Last season, Indiana took three of four games in Bloomington for its first series win since 2002. In the series finale, Doug Fleenor secured his second nine-inning, complete-game shutout of the season to lead the Hoosiers to a 2-0 victory.
SCOUTING THE ILLINI
The Illini are coming off a series split against No. 13 Michigan. Illinois has won four of its last six games, including non-conference wins over Southern Illinois and Greenville (Ill.). The team leads the Big Ten in hits (528) and stolen bases (99). Lars Davis ranks in the top five in the conference in several categories, including hits (1st, 77), RBIs (3rd, 47), home runs (t1st, 9), and batting average (5th, .414). Shawn Roof leads the Big Ten in stolen bases (35) while Mike Rohde ranks second with four triples.
Although Illinois' bats are near the top of the conference, its pitching ranks near the bottom with a 6.55 team ERA. Tanner Roark (RHP), who is slated to start the first game of the series, leads Illinois with a 5.01 ERA and a record of 5-2 on the season.
THE END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS
Sophomore Andrew Means has put together a breakthrough season in his second year for the Hoosiers. Means leads the team with a .371 average, 23 steals and 31 runs this season and has been one of the most dangerous players on the basepaths in the conference this season. He had a hit in each game against Louisville to extend his season-long hitting streak to 12 games.
On April 15 against Purdue, 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.
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 28 games. Since conference play started on March 30, Fixler has posted a .340 average, second on the team, and a squad-best .511 slugging percentage. The junior had a 10-game hitting streak snapped on Saturday, May 5, and has recorded hits in 24 of the last 28 ballgames.
Fixler had a monster weekend at the dish against Penn State, on April 27-29, going 5-for-13 with a sacrifice fly, as he delivered nine RBIs in the series. Fixler also took PSU's Ryan Stobart deep on a 1-0 pitch, driving a fastball over the fence in center field for his second home run of the season. He drove in four runs in Sunday's victory, his third game with four RBIs this season. He also drove in four Hoosiers against Purdue on April 15 and against Florida A&M on March 17. Fixler currently holds the team lead with 32 RBIs.
FAIR IS FERRELL
Freshman Jason Ferrell had not pitched in nearly two weeks, but did not show any rust against Iowa on Friday. The freshman shut down the squad with seventh-highest batting average in the nation, allowing five hits, one walk and one run in 6 1/3 innings of work against the Hawkeyes in earning a no-decision. The freshman lowered his ERA to 5.77 with the performance and dropped his batting average against to .267, second-best among IU regulars.
BIG TEN LEADERBOARD
Several Hoosiers have found their way onto the Big Ten leaderboard this season through Monday, May 7. Andrew Means is currently third in the league with his 23 steals, as he trails Illinois' Shawn Roof (35) and Michigan's Eric Rose (25). As a team, Indiana's 83 steals are second in the league behind Illinois' 99. Defensively, Keith Haas is second in the league with 140 assists on the year and is among the leaders with his 30 double plays. Third baseman Tyler Cox leads his position and is among the conference leaders with 116 assists.
Tyler Tufts is second in the league in innings pitched with 77 1/3, while reliever Joe Vicini is tied for second in the conference with 21 appearances on the season.
Sophomore Tyler Tufts has had a breakthrough sophomore campaign after a bumpy freshman year on the mound. In addition to his durability on the mound, the Sagamore Hills, Ohio, native has shown tremendous control this season, allowing just 14 walks. His 1.63 walks per nine innings mark the third-best ratio among the Big Ten's regular starters. Only Purdue's tandem of Josh Lindblom (1.29 walks per nine) and Matt Bischoff (1.33) rate better on the scale than the sophomore hurler.
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 earned two starts in left field in April, and provided solid contributions in each. 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. He also played first in games one and four against Penn State on April 27-29, and came on in the late innings against Iowa on Friday night.
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. That wrapped up a string of four straight weekends in which the Hoosiers slammed 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.
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 made 10 appearances on the season, throwing 11 2/3 innings and posting a 5.40 ERA. He has struck out 13 and allowed 16 hits and four walks on the season.
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 355-282-1 and a 38-62 mark in his two seasons at Indiana.
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 42 games for IU, while Josh Phegley has 35 starts, Sterling Mack has 21 and Brian Lambert has 20. Junior newcomer Reid Briglia has played in 29 games with 20 starts on the year. Freshman pitchers have thrown 198 1/3 of IU's 382 1/3 innings this season, and have made 24 of Indiana's 46 starts.