Hoosiers and Spartans Clash in East Lansing on BTN

    Go Hoosiers! Michael Earley and the Hoosiers will play three games at Michigan State this weekend on the Big Ten Network.
    Go Hoosiers!
    Michael Earley and the Hoosiers will play three games at Michigan State this weekend on the Big Ten Network.
    Go Hoosiers!

    May 13, 2010

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    Indiana (24-22, 9-9) at Michigan State (29-16, 8-10)
    McLane Stadium • East Lansing, Mich.
    All three games televised live on Big Ten Network

    Friday, May 14 - 2 p.m. ET
    IU - LHP Drew Leininger (7-3, 4.14) | MSU - RHP A.J. Achter (4-3, 4.01)
    GameTracker | Live Audio

    Saturday, May 15 - Noon ET
    IU - RHP Jonny Hoffman (2-2, 9.00) | MSU - RHP Kurt Wunderlich (7-3, 4.58)
    GameTracker | Live Audio

    Sunday, May 16 - 1 p.m. ET
    IU - RHP Matt Carr (1-1, 2.51) | MSU - RHP Tony Bucciferro (7-4, 4.66)
    GameTracker | Live Audio

    (starters are probable and subject to change)

    The Indiana baseball team (24-22, 9-9 Big Ten) will head to the road against Michigan State (30-16, 8-10) for its second straight vital weekend series. All 10 conference teams are within two games of one another, with the Hoosiers tied with Ohio State for fifth at 9-9, one game back of first.

    IU won its second series this year, taking two of three at Northwestern this past weekend. The Hoosiers carried that momentum over into a stunning 18-7 comeback win over Kentucky on Tuesday. The Spartans were the early surprise of the Big Ten, but have lost five of six conference affairs. Still, with the logjam in the standings, every team still has a legitimate shot at winning the regular-season title.

    Indiana took two of three games against the Michigan State Spartans last year in Bloomington. The Hoosiers got a piece of clutch hitting from Jerrud Sabourin in the ninth inning of the first game, as he hit his first career walk-off home run edging the Spartans 6-4. In game two the Hoosiers got a dominating pitching performances, from Matt Bashore who struck out a career high 10 batters in a victory before MSU took the finale of the series.

    Tracy Smith is in his fifth season as Indiana Baseball's head coach. In 2009, he led the Hoosiers to their first Big Ten Tournament title since 1996 and the second NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. In his four years at the helm of the Hoosiers, IU is 128-148. In 13 years as a head coach, Smith has a career record of 445-368-1 (.547). Jake Boss, Jr., is in year two at the helm of Michigan State, where he led the team to the Big Ten Tournament in his debut season.

    On Tuesday, Indiana posted one of the most memorable comebacks in Tracy Smith's tenure. Down 16-8 with two outs in the eighth, the Hoosiers rallied for five runs in the eighth, three in the ninth and then, after surrendering a run in the top of the frame, two in the bottom of the 10th to post a walk-off win over their border rival. IU saved its best for two-out situations in the rally, plating five runs with two down in the eighth, tying the game on a two-out homer by Josh Lyon in the ninth, and winning the game on Michael Earley's two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the 10th.

    IU's comeback ability was also showcased in the Purdue series, though to a much less miraculous degree. In the opener, IU rallied from an 11-4 deficit to bring the tying run to the plate in the eighth inning of a 12-10 loss. In the Saturday game, the Hoosiers trailed 11-7 with two outs in the ninth, only to rally for the tying run with four runs in the bottom of the final frame. Chris Squires then added the finishing punch in the 11th, driving in Tyler Rogers to send the Hoosiers to a walk-off, 12-11 win. In the series finale, IU again rallied to tie the game with two outs in the ninth, as Jerrud Sabourin laced a two-run double with his back against the wall, but IU fell in 10 innings, 10-7.

    The juxtaposition between Tuesday's victory and Indiana's previous win is almost laughable. On Sunday against Northwestern, the Hoosiers surrendered just four hits and emerged victorious in a 1-0 victory that featured brilliant defense. It was their first 1-0 win since April 13, 2002, a 1-0 victory over Michigan State behind Zach Otte in seven innings. The last time IU won 1-0 in a nine-inning game was on May 4, 1983, against Indiana Central, when Tracy Smith was a junior in high school.

    All-America candidate Alex Dickerson is currently posting one of the most remarkable seasons in Indiana history. The left fielder currently leads the Big Ten in several categories, including all three triple crown categories (.423 average, 21 home runs, 66 RBI). He also sits atop the conference in slugging percentage (.832), hits (83) and total bases (163) and is second in on-base percentage (.472) and runs scored (51) and fifth in doubles (17).

    Dickerson entered this week third nationally in home runs, and with his 20th homer of the year against Northwestern on Saturday, he became just the fourth player in school history to reach the 20-homer plateau. He added home run number 21 - his fourth home run in the last seven games - to move into sole possession of third place on IU's single-season list. He now trails only Mike Smith (27, 1992) and Bill Mueller (23, 1985) on the Indiana list. Dickerson also has a greater challenge due to the reduced schedule length, as Mueller played 74 games in the 1985 season to Dickerson's 46.

    Dickerson sits behind only Fresno State's Jordan Ribeira (23) and Siena's Dan Paolini (22) nationally in homers and trails only those two in homers per game as well. As of May 9, he was fourth in the nation in slugging, third in total bases, 16th in RBI, 19th in hits and 25th in batting average. He is one of just four players nationally in the top 25 in all three triple crown categories.

    Dickerson's 35 career homers are seventh in in school history, and he is now just two shy of tying former MLB All-Star Mickey Morandini for fifth on the list (37). Mueller (36) sits just one home run ahead of Dickerson in sixth place on the all-time chart. Smith and Mike Sabo share the top spot, clocking in at 47 home runs apiece.

    Though Dickerson struggled in the Minnesota series, he left fans and players with a memory they will not soon forget. In Saturday's contest, he hit a 3-2 offering from T.J. Oakes seven rows deep into section 211 of the upper deck for what head coach Tracy Smith called the longest homer he had ever seen.

    He had one home run in the Purdue series and then went 7-for-12 with two bombs and six RBI at Northwestern to win his second Big Ten co-Player of the Week award. His eight home runs in conference play are tied for fifth on the school's all-time list. He could join Josh Phegley and Mike Smith as the only Hoosiers to mash double-digit homers in Big Ten action, though Phegley and Smith turned the trick when the Big Ten still played four-game series.

    But perhaps the most impressive part is what Dickerson has done while out of the batter's box. The Poway native played mostly at designated hitter last year, but worked hard to improve his defense in the outfield over the summer, and made a game-saving diving grab in the finale at Northwestern. He has 82 putouts without an error this year.




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