Hoosiers Finish Regular Season at MSU
May 14, 2008
INDIANA (24-28, 11-17) AT MICHIGAN STATE (24-25, 12-14)
IU: RHP Eric Arnett (3-4, 5.85)
IU: LHP Matt Bashore (6-3, 2.72)
IU: RHP Tyler Tufts (4-5, 6.13)
THE FIRST PITCH
The Hoosiers enter the final weekend of the conference season needing three wins and some help to get back in the conference tournament for the first time since 2003. Indiana is two games behind sixth-place Northwestern, which plays Michigan, and also Michigan State, Indiana's opponent for the final series of the year. The Hoosiers are coming off a weekend series where they took two of four from NU to stay alive in the postseason hunt. Indiana won a wild affair in extra innings, the Hoosiers first bonus baseball of the year. The Hoosiers took a 14-12 victory in 10 innings after seeing the Wildcats rally for three runs in the bottom of the ninth to force extras. Tyler Rogers matched a career high with four hits in the victory, while Matt Carr came on out of the bullpen to shut down NU. The walk-on struck out Northwestern's best two hitters - Jake Goebbert and Mike Kalina - in the 10th to nail down the win for IU.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
Last year, the Hoosiers picked up an emotional, walk-off victory in game one of the series on the strength of strong pitching by Tyler Tufts and a game-winning RBI single from Jon Fixler that scored Chris Hervey. But the Spartans rebounded to take both ends of the doubleheader and then used the momentum to propel themselves to a 6-1 victory in the finale.
SCOUTING THE SPARTANS
The most impressive performance of the Purdue weekend came from Mike Monterey, who allowed just one unearned run to the Boilers in an eight-hit complete game. The Spartans have strong consistency through their rotation, with all four normal starters having an ERA in the fours. Chris Roberts is having a strong sophomore campaign with a .364 average and a .503 slugging percentage on the year.
Should the Hoosiers win at least three from the Spartans and end the season tied with or ahead of Northwestern, IU would make the playoffs. As for the rest of the league, Michigan has already clinched the top seed and will host the tournament, while Purdue needs just one win from Illinois to clinch a first-round bye. Illinois and Penn State still sit in the driver's seat for a spot in the tournament, though a weak showing could find them home next weekend.
Indiana has scored at least 10 runs in 13 contests already this year after doing so just seven times a season ago. IU has scored 359 runs on the season in 52 games, over 100 more than the 2007 Hoosiers did in 54 contests.
The Hoosiers have not topped the .300 mark as a team since hitting .315 in 2005. That year, seven players hit over .300, led by Jay Brant at .365. The school record for an IU team is .355 in 1988.
BASHORE COLLECTS THIRD WEEKLY HONOR
Bashore became the first IU pitcher since Bob Scafa in 1993 to garner the honor three times in a season. Bashore and Fetter are the only Big Ten players this season to be honored three times and are the first since Northwestern's Dan Brauer in 2006 to pick up three POW laurels.
Bashore was brilliant in the Hoosiers' 2-1 win over Northwestern on Saturday, allowing only three hits and one unearned run in a complete-game victory for IU. After allowing a single to the first batter of the game, Bashore ceded only a spinning infield single and a bloop down the right field line in the win. Bashore struck out five and walked two in the victory.
The only inning where the Wildcats got to Bashore was the fifth, when IU committed two errors and Bashore gave up an infield hit and a hit batsman to score a run. But with the bases loaded and two down, he struck out NU's three hitter, Jake Goebbert, to end the threat and allow only one run to cross.
Bashore also won the award on March 17, following eight innings of spectacular work against Portland, and on April 28, after a complete-game, 2-1 victory for the Hoosiers over Fetter and the Wolverines. It is the third straight week that a Hoosier has been honored, as Bashore's awards sandwiched a Player of the Week nod to centerfielder Andrew Means for his performance against Purdue. Josh Phegley's POW honor after a series against Iowa gives IU five weekly honors this season, the most since IU had five in 1993.
The Tipp City, Ohio, native has struck out a Big Ten-leading 79 men this season, the eighth-most in school history and the most for an IU hurler since 1999. He is 6-3 on the year with a 2.72 ERA, which is the third-best mark in the conference. He has posted complete-game victories in each of his last three games for IU.
Over his last three starts, Bashore is 3-0 with a 2.14 ERA and three complete-game victories and 22 strikeouts in 21 innings of work.
But the Hoosiers have already quadrupled last year's total, as the quartet of home runs IU hit against Northwestern gave them 34 for the season so far. That total is the most in the Tracy Smith era and the most since the 2004 team hit 57. After failing to hit three homers in a game since 2004, IU hit three home runs twice in a span of three games with three against Purdue and Louisville.
With his recent power surge, Josh Phegley has reached double digits, as his 12 bombs are the most since Texas Ranger Kevin Mahar had 14 in 2004. Kipp Schutz now has six on the season, while Jerrud Sabourin has four. Amazingly, 29 of IU's 34 homers have come from underclassmen.
The Hoosiers have an aggregate .464 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 34 longballs are second in the conference.
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 10th in the country. Among catchers, only Florida State phenom Buster Posey and William & Mary senior Tim Park have 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 took 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 40 RBI in conference contests, setting a new IU record and placing him just two behind the conference record. His 66 overall RBI place him seventh on the school's all-time list and are the most since Mike Smith had 92 when he won college baseball's only triple crown in 1992.
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 (.522), but he also has an impressive .380 average and .544 slugging percentage with two strikes. Phegley is 9-for-19 in 1-2 counts and has hit three of his 12 home runs with two strikes. He is, however, hitting .500 or better in 0-0, 1-0 and 2-0 counts and is just 0-for-2 with nine walks in 3-0 counts.
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.
Sabourin hit .529 over the weekend against Purdue, mashing a pair of homers and driving in six. That followed a weekend against Michigan where he went 10-for-15 with a double and a triple. The recent upswing has raised the freshman's conference average to .407, second on the squad.
Sabourin first heated up in his home state, as he tore up the opposition at the Pepsi/Johnny Quik Classic in Fresno, Calif. Sabourin hit .417 - third on the Hoosiers - and had the first five extra-base hits of his career in the Classic to post a team-leading .708 slugging percentage.
After hitting an RBI double in the Classic opener against Gonzaga that tied the game 4-4 in the seventh, Sabourin scored a run and had a pair of walks against New Mexico State. Over the final four games of the Classic, he was 9-for-18 with five RBI and three runs scored. He capped it off with his first career homer - a shot to right center vs. Portland.
Sabourin, who transfered to IU in the winter from Arizona, is now second on the team with his .379 batting average. Since April 11, the freshman has gone 45-for-99 (.455) to lead the team in average over that span. He also has seven doubles, two longballs, 21 RBI and a .606 slugging percentage. The freshman has heated up with the glove as well, as he sits atop the Big Ten leaderboard in putouts this season.
PEAKING AT THE RIGHT TIME
Since the Iowa series began on April 11, Cox has a .355 average with three doubles, a home run, 10 RBI and 12 runs, mostly out of the eight and nine slots in the order. But far more important has been his improvement defensively, as the Georgetown, Ind., native has a sparkling .981 fielding percentage with just two errors on 74 assists and 30 putouts over that time. He and Tyler Rogers - who have combined to form the middle infield for the majority of that time - have committed just four errors over the last 24 contests. Cox has helped to turn 14 double plays over those 24 games, while Rogers has been a part of 10.
Cox is not the only senior infielder who has seen tremendous improvement since the Iowa series began. David Trager was hitting well below the Mendoza line (.179) before the start of that series, but has raised his average steadily to .265 on the year. Over the last 25 games, Trager has a .308 average with nine RBI and nine runs. Additionally, the Prospect, Ky., native has an impressive .426 on-base percentage over that time and is 5-for-5 in stolen bases as well. Trager had a huge game in the finale against Purdue, posting a career-high four RBI in leading IU to a 13-1 romp.
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