Baseball To Finish Regular Season Against MSU

    Go Hoosiers! Josh Phegley and the Hoosiers take on Michigan State this weekend in the final series of the regular season.
    Go Hoosiers!
    Josh Phegley and the Hoosiers take on Michigan State this weekend in the final series of the regular season.
    Go Hoosiers!

    May 14, 2009

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    Michigan State at Indiana
    Sembower Field • Bloomington, Ind.

    May 14 • 3 p.m. ET
    IU - RHP Joey O'Gara (3-3, 6.34) | MSU - RHP Nolan Moody (6-4, 4.04)
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    May 15 • 3 p.m. ET
    IU - LHP Matt Bashore (5-4, 4.28) | MSU - RHP A.J. Achter (3-4, 3.39)
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    May 16 • 1 p.m. ET
    IU - LHP Blake Monar (4-3, 4.79) | MSU - RHP Tony Bucciferro (4-2, 3.08)
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    Indiana brings a four-game winning streak into the final regular-season series of 2009, as it will play host to Michigan State Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Sembower Field. The Hoosiers are just one game behind first-place Minnesota, but they sit in fourth as both Illinois and Ohio State are half a game ahead of Indiana. IU bested Evansville on Tuesday night behind four home runs and stellar work out of the bullpen from Matt Igel to improve to 26-24 on the season. Last weekend the Hoosiers swept Northwestern to improve to 14-6 in Big Ten play, the best mark since the 1996 team finished 18-8 en route to a second-place finish and a Big Ten Tournament title. Michigan State has lost three games in a row and sits at 22-27 overall. The Spartans are 12-9 in conference after losing two of three to Purdue in East Lansing last weekend.

    Indiana traveled to East Lansing to finish off the 2008 season knowing it needed a good result in its four-game series in addition to getting some help to qualify for the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2003. IU got both, sweeping the Spartans in a four-game series to earn the No. 6 spot in the conference and a berth in the postseason. Indiana got strong pitching throughout the weekend, particularly from Eric Arnett in the opener and Matt Carr out of the bullpen. Tyler Tufts also pitched very well, inducing six groundball double plays in his eight innings of work. Andrew Means picked up Big Ten Player of the Week honors for his performance in the series, as he hit .563 with a .938 slugging percentage, a .632 on-base percentage and nine runs scored. Jerrud Sabourin also went 8-for-17 with a double and a home run in the four-game set.

    Indiana is in its fourth year under the direction of Tracy Smith. In his time at the helm of the Hoosiers, IU is 98-125. Smith is now 415-343-1 (.547) 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.

    Jake Boss Jr. is in his first year at Michigan State. Boss had just one year of head coaching experience prior to taking the MSU job, but it was a good one as he led Eastern Michigan to the MAC Tournament title and a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Boss was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for Rich Maloney at Michigan from 2004-07 as well.

    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 Northwestern, Arnett posted his second straight complete game, though he did walk a season-high six batters in the win. The Pataskala, Ohio, native allowed five hits and struck out eight in a 3-2 victory.

    The win improved him to 11-1 on the season and 7-0 in the Big Ten. He became the second hurler in school history to post at least 11 wins in a season and his seven conference victories set a new school record. He leads the conference in victories and is tied for second in the nation, behind only Arizona State's Mike Leake, who has 12 wins.

    Arnett now has a 2.78 overall ERA and 93 strikeouts in his 94 innings of work. His 93 Ks on the year are fourth in school history and are just 16 away from first place 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.

    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 a 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 14-6 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 (.345), but Indiana is just 12-18 in those contests. On the contrary, IU is 14-6 in conference play, but the offense has hit just .293, 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 leads the Big Ten in earned run average and is sixth in fielding percentage. Indiana's 3.97 ERA in conference affairs is more than two runs better than its 6.51 ERA in non-conference. Non-conference foes are hitting .317 off Indiana, while conference opponents are at a Big Ten-leading .250 clip.

    The defensive improvement has been even more stark, as IU has a .968 fielding percentage in conference games, but just a .953 fielding percentage in non-conference affairs. Third baseman Vince Gonzalez has just one error in conference play for a .975 fielding percentage, while Tyler Rogers' .965 fielding percentage in conference is an improvement too. Rogers has 14 errors in non-conference games.

    After a slow start to the 2009 season, preseason Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Matt Bashore has rebounded since the beginning of conference play. The Tipp City, Ohio, native is 4-1 with a 2.78 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings pitched in conference action. His conference ERA is the lowest of any starter in the Big Ten this season and he has allowed just three extra-base hits against conference opposition.

    Prior to his recent surge, Bashore had a 7.24 ERA and the Hoosiers were 0-6 in his starts. He had been allowing the opposition to post a .331 average against him and was walking opposing batsmen at a rate of 4.3 per nine innings.

    Bashore won against Northwestern, going eight innings and matching a season high with 10 Ks. Against Michigan and Penn State, the strikeout artist who normally gets deep into counts has come right after his opponents, inducing many more ground balls.

    Against Iowa, he matched a career high by throwing 8 1/3 innings, reaching double digits in punchouts for the first time in 2009 with 10 Ks. Bashore allowed just three hits over the first eight innings before running into trouble in the ninth. He punched out at least one Hawkeye in each of the first eight innings. He retired Iowa 1-2-3 four different times in the contest.

    While Josh Phegley is likely 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 has provided excellent protection for Josh Phegley all year, hitting in the cleanup spot in every game but one.

    Dickerson is a staple among the league's top 10, as he is tied for fourth with 13 home runs and his 131 total bases are second in the conference. His .372 average (eighth), .633 slugging percentage (fourth), 50 RBI (ninth) and 77 hits (first) 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 eight RBI shy of Phil Dauphin's (1988) mark of 58 as well. Dickerson leads all conference freshmen in average, slugging, hits, RBI, doubles, home runs and total bases. 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.

    Jerrud Sabourin had a stellar freshman year, picking up Freshman All-America honors from several publications after hitting .383 and leading all conference frosh with 53 RBI. The first baseman has followed up on that by showing strong in 2009, as he is among the league leaders with a .354 average and is tied for fourth with 74 hits.

    Sabourin matched his career high when he had a four-hit game against Purdue on May 2. The lefty had three singles in his first four at-bats, including a bunt single in the sixth, and then came up in a pressure situation in the eighth. With the game tied 6-6 after a five-run Purdue seventh, Sabourin lifted the team on his back and drove a liner over the right-field wall for his fourth home run of the season. It marked the second time (LeMoyne on March 8) that Sabourin has notched four hits in a game.

    The San Diego native was on fire early in the season, as his average got all the way up to a conference-leading .538 early in the Spring Trip. He started the season with hits in each of the first 13 games, but has fallen back to the stratosphere since then. Still, he has 14 doubles on the year and has recorded 25 multi-hit games so far this season.

    Sabourin began the year hitting fifth, but has hit second in the order since early March. He has a .331 average, a .376 on-base percentage and a .509 slugging percentage while hitting second and has scored 35 runs since moving into the two-hole. Thirteen of his 14 doubles, all three of his triples and all four of his homers have come while hitting second for IU.

    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 (3.33 ERA as a reliever) to emerge as a solid closer for IU, as his seven saves are third in the Big Ten.

    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 five saves and a 3.21 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 45 2/3 innings. He collected saves against Iowa and Penn State earlier this season, striking out the side in the ninth against PSU.

    After a stellar 2008 season, Josh Phegley entered 2009 with high expectations. Though it has been an up-and-down season for the All-American, his numbers are still among the best in the conference.

    Phegley enters the weekend among the league's top 10 in slugging (second, .676) on-base percentage (fourth, .471), home runs (first, 16), RBI (second, 60), runs (tied for sixth, 50) and walks (second, 39).

    Phegley has recently been in a bit of a cold streak at the plate, but he broke out of that against Evansville on Tuesday. The junior hit solo home runs in the first and fifth and earned a pair of walks as well. It marked the third multi-homer game this year for Phegley.

    Against Michigan, Phegley had a big series both at the dish and behind it. The junior went 6-for-11 with a pair of solo home runs on the weekend. The second bomb, in the eighth inning of Sunday's contest, shifted the momentum back in Indiana's favor after the Hoosiers surrendered a run in the bottom of the seventh in a tight ballgame. The catcher also threw out four of seven Wolverines trying to steal.

    Phegley posted his fourth career five-hit game against Morehead State on March 10, hitting three home runs and adding a double and single for six RBI. The huge game vaulted Phegley to his second career Big Ten Player of the Week mention and he was named to the College Baseball Foundation's National All-Star Lineup for Week Four.

    Phegley, who was a unanimous first team Preseason All-American at catcher this season, has played all over the field this year. The majority of his time has been spent behind the dish, but he has also appeared at third base, in both left and right field and on the mound for the Hoosiers.




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