Indiana Hosts Northwestern
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana baseball team wraps up the regular season with a four-game series against the Northwestern Wildcats this weekend. The series opener is set for Friday, May 16, at 3 p.m. The two teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday starting at 1 p.m. First pitch of Sunday's finale is also set for 1 p.m. Nine Indiana seniors will be honored on Sunday in the final home game of their careers for their contributions to Hoosier baseball.
Live updates for all four games will be available on IUHOOSIERS.COM, the official site of Indiana athletics.
Indiana Update (31-19, 14-14 Big Ten)
Indiana enters the weekend with a 31-19 record overall and a 14-14 mark in Big Ten Conference games. IU is in sixth-place in the Conference standings. The top six finishers in the regular season earn a spot in the Big Ten Championship Baseball Tournament. In order for the Hoosiers to secure a berth, they must win one game against Northwestern this weekend. With a three and a half game lead over seventh-place teams Illinois and Purdue, the only way IU could play itself out of a tournament spot would be if NU swept the Hoosiers and the Illini and Boilermakers sweep their weekend series.
The Hoosiers' scheduled midweek game with Valparaiso on Wednesday was called in the third inning due to rain. Last weekend IU split a four-game set with the Purdue Boilermakers in Bloomington. Purdue won the first two games 10-3 and 20-4, on Sunday, before the Hoosiers rebounded to take a pair from the Boilers on Monday, 14-5 and 4-2.
Senior third baseman Vasili Spanos is having another All-America season at the plate. Spanos, who is also a strong candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year, continues his perch atop the Big Ten statistics in batting average in all games (.391) and in league games only (.377). He also ranks among the best in nearly every other offensive category, including first in on-base percentage (.500) and in slugging percentage (.702).
Sophomore Corby Heckman ranks second on the club and fifth in the Big Ten with a .377 batting average overall and is seventh in league games only with a .372 clip. Heckman has a total of 61 hits, 13 doubles 28 RBI and 39 runs scored.
Senior designated hitter Nick Evans ranks third on the squad with a .331 batting average and second with 38 RBI. His 25 RBI in Big Ten games lead the team and rank third among Big Ten hitters. As a team, Indiana is hitting .282 overall and .275 in Big Ten contests.
The pitching staff's ERA currently rests at 5.05. Senior Jacob Cary is 7-3 with a 4.93 ERA on the season and leads the team with 73.0 total innings pitched. Freshman Josh Lewis picked up his fourth victory of the season last Monday against Purdue. Lewis had made 10 starts and tossed a pair of complete games in his rookie season.
Junior Chris Behrens, who has started 11 games for IU, owns a 4-3 record and a 4.78 ERA. The lefthander has totaled 49.0 innings on the hill and struck out 31 batters.
Nine Indiana seniors will play the final home game of their careers this weekend against Northwestern. Pitchers Ryan Smith (Indianapolis, Ind.), Jacob Cary (Bruceville, Ind.) and Kevin O'Brien (Patterson, N.Y.), outfielders Mark Calkins (Portland, Ore.), Brad DeStefano (Bloomington, Ind.), Chad Coder (Redmond, Wash.) and Kenny Marrs (Olney, Ill.), designated hitter Nick Evans (Findlay, Ohio) and third baseman Vasili Spanos (River Forest, Ill.) will be honored in a Senior Day ceremony on Sunday.
Scouting the Opponent: Northwestern (24-21, 14-12)
Northwestern enters the weekend fourth in the Big Ten with a 24-21 overall record, 14-13 in league play.
The Wildcats fell to Western Michigan, 1-3, in their mid-week match-up on Tuesday. Last weekend Northwestern dropped its four-game series at Michigan, 3-1. The Wolverines captured the first two games of the series, 9-3 and 3-0. Northwestern battled back to win the third game, 8-3, but was unable to earn the split, losing the final game of the series, 3-1.
Junior David Gresky leads the Wildcats at the plate with a .333 batting average. He also paces the squad in home runs with nine, tied for third in the Big Ten, and RBI with 43. Closely behind Gresky is sophomore Jon Mikrut. Mikrut is averaging .315 and is second on the team in RBI with 28. Gresky and Mikrut are the only two Wildcats who have started and played in all 45 games this season.
Leading the Wildcats on the mound are Dan Brauer, J.A. Happ and Dan Konecny. This trio of pitchers all have ERAs below 3.00. In 83.0 innings Konecny's ERA stands at 2.93 while striking out 53 batters. Brauer has pitched 50.1 innings and has an ERA of 2.68 and is ranked second in the Big Ten behind Ohio State's Scott Lewis. Happ, who leads the ball club in strikeouts with 84, has an ERA of 2.69 in a total of 73.2 innings pitched. Happ is currently ranked third in the Conference.
The Hoosiers and the Wildcats have met 136 times in series history with Indiana owning a 75-58-3 advantage over Northwestern. The first meeting between these two ball clubs dates back to 1896 with IU earning with the victory, 15-1.
Last season the Hoosiers and the Wildcats split their four-game series in Evanston, Ill. Indiana took the first two games, 8-2 and 3-0 but Northwestern was able to tie the series, winning the final two games, 4-1 and 9-6.
Hoosiers Looking to Clinch Big Ten Tourney Berth
The top six finishers in the regular season earn a spot in the Big Ten Championship Baseball Tournament. In order for the Hoosiers to secure a berth, they must win one game against Northwestern this weekend. With a three and a half game lead over seventh-place teams Illinois and Purdue, the only way IU could play itself out of a tournament spot would be if NU swept the Hoosiers. If Indiana failed to win a game against the Wildcats, either the Illini and Boilermakers would still have to sweep their weekend series to finish in sixth.
More On The Big Ten Tournament
The 2003 Big Ten Conference Baseball Tournament begins on Wednesday, May 21 and runs through Saturday, May 24. Indiana will be looking to secure its second straight appearance at the event this weekend against Northwestern.
The tournament is hosted by the regular season champion and heading into the final weekend of regular season play, the title is up for grabs as first-place Minnesota plays host to second-place Ohio State. For Ohio State to win the league crown, the Buckeyes would have to sweep all four games against the Gophers. A single win by Minnesota would seal the title for the second straight season and the tournament would be held in Minneapolis.
O'Brien Answers Call
Senior Kevin O'Brien was tapped to make the first start of his collegiate career on the mound last Sunday in game four againt Purdue and he proved he was up to the challenge. O'Brien, who is a catcher-turned-pitcher for the Hoosiers, tossed complete game as Indiana defeated its archrival, 4-2, and earned a series split. O'Brien moved his season record to 4-0 with the win. He sports a 4.05 ERA and has made 16 apperances this season, the second-most of any IU pitcher. The Patterson, N.Y., native has worked in relief on the mound for IU over the last two seasons.
Keep Your Eye on Evans
Senior designated hitter Nick Evans has had the hot bat for the Hoosiers recently. Evans is the Hoosiers' third-leading hitter with a .331 average in all games and a .348 clip in Big Ten contests. Evans' 25 RBI in Big Ten games are the third-most of any player in the league.
Last weekend against Purdue, Evans paced the Hoosiers with nine RBI and six runs scored. In the Hoosiers' last 10 games, the Findlay, Ohio, product, has hit .414, belted three home runs and collected 15 RBI. Evans sports a .386 average with runners on base and is hitting .383 with two outs.
Indiana has earned a split in five of its first seven Big Ten Conference series this season. IU went 2-2 at Illinois, against Michigan State, at Ohio State, at Penn State and at home versus Purdue. The Hoosiers took three of four games on the road at Iowa and picked up only one victory in four tries against league-leader Minnesota in Bloomington.
Senior third baseman Vasili Spanos is the Big Ten Conference's leading hitter for the second straight week. Spanos ranks first overall and in league games only in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. The Big Ten Player of the Year Candidate's average is .391 in all games and .422 against Big Ten competition. In addition, he is among the leaders in nearly every other offensive category. Here's a look at the numbers:
Batting Average: .391(1st)
Hits: 63 (9th)
Doubles: 15 (T-9th)
Total Bases: 113 (4th)
Slugging Percentage: .702 (1st)
Walks: 30 (3rd)
On Base Percentage: .500 (1st)
RBI: 43 (T4th)
Home Runs: 11 (T-1st)
Hits: 38 (2nd)
Doubles: 8 (T-8nd)
Total Bases: 70 (1st)
Slugging Percentage: .778 (1st)
Walks: 13 (7th)
On Base Percentage: .519(1st)
RBI: 22 (T-5th)
Home Runs: 8 (1st)
RANK, FIELDING PERCENTAGE, SEASON
1) .967 1998
2) .966 1984
3) .965 1990
4) .964 2000
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