Hoosiers Host Final Games of Season

    Go Hoosiers! Ben Greenspan will play in his final home series this weekend against the Golden Gophers.
    Go Hoosiers!
    Ben Greenspan will play in his final home series this weekend against the Golden Gophers.
    Go Hoosiers!

    May 18, 2007

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    Indiana will wrap up its 2007 season this weekend as second-place Minnesota visits Bloomington with an opportunity to host the Big Ten Tournament on the line. The Hoosiers will look to play spoiler to the Golden Gophers as IU seniors Ben Greenspan, Keith Haas, Michael Nilles and Josh Richardson will conclude their Hoosier careers this weekend. Indiana is currently in ninth place in the Big Ten, 1 1/2 games ahead of Northwestern.

    Closing out its final Big Ten road series of 2007, the Indiana baseball team could not overcome a three-run Illinois first and fell 7-2 on Sunday afternoon at Illinois Field.

    After the Hoosiers left men on second and third with one out in the top of the first, the Fighting Illini made them pay in the bottom half of the inning. Right-hander Eric Arnett (2-2) retired the first two batters he faced before Illinois loaded the bases for shortstop Shawn Roof, who was hit by the first pitch he saw to make it 1-0. Second baseman Ryan Hastings then delivered a two-run single into right field to give the Illini a three-run cushion.

    Indiana found its way into the scoring column in the third. As he did in the opening frame, junior designated hitter Jon Fixler stepped to the plate with two men in scoring position. This time he came through with a two-out, two-run base hit over the head of Hastings to cut the U of I lead to 3-2. After the Illini's first, Arnett surrendered just one hit until the home half of the fifth. Illinois chased him from the game in the inning after netting three unearned runs to extend its advantage to 6-2. The Fighting Illini tacked on one more run in the seventh for the final margin.

    Tuesday's game against Valparaiso was canceled due to inclement weather. The game will not be made up. Indiana finished its non-conference slate 11-12 for the season.

    Indiana and Minnesota had their first battle in 1910, with the Gophers taking a 6-0 decision. Since then, Minnesota has dominated the all-time series, upping its record against IU to 89-31-0 over the last 97 years. Last season, the Hoosiers entered the last weekend of the year with an outside shot at the Big Ten Tournament, but the Gophers dealt IU a sweep in Minneapolis to extinguish the Hoosiers' playoff hopes. Indiana has not mustered more than one win against UM in a season since 1995, as the Gophers have won 29 of the last 35 meetings between the teams and 17 of the last 20.

    Minnesota enters the weekend series with a 16-7 record in Big Ten play and a 36-12 overall mark on the season. After winning 12 of its first 15 games, Minny has split its last two series in conference play, taking two of four from both Northwestern and Ohio State in Minneapolis. The Gophers were ranked nationally earlier in the season, entering the National College Baseball Writers of America Top 30 for the first time this season after a four-game sweep of Michigan State.

    The Gopher offense is hitting .311 as a unit, with Mike Mee leading the way with his .415 average. Dan Lyons has led the power unit with eight home runs and Nate Hanson is just behind with seven. Matt Nohelty is 20-for-24 on the basepaths on the year. Minnesota has a 4.65 ERA in conference play, compared to a 4.21 average in all games. Dustin Brabender leads the starters with a 4.55 ERA in his 57 1/3 innings of work.

    Sophomore Andrew Means has put together a breakthrough season in his second year for the Hoosiers. Means leads the team with a .374 average, 25 steals and 32 runs this season and has been one of the most dangerous players on the basepaths in the conference this season. He put together a 15-game hitting streak before seeing it snapped in the finale of the Illinois series on May 13.

    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 32 games. Since conference play started on March 30, Fixler has posted a .324 average, second on the team, and a squad-best .476 slugging percentage. The junior had a 10-game hitting streak snapped on Saturday, May 5, and has recorded hits in 26 of the last 31 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.

    Former Indiana outfielder Kevin Mahar was called up to Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers on Wednesday, May 16, becoming the 22nd former Hoosier to appear in the big leagues and the second this season. Mahar, who had just recently been promoted to Triple-A, joined the Rangers after outfielder Brad Wilkerson was placed on the 15-day disabled list.

    Mahar, who went 0-for-4 in his major league debut, joins Colorado Rockies hurler Zach McClellan as former Indiana baseball players currently in the majors. Mahar has posted a .278 average and four home runs this season at Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Oklahoma. In 11 games with the RedHawks over the last couple of weeks, Mahar posted a .349 average with one home run, five RBIs and 10 runs. In 2006, Mahar hit .267 with 20 longballs and 82 RBIs for Frisco.

    In three years for the Hoosiers, Mahar posted a .323 average and drilled 17 homers. His final season, 2004, was by far his finest, as he clubbed 14 home runs, drove in 52 and hit .359. Mahar's .652 slugging percentage led the team and he also stole eight bases. Mahar was named second team All-Big Ten and following the season he signed with the Ranger organization.

    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. He earned his first career victory with a scoreless inning of relief against St. Louis on May 7.

    McClellan, who was called up from AAA Colorado Springs to replace Byung-Hyun Kim, has made 12 appearances on the season, throwing 14.0 innings and posting a 5.79 ERA. He has struck out 13 and allowed 20 hits and five 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.

    Several Hoosiers have found their way onto the Big Ten leaderboard this season through Monday, May 14. Andrew Means is currently third in the league with his 25 steals, as he trails Illinois' Shawn Roof (38) and Michigan's Eric Rose (29). As a team, Indiana's 90 steals are second in the league behind Illinois' 105. Defensively, Keith Haas is second in the league with 154 assists on the year and is among the leaders with his 34 double plays. Tyler Tufts is second in the league in innings pitched with 83 1/3.

    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 16 walks. His walks per nine innings (1.73) mark the third-best ratio among the Big Ten's regular starters. Only Purdue's tandem of Josh Lindblom (1.48) 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, May 4.

    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.

    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 356-287-1 and a 39-67 mark in his two seasons at Indiana.

    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 46 games for IU, while Josh Phegley has 39 starts, Sterling Mack has 24 and Brian Lambert has 22. Junior newcomer Reid Briglia has played in 32 games with 22 starts on the year. Freshman pitchers have thrown 216 of IU's 410 1/3 innings this season, and have made 26 of Indiana's 50 starts.




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