Hoosiers Open Big Ten Tournament Against Purdue

    Go Hoosiers! Second team All-Big Ten selection Jerrud Sabourin and the Hoosiers return to the Big Ten Tournament for the second straight year.
    Go Hoosiers!
    Second team All-Big Ten selection Jerrud Sabourin and the Hoosiers return to the Big Ten Tournament for the second straight year.
    Go Hoosiers!

    May 20, 2009

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    Indiana at Big Ten Tournament
    Columbus, Ohio • Huntington Park

    Day 1 - Indiana vs. Purdue
    GameTracker | Live Audio

    Indiana finished in third place in the Big Ten with a 16-7 conference record after taking two of three from Michigan State in Bloomington over the weekend. The Hoosiers finished the regular season with a 28-25 overall record as well thanks to strong play down the stretch. IU won 10 of its last 14 contests and earned a split or better in seven out of eight Big Ten series in 2009. Indiana will open against Purdue, the only team that won a conference series from the Hoosiers this season. The Boilermakers took two of three from the Hoosiers in West Lafayette three weeks ago. IU will send National Pitcher of the Year Semifinalist Eric Arnett to the mound in the opening round. The junior is 11-1 on the season and IU has not lost in one of his starts since March 7. Indiana is 1-1 against Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament all-time. IU would face Minnesota with a victory, while PU would take on Ohio State.

    Indiana's last trip to the Big Ten Tournament was the school's first since 2003. Despite a first-round loss to Penn State, the Hoosiers refused to go quietly, sending home Ohio State, Illinois and Penn State before falling to PU in the semifinals. The Hoosiers used extras to knock off the Buckeyes after turning a brilliant double play in the bottom of the ninth to thwart an OSU rally. Josh Phegley feasted on the Illini in the second victory, going 4-for-4 with two home runs and six RBI in a 14-7 win. The PSU contest was the most memorable, though, as Tyler Cox became the first player of the season to hit an extra-base hit off Penn State closer Drew O'Neil, smashing a walk-off grand slam to give IU an 11-8 victory. The Boilers ended IU's magical run, but the Hoosiers put up a strong fight before falling 11-7 thanks in part to Dan Black's three home runs.

    Indiana is in its fourth year under the direction of Tracy Smith. In his time at the helm of the Hoosiers, IU is 100-126. Smith is now 417-344-1 (.548) in his 13th season as a head coach. With a 6-1 win over Michigan State on May 15, Smith became the sixth coach in Indiana baseball history to win 100 games at the school. With a 16-7 conference record, Indiana posted its top Big Ten winning percentage (.696) since going 7-3 in 1939. The third place finish is the highest since the 1996 team finished second en route to the tournament championship.

    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.

    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 15 pitchers named a College Baseball Foundation National Pitcher of the Year Semifinalist last week.

    Arnett, who was given a weekend to rest his arm against Michigan State, is 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.

    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.

    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.

    Indiana posted a 16-7 record in Big Ten play, but it certainly was not due to the ability to dominate opponents. In fact, only six of IU's 23 conference games were decided by five runs or more, while 10 were decided by two runs or fewer.

    But Indiana's success in those close games is one of the big reasons that the Hoosiers posted a .696 winning percentage in conference. IU went 6-1 in one-run games and 8-2 in contests decided by two runs or fewer. And at the center of that was Eric Arnett, who posted a masterful 5-0 record in one-run games, four of which saw him throw complete games for the Hoosiers.

    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's vaunted offense was strong in the non-conference portion of the schedule, but it has been the pitching and defense that has carried Indiana to a third-place finish in the Big Ten.

    Pitching has certainly been the Hoosiers' strong point in Big Ten affairs, as IU leads all Big Ten teams with a 3.79 ERA, over half a run better than second-place Michigan State's 4.34. The principal reason for IU's dominance in conference pitching has been that its top two starters - Matt Bashore and Eric Arnett - are one and two in the Big Ten in ERA among starters when looking at conference games. Bashore has posted an impressive 2.36 ERA in the conference, while Arnett's 2.90 is solid as well. Reliever Chris Squires' 2.81 ERA in Big Ten action has also contributed.

    The defensive improvement has also been key, as IU has a .967 fielding percentage in conference but just a .953 mark in non-conference affairs.

    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 5-1 with a 2.36 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 53 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 the beginning of conference play, 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's last four outings have been incredibly impressive. He lost a tough-luck outing against Purdue during that span, but still has a 3-1 record with a 2.03 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 31 innings. More impressive in that is that he has surrendered just one extra base hit (a double against Northwestern) and has issued just eight walks for a K-to-BB ratio of 4.38.

    In his regular-season finale he posted his most dominant outing of the season, allowing just three hits and one walk in eight innings of shutout ball. He struck out 10 in the contest and only allowed one MSU runner to advance to second base. He was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week for the outing.

    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. It marks the only Big Ten series loss this year for Indiana.

    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.

    Another point in looking at IU's conference pitching performances is the number of times that the Hoosiers held Big Ten opponents under three runs. Indiana did not post a single shutout in conference play but had an amazing 11 games of holding its opposition to two runs or fewer. The Hoosiers went 11-0 in such games and divided the impressive outings among their starters. Five times Eric Arnett won those contests, four times it was Matt Bashore and twice it was Blake Monar on the hill.




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